Notre Dame has been an independent school in college football since the program started in 1887, so to say that not playing in a conference has become a tradition. Notre Dame has been one of the most successful college football programs as they have won 11 national championships (though the NCAA recognizes them to have 13). So things have been great for the school, but once the NCAA introduced the College Football Playoffs in 2014, every thing changed.
That leads me to what I will be talking about in this article. There seemingly was a change in narrative as to whether Notre Dame should stay independent and join a conference. The conference that seems the most ideal for the school to join is the Big Ten. The team already has some rivalries with schools like University of Michigan so it would only seem natural to put them in there. But is it actually a good idea to have Notre Dame join the Big Ten? Lets take a look at the pros and cons if they do move:
Makes the Big Ten considerably better
Notre Dame has a long tradition of winning and also was ranked 11th in the final rankings of the season. It would make the Big Ten stronger. If they were to join, the best division to join would be the West division as it makes sense geographically and the division was also not that strong compared to the East as it was won easily by Wisconsin. The West division would get stronger too, and by a lot.
Fixes the playoff issue
With not being in a conference, it makes it considerably harder to decide if you should be in the playoffs. With joining the Big Ten, one of the power five conferences, they have an easier and more fair opportunity to show that they deserve to play in the playoffs with a chance to possibly win the Big Ten championship. Otherwise they would have to play 13 games as an independent to prove their worth.
Develop rivalries with other schools
The really great thing about joining the Big Ten would be joining a conference rich of history and with very strong programs like Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Michigan in it. If they were joining the conference, they could develop rivalries with these other schools, which could help bolster the conference’s image too. Fans love rivalries and that would bring more money for the conference.
More and more money for the conference
Like I had mentioned in my last pro point is that rivalries brings in more money. But Notre Dame itself is a brand that could bring money even without the rivalries. Notre Dame not only is one of the most successful schools in college football history, it’s also one of the most popular. It has a fanbase that is national basically touching from coast to coast. That would bring in a lot more money for the Big Ten.
The NBC Television Contract
Notre Dame has a special relationship with NBC to televise their games, which in terms gives the school lots of money. If they were to move to the Big Ten, they would likely lose that and in result lose lots of potential money. The Big Ten has their own network and having Notre Dame move over would be a cluster of problems.
What’s great about Notre Dame being an independent is scheduling anyone they want. And because of that, it allows them to schedule as strong of one as possible. Plus they also have traditional games like against Stanford or against Navy and that would be a problem too if they were to move to the Big Ten.
It would regionalize the school
As mentioned earlier was that it would bring in more fans which reach from coast to coast (I would know as my aunt is a fan and she lives in San Diego). That’s great, but if there was a move to the Big Ten, it would slowly erode at the fan base. It may take a while for it to finally erode a lot, but making it a regional team essentially would hurt the team (as people all around the country can just tune into NBC to watch them play).
So you’re probably thinking that the pros here outweighs the cons, but that would not be the case as it might be more so that it’s either pretty even or the cons actually outweigh the pros. I personally would love to see Notre Dame in the Big Ten, but that’s a fan’s perspective and not from a businessman’s perspective. From a business point of view, it could hurt a lot. So purely from a monetary standpoint, they need to stay as an independent. Eventually I see the school joining a conference, but not in the near future and probably not the Big Ten.