Notre Dame Makes a Play for the Orange Bowl

Notre Dame Makes a Play for the Orange Bowl

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Fighting Irish are seeking a bit of bowl assurance.

The University of Notre Dame is working to ensure that its football team has a place in the soon to be overhauled postseason arrangement. That arrangement has major conferences lining up bowl tie-ins, games that are played apart from the four-team playoff system approved by a university president oversight committee earlier this summer.

Orange Bowl

Notre Dame, a Big East conference member — but a football independent, is talking with the Orange Bowl and the ACC about playing in that game. Fighting Irish spokesman and Senior Associate Athletic Director John Heisler told reporters on Monday that talks, indeed, have been held.

A Notre Dame arrangement could close the door on the Big East Conference to make its own bid for Orange Bowl participation. Unlike the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pacific 12 conferences, the Big East has not pushed for representation with a major bowl or at least the conference has not said as much.

ACC Partnership

Earlier this month, the Orange Bowl and the ACC announced a 12-year agreement, one that has the winner of the ACC participating in the Discover Orange Bowl game on New Year’s Day beginning in 2015. In the event that the ACC winner is one of four teams participating in the new playoff system, a replacement team from the ACC would step in.

Both the Rose Bowl and the new Champs Bowl have made arrangements to host conference champions, thus the Orange Bowl is in line to keep up with other marquee bowl games. However, a dedicated opponent has yet to be arranged and that is where the Fighting Irish may come in. If the Orange Bowl agrees that Notre Dame would be a desirable opponent, then the winner of the ACC would take on the Fighting Irish in some years.

Irish Faithful

The “some” part is a caveat that Orange Bowl officials are certain to require. And that is an Irish team that is in the Top 25, if not the Top 15 to qualify for a match up. Not since 2006 have the Irish fielded a team that has won 10 games, a criteria bowl officials might insist on. Despite Norte Dame’s ability to snap up its portion of the tickets and the likelihood that tens of thousands of Irish faithful would descent on South Florida for the game, even its huge television audience may not be enough to persuade the Orange Bowl to invite a 7-5 or 8-4 team to its game.

The Big East Conference may have a better chance of arranging a tie-in game with the Orange Bowl, and might do so by including Notre Dame in the mix. What could work out is to allow the Orange Bowl to choose the best Big East team or Notre Dame, ensuring that it always has a top caliber team to face off against the ACC representative.

If the Big East winner is good enough to qualify for the four-team playoff system, then Notre Dame or another Big East representative could fill in. Of course, traveling from Idaho to south Florida would be a major haul for Boise State Broncos faithful, who expect to walk away with the Big East Conference title year in and year out. Then again, qualifying for the four-team playoffs is what Broncos fans really want.

Backup Plan

Some of you may be scratching your heads, given the recent announcement of a four-team playoff system. The Orange Bowl may be in that mix, meaning that every third year or so it might host one of the two semifinal games. In those years the ACC winner would have to play in a different game as would Notre Dame or some other opponent. Barring an Orange Bowl arrangement, Notre Dame would have to settle for a backup arrangement, one that could cost the school millions of dollars, especially during those years when the Irish barely qualify for a bowl game.

Ah, don’t you love college sports?

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