Dino Babers, Syracuse’s new football coach, told a group of Orange alumni Tuesday that the upcoming meeting between Notre Dame and Syracuse should be the last at the Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I’ve got something to add about the Meadowlands since we don’t have an athletic director right now,” Babers said. “I want this to be the last time we ever go to the Meadowlands to play Notre Dame University. The next nine times that we play Notre Dame University, we’re playing them in the damn Dome!”**
As a Notre Dame alumnus who lives about an hour’s drive from the Carrier Dome, I loved hearing Babers’ comment today.
But, with all due respect, coach: Your sentiment makes zero sense.
Now let’s examine why:
The MetLife Stadium Company reportedly paid Syracuse and Notre Dame in excess of $4.7 million each to play in East Rutherford, N.J. Payouts have to be generous. After all, one of these teams is losing out on the revenue associated with a seventh home game, such as ticket and concession sales. (There’s also a financial impact to the businesses in Syracuse and South Bend if the games aren’t played at someone’s home stadium. I may be cynical, but I don’t think that’s even considered.)
The two teams set a Metlife Stadium attendance record during their September 2014 matchup, with a paid attendance of 76,802. The Carrier Dome seats 49,250 individuals. I think it’s fair to assume that Syracuse University would not have made in excess of $4.7 million from Notre Dame visiting Syracuse and not East Rutherford.
This is a significant payout that Syracuse – and perhaps Notre Dame, too – really needs. In 2014, Syracuse’s athletic department budget – for all sports – was about $67 million. This one game covers at least 7 percent of the total budget!
The 2014 game between 3-0 Notre Dame and 2-1 Syracuse was an 8 p.m. kickoff. The kickoff time for this year’s contest hasn’t been announced. But, if the teams are doing well, it could again be a primetime slot.
ESPN and ABC heavily promote their primetime game. Joe Giansante, then Syracuse’s chief communications officer, said in a September 2014 interview that the promotions during “Dancing With the Stars,” “Monday Night Football” and the like probably created between $10 million and $15 million in brand exposure for Syracuse.
“It’s attracting higher-level athletes for all our programs,” said Giansante. “It’s helping improve our academics, attracting a higher level of student.”
It’s also bringing a game closer to Syracuse’s and Notre Dame’s New York City alumni base. Even if I didn’t live nearby, I’d know there are far more Notre Dame alums within a 50-mile radius of East Rutherford than there are within 50 miles of Syracuse. That’s significant, because New York City alums have more discretionary income to spend on items such as, say, alumni donations that make them eligible for tickets through each university. And with 26,000+ more seats, there’s plenty of tickets to go around.
HIGHER CALIBER OPPONENT
If Syracuse wants to be considered a serious playoff contender, it will need tough opponents on its schedule. Those opponents – with their giant fanbases – will have more leverage than even Notre Dame. USC used that leverage to schedule a game at Metlife. Penn State did too. The Irish weren’t required to schedule Syracuse when they insisted in 2010 to playing the Orange in East Rutherford. Now that Notre Dame is affiliated with the ACC, they will play Syracuse in a rotation. The Orange will come to South Bend on Sept. 22, 2018. The Irish owe a trip back east sometime in 2022, according to the ACC.
Will they play at neutral site again? I’m not sure. But I know these things: If it makes financial sense for both schools, you bet. And if Dino Babers is very successful – or very unsuccessful – he won’t be coaching in The Salt City in six years’ time.
** Oh, coach. It’s the University of Notre Dame, not Notre Dame University. We’re kind of anal about that. And you’ll never be around to play the Irish nine times at home. That’s like 36 years.