Time For Notre Dame To Get Real About Football

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Notre Dame

When it comes to college football history, few universities have the storied background of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. During the first half of the 20th century, and even as recently as 1988, the Irish of Indiana have routinely presented one of the best football programs on the gridiron.

More recently, Notre Dame’s program has reached the bottom going 3-9 last year including a loss to Navy, snapping the school’s 43 game winning streak against the Midshipmen. Although this year’s squad should improve significantly, the program is far from returning to its elite roots.

Notre Dame is part of the Big East Conference, playing against all schools in all sports except for football, where the program is independent. Notre Dame traditionally starts the year off playing four games against Big Ten opponents with two games scheduled against service academies Air Force and Navy. The remaining games include annual meetings with the USC Trojans and other nationally recognized programs.

Big East teams are only scheduled if they agree to play their home games at a large, neutral setting something that UConn has accepted, but Rutgers has rejected. Two decades ago that sort of demand might have been acceptable but given the current state of the Notre Dame program it simply isn’t any longer.

Notre Dame’s dreams of reaching national prominence again are just that — a dream. Quality high school players are realizing that other programs offer a virtual guaranteed bowl appearance and the chance to appear regularly before NFL scouts. True, Notre Dame’s expanded stadium and national television rights are a compelling reason to consider the school, but when it comes to on-field play, the fight has left the Irish.

It is time for Notre Dame to get real about its football program and make some changes, especially when their current national television package ends in a few years. Specifically, the Irish should:

End their independent football program. Geographically, the Irish are located smack in the middle of Big Ten territory — moving to a new conference and being available to play every sport is only fair. After all, we’re not talking about Ohio State, Michigan, or Wisconsin — Notre Dame will not be named among the conference elite until their recruiting produces a competitive program.

Kiss their television package good-bye. As the only school in the nation with a national television (and radio) package, Notre Dame is in a unique position financially. Unless the Irish produce a solid program by the time the contract is up for review, you can bet that the new deal will be a watered down version of the old one. Better to join a solid conference and share the spoils instead of embarrassing yourself on national television week in and week out.

Schedule true home and home games. Likely, if the Irish are admitted into the Big Ten, they’ll only have to schedule 8 conference games each year. That leaves three or four non-conference contests yearly with at least one service academy and USC included. For the remaining one or two games, the Irish would probably arrange home and home contests. Instead of putting the other school on the spot, the Irish should do the right thing and play at the regular venue. UConn caved in, but Rutgers did not — no school should be placed in an awkward position.

Will Notre Dame ever be named among the nation’s elite again? Perhaps. But, if the current state of the program is any indication of future trends, the Irish have a long way to go. Better to realize that now instead of losing at home once again to a service academy.

Public domain image obtained via Wikipedia.

Further Reading

Fighting Irish Suffer School-Record Ninth Loss This Season

Notre Dame Proves Again That Fans Don’t Matter: Scott Soshnick

Opponent Preview: San Diego State

Resources

College Search

Planning For College

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