Why We Must Stand (Alone)

Recently, Keith Arnold over at Inside the Irish, NBC’s official ND Football Blog, underwent quite a fecal hurricane of reaction after posting “The battle for independence,” in which he proposed counter-arguments to Mike Coffey’s “No Means No” piece which seeks to reason away any rationale for Notre Dame to join a conference. This line, in particular, attracted a lot of Irish ire…

As the years continue to grow since the last dominant stretch of Notre Dame football, the stubborn claim to cling to football independence wreaks more of elitist entitlement than being for the actually good of the university.

And I have to admit, I took a ton of notice of that line and very little notice of this line…

Just to play devil’s advocate…

Now, there’s certainly something to be said about knowing one’s audience and understanding the reactions that will be cultivated from your writing, so we don’t hold too much sympathy for Keith. Besides, he really doesn’t need it. Within the ND webosphere, he’s made ammends, explained his position, clarified points, etc, etc… quite well. However, in the ensuing firestorm, I took exception to the “elitist” argument above (be it Keith’s opinion or the Devil’s (We’re quite sure Keith isn’t “the guy who wants ND to join a conference“), and in one forum reacted with what has become, upon further reflection, my Official Her Loyal Sons Reasons for Notre Dame to Remain Independent (in no way officially endorsed by Notre Dame of course). So here they are…

The Official Her Loyal Sons Reasons for Notre Dame to Remain Independent (in no way officially endorsed by Notre Dame of course)

  • Notre Dame must remain independent for the sake of separating ND from the interest of outside force, namely a conference, and particularly a conference that strives to affect the research and education mission of its member institutions.
  • Notre Dame must remain independent for the sake of ensuring that ND maintains its national identity, which conference membership would annihilate.

And yes, ladies and gentlemen, it truly is that simple. There’s been this entire Notre Dame marketing campaign of late, “What Would You Fight For?” Well, Her Loyal Sons would fight for independence, and we wouldn’t “try like hell.” We’d fight like vengeful, Old Testament angels with the full knowledge that without independence, Notre Dame itself loses the freedom to choose what it would fight for. In giving up its highest profile figurehead to allegiance with external conglomerates, Notre Dame, as an institution, would be sacrificing its identity. Notre Dame must remain independent not to stand out among its peers, but to possess the ability to act without regard for peers. No other University shares Notre Dame’s specific mission, and thus Notre Dame must not seek refuge in a melting pot simply for short-term monetary gains and academic research prestige.

  • http://irish.nbcsports.com Keith

    All very fair points. I’d hate to be thought of as the guy that thinks ND should join a conference in football. That’s definitely not my stance.

  • JVH

    Sorry to disagree, but I disagree.

    Following your logic above, Notre Dame should immediately leave the Big East.

    Northwestern’s academics still thrive in the Big10 and Texas has developed an impressive national identity under the umbrella of the Big12. As has USC and Ohio State. Winning does that. ND should join an expanded Big10 when(not if) they go to 16 teams.

    The anti-conference arguments of old don’t hold true anymore. Financially it is a better fit, the schedule would actually get an upgrade from the current slop on the docket, and with Cable TV and the internet, a national fanbase comes by simply winning.

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  • http://domer.mq domer.mq

    Keith, I know you’re not that guy. And I’ve updated the post a bit to clarify that.

    JVH, I can see some of your points. However, I’m going to have to go ahead and formulate a retort to your retort. Stay tuned.

  • JVH

    Retort? Can’t you just say, “you’re right, JVH. I switch my stance. Can I buy you a six pack?”

  • Pat

    I understand the arguments behind independence, and they are fair. However, I’m still perplexed by the citing of ‘mission,’ e.g. “research and education mission,” “Notre Dame’s specific mission,” as a credible reason that Notre Dame should remain independent in football. Here’s a link to the university’s mission page — I’m not sure what specifically of that mission would be sacrificed in joining a conference: http://www.nd.edu/aboutnd/mission-statement/

    I’d sure like to know though since it continually gets cited.

  • tjak

    If the Irish join a conference, how many games of their 12 would have to be conference games? I ask this because I would hate to give up our traditional yearly games.

  • SDI

    As much as I hate this expression, it’s right on point: “Just win baby”. If ND rockets back to the top 10 and stays there all of these other problems will go away and the conference talk will be long forgotten. Winning cures everything–tv ratings, money, scheduling, BCS, all of it.

  • trey

    JVH:
    “Northwestern’s academics still thrive in the Big10″
    And their athletics are an afterthought
    “…and Texas has developed an impressive national identity under the umbrella of the Big12. As has USC and Ohio State. ”
    Which are also massive STATE universities, not small, private, Catholic institutions. You cannot point to a single instance where a school that is academically similar to ND has excelled athletically under a conference banner. And still, even if you could prove that ND would LOSE nothing by joining a conference, what is there to GAIN? Why do something just to say you did it? *Political metaphor restrained here*

  • JVH

    Trey,
    Northwestern football has a better record than ND over the last 3 years so it is hard to say their athletics are an afterthought.
    And I can point to an instance where a school academically similar to ND has excelled under a conference banner: Notre Dame. We joined the Big East and our athletics, not just men’s basketball, have excelled. It has been fun and exciting. And our national presence hasn’t diminished one bit(note all of the ESPN hoops games this year.)
    Finally, Notre Dame gains more money(a big deal to this administration) and a better schedule with the possibility of an additional, national-spotlight conference championship every year by joining a mega conference. This would be a good deal for ND.

  • BJDomer

    JVH, being in a conference doesn’t necessarily give us a better schedule. Being independent, we could construct a great schedule. The trouble is that those in charge of doing that (White and Swarbrick) have done a terrible job. So your argument really should be that conference membership would take 80% of the scheduling job out of the hands of our recently incompetent ADs. While that isn’t such a bad idea, I feel we’d be better off staying independent and just hiring an AD who’s interested in creating an interesting schedule every year.

  • Pat

    “You cannot point to a single instance where a school that is academically similar to ND has excelled athletically under a conference banner.”

    Well, here’s some Catholic ones, for starters: Georgetown and Boston College. Then there’s schools like Marquette and Gonzaga. And a couple other schools but that aren’t Catholic: Stanford, Duke and as was previously mentioned, Northwestern.

  • http://domer.mq domer.mq

    I think the point that there are other Catholic schools in the country that have excelled athletically is fair, but I think it’s also fair to say none of them have ever excelled in Football like Notre Dame has in the past, and they don’t openly represent their Catholic base as publicly as Notre Dame does. I’d bet 60%+ of the US population has no idea that Georgetown, BC, Marquette, or Gonzaga are Catholic.

  • Pat

    In the past, NO ONE — Catholic or otherwise — has excelled at football the way Notre Dame has. It was Notre Dame’s niche. But there is increasing parity today.

    I don’t quite understand the argument about “represent[ing] their Catholic base as publicly.” I don’t think conference affiliation has anything to do with the way those schools reflect their faith, nor do I think independence in football is what compels Notre Dame to put the Catholic faith at the heart of the school.

  • JVH

    BJDomer, I totally agree. Independence with great scheduling would be deal.
    The problem is that the Admin has shown no competence in scheduling as an independent and nothing tells me that their philosophy is going to change.
    Plus, can you imagine the scheduling difficulties if ND is independent against 4 mega-conferences? Good luck getting anyone of substance to play us. Their in-conference schedule(9 games) will be a lot tougher and they will only have 3 OCC games to work with. Unfortunately, in a world with mega conferences, ND’s independence hurts scheduling.

  • martini ’90

    JoI am with JVH on this one. Joining the current Big 10 as the 12th member does little for ND. However, a super-sized Big 10 that included Rutgers, Syracuse, & U-CONN (& either Missouri or Pitt) would be very difficult for ND to say no to. This would give ND regular access to the NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia markets, in addition to the Midwest (which equates to nearly 50% of US Catholic households). If we added non-conference games in California, Florida, and Texas we could play games in easy reach of over 75% of US Catholics. We could even keep playing Navy just about anywhere. How would this seem as a schedule compared to what we are looking at today?: USF, @TCU, Navy, @UM, MSU, @PSU, Syracuse, @Minnesota, UCONN, @Rutgers, OSU, @USC.

    The biggest reasons ND has traditionally (and rightfully) avoided a conference is that it precluded having a truly national schedule and would have kept a substantial number of our games off of TV. The combination of a supersized Big 10 and the proliferation of sports cable channels (as well as new technologies like streaming video and on-demand TV) might adequately address these concerns in the future, as well a guarantee access to play for a national title and increase earned revenue. It would be irresponsible for the administration to dismiss this possibility out of hand.

  • http://domer.mq domer.mq

    SDI, I think we’re at a point where “just winning” will make fighting for independence easier, but it’ll still require a lot of fighting.

  • http://www.subwaydomer.com/ The Subway Domer

    I too played a devils advocate role on this topic last month. ( I even referred to myself as “Satan.” http://www.subwaydomer.com/2010-articles/march/random-randomness-forces-my-hand.html ).

    To answer a previous question in theses comments; ND would have to play 8 conference games. That leaves 4 spots, presumably for U$C, Navy, and 2 others (most likely a alternating deal with Stanford and Pitt plus a non BCS school like Tulsa. So a schedule could look like this:

    Tulsa
    Navy
    @Michigan
    Purdue
    @Michigan State
    Northwestern
    @Iowa
    BYE
    @Penn State
    Pitt
    Illinois
    Ohio State
    @U$C
    Just an example.

    I am firmly seated on the fence on this topic. I have always said that this is the decision of the school and its alumni, and I will support whatever decision is made. I will say that I am also a slight lean towards joining. The argument of “national brand” doesn’t carry much weight with me anymore, and this all comes down to the product on the field for the past 15+ years. All it means right now is that ND is a bigger and easier target for negative stories and jokes by the media.

  • emm

    The scheduling aspect of all this could be an issue, but there’s still a lot to play out. IF the Big Ten adds some heavyweights and IF the landscape turns into 4 mega-conferences…then Notre Dame may be all but forced into a conference. But the liklihood of these things happening is still very small. It’s great offseason chatter, but still not very realistic. Joining the Big Ten as the 12th member would almost certainly lower our strength of schedule. I will be debuting an article on B/R that will prove as much. The thing is, the entire country is watering down their schedules like never before. More D-2 teams, less BCS schools…just think what the Penn States and Wisconsin’s of the world will do if they have three more top-notch opponents to deal with in their conference. They’d never schedule anybody out of conference….ever. We’ve been ripping our hair out because W. Michigan was added to the schedule for 2010, making it our first MAC school, when the Big Ten has gone 118-18 against the MAC since 1997. I don’t like this mega-conference idea. I think it’s going to dillute the football and create a bigger gap between the have’s and the have nots. The conference will be so big and a lot of teams won’t play each other, there will be a crazy amount of ties at the end of the year, and no one will schedule any big games out of conference. Sure, there will be big games, but teams like Michigan State and Purdue will get pounded into sub-mediocrity with the addition of more top tier teams. Every year, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas would win the conference. Maybe Iowa and Wisconsin could fight for it too, but not often. That leaves 9 teams who will turn into cupcakes. Plus, there’s no guarantee that those 5 top teams will all play each other, which will happen very often. I’m telling you it’s no good.

  • Trey

    I have a response to you, jvh, but im on my iCrap at the moment, so i cant get into it now. But, the schools you mentioned only excel in BASKETBALL which, outside of me caring absolutely 0 about, cannot compare to succeeding in football. You find one superstar, and you make the final four with no challenge. Hell, my D2 school took Texas to the wire and beat Baylor and TCU the year we went to the D2 Final 4. The only comparison that holds any weight is Stanford because they excel acad & infootball, but they dont have the spiritual aspect that ND MUST protect.

  • Pat

    Trey: So the only way to be strong academically, good at football and spiritual is to remain independent in one sport, football? Interesting hypothesis.

  • http://domer.mq domer.mq

    Pat,

    When it comes to Notre Dame, think of it less as “football,” and more as “by far the highest profile aspect of the University of Notre Dame.”

    It’s the truth, and I know it drives a lot of the faculty nuts, but it’s the truth, and that’s not inherently a bad thing despite what the faculty’s ego may think.

  • DeepTeaKup

    domer,

    Let it go and join the Big10 already. In looking at Subway’s post you get a bit of a boost in the schedule and I highly doubt the Catholic mission would be affected in any way, shape or form.

  • http://www.theirishlion.wordpress.com theirishlion10

    I thoroughly enjoy the ability of Notre Dame to schedule nation wide, but its true that the schools that win, regardless of the conference, put themselves into the national light. Look at USC, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, etc. They are all in conferences, and they are all enjoying more success than ND as of late. Notre Dame’s “mission” is not hindered by its presence in the Big East in other sports, and football would be no different.

    The answer: independence = just fine, conference affiliation = fine too

  • http://www.theirishlion.wordpress.com theirishlion10

    disclaimer: the “mirage” of the “prestige” ND gets from being an independent no longer exists to anyone but to us notre dame fans. it may be something we cling to since we arent winning, but the fact is independence is good for creating an entire schedule… and joining a conference such as the Big Ten would allow 4 open games still, which i think is plenty to hit four diverse areas outside of the midwest: florida, california, texas/oklahoma, and the northeast in general

  • BJDomer

    If the Big Ten expands to 16 teams, I will eat my foot. I don't have the wherewithal to investigate the various competing factors that would drive the profitability of expansion, but my hunch is that the size of the revenue pie would not sufficiently increase so as to make cutting it into 5 extra pieces palatable to current members. Plus, there's no guarantee that such an expansion would be allowed by the NCAA or Congress. I think expansion to 12 teams is much more likely. And in that scenario, Notre Dame should feel little pressure to join up.

    • Rich

      Again, how does ND currently benefit by joining the Big 10? The following statements are true if we join the Big Ten:
      1. The majority (or super-majority) vote of the conference members determines what we do. I do not want OSU (will we have to refer to them as tOSU or be fined by the league), Minnesota and Michigan to have more influence over how we govern our athletic programs then we do.
      2. We will join a conference largely comprised of schools in financial trouble being supported by states in financial trouble. Why is this good for ND?
      3. Not one point will be added to the average SAT score of the incoming freshmen class by joining the Big Ten.
      4. We will still make money from the operations of the athletics program — as we have for the past thirty non-conference affiliated years. Again, what is the benefit?

  • sagcat

    I don’t see any evidence that joining the Big East made us lose our institutional independence, national identity or Catholic identity. And I don’t see any reason that ND would stop being ND if we joined the Big Ten.

    On the contrary, before the world passes us by while we stubbornly and arrogantly cling to the notion that we’re so much better than everyone else, we need to be driving the bus.

    We should grab four Big East schools – my choices are Pitt, UConn, Syracuse & Rutgers – and go to the Big Ten with our terms. And those terms would be to sate all the fears that everyone has. We get to play at least 4 OOC games (and after September!) We get to play our home games on NBC (adding that large chunk of revenue to the Big Ten pie.) And importantly, we don’t get bossed around by other schools.

    ND will not lose it’s appeal to me by joining the Big Ten. Why do people think we’d suddenly stop being ND?