Okay, not really, but given that a strong Big East is important to ND’s continued independence, it looks like Jack Swarbrick now has a great opportunity to help ensure that ND remains Conference-free, at least for the near future.
The Big East has finally manned up and decided to actually try to survive, rather than just standing around and looking surprised as other conferences steal all of their teams.
On a teleconference earlier today, our Presidents and Chancellors authorized the BIG EAST Conference to engage in formal discussions with additional institutions and are considering moving to a model that includes 12 football playing schools.
While going from 6 to 12 seems like a long-shot, it’s great to see the BE finally stepping into the game and getting active about expansion. The conference has few major pillars of strength at this point: 1) The automatic BCS Bid and 2) The relationship with Notre Dame. They need to use both to attract some quality additions, and to keep teams like UCONN and WVU in the fold. Given how important a strong Big East is to ND, Jack should be all over #2, offering up matchups (yes, even home and homes) to those teams to bring them into/keep them in the BE.
The short list for expansion includes teams like Army, Navy, and Air Force, along with ECU, UCF, Memphis, Temple and Villanova.
Yes, yes, I know, nobody wants a schedule filled with Big East teams. But hear me out here: ND’s football independence is more important than any one schedule. It’s more important than any group of 5 schedules. If ND needs to play some games against teams that are ho-hum (which should lead to some W’s by the way) this is a very, very small price to pay to keep that independence. Heck, we give the Big Tweleven a handful of games each year and what does that conference give us other than grief? If the BE is able to help us retain Independence by remaining a solid home for Hoops and Olympic sports, let’s toss them a bone.
Of course there’s no way that Jack can offer series to every single one of those teams, but we wouldn’t really have to. We already have Navy on the schedule in perpetuity, and Army and Air Force are on there enough already that it’s not a huge motivator for them. ‘Nova is already in the conference so there’s not much need there, and Temple is already on the ND schedule. That means that ND could look into another series with UCONN, a matchup with WVU, and games with new members ECU, UCF and Memphis. Scheduling those last 5 a few times in the coming years isn’t a huge ask, especially if it helps solidify the BE. Plus, a few games against teams that aren’t Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Michigan, MSU, etc might be nice.
Playing Notre Dame still brings a lot to the table for newer programs, including exposure, money and hype. Jack should use this to our advantage, and get these teams on the schedule to help strengthen the Big East, and in doing so save ND from the nightmare that is Conference Membership.