What are the real reasons why Notre Dame shouldn’t join the Big Ten?

I just read an opinion piece over at Leprechaun Legion that argues that Notre Dame should not join the Big Ten. Here are the writer’s main points:

The biggest reason why universities are considering the move to the Big 10 is to put their respective athletic programs in a place to potentially win championships. The Big 10 offers a platform to play in BCS Bowls (Rose Bowl, etc.) and in a National Title game.

Notre Dame has their own deal with the BCS. The Irish receive an automatic birth in the BCS if they finish in the top eight.

Notre Dame does have a sweetheart deal, but if the Irish joined the Big Ten and finished in the top eight, they’d still very likely play in a BCS game. It’s not like joining the conference would reduce Notre Dame’s chances of playing in a BCS bowl.

The Irish are a member of the Big East in most other sports, which provides a great platform to reach the NCAA tournaments for each sport.

Notre Dame does not need to join a conference to succeed in football, or any other sport.

Is anyone arguing that the Irish have to join the Big Ten to succeed at football, or any other sport? Isn’t the argument that the Big Ten is better than the Big East and that Notre Dame is a much better geographic fit in the Big Ten?

The Big 10 carries the Big 10 Network, which is the largest television network of any conference. The Network carries games of almost every sport, and gives great publicity for each member of the conference.

The television exposure shouldn’t be a worry for Notre Dame. The Irish have every football game aired on national television.

Notre Dame has always been shown on television. Playing on the Big 10 Network would be a step down, compared to the network television stations that the Irish play on.

In other sports, Notre Dame can be found on television. The basketball program is shown on television between 10-20 times. The women’s basketball program had many games aired on ESPN. Other sports can often be seen on ESPN, CBS College Sports, and other television networks.

Again, why would Notre Dame’s deal with NBC have to go away? I find it fairly ridiculous that the Irish are always on television even though the football program has been pretty mediocre in recent years, but if the free market demands that Notre Dame play on network television every Saturday, then so be it. Just because you play in the Big Ten, it does not mean that your games are only on the Big Ten Network.

The writer misses the point that the basketball programs get national exposure in large part because they play in the Big East. This would not change with a move to the Big Ten, though it would allow for extra games (games not on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or CBS) to be broadcast on the conference network.

The Big Ten Network would also allow for Notre Dame’s other sports — volleyball, soccer, whatever — to gain more exposure.

Another reason the Irish should stay put is to hold together their rivalries. Notre Dame has rivalries in football with USC, Michigan, Michigan St., Boston College, Purdue, Stanford, and also an annual match with the Naval Academy.

If the Irish were to give up their status as an independent team and join a conference, they would have to drop those rivalries. Things just would not be the same if the Irish and Trojans did not battle each fall. It would be a shame for college football if Notre Dame did not play against USC.

I agree with the last part, that Notre Dame should continue to play USC every year. But joining the Big Ten does not mean that a team has to give up all of its non-conference games. Florida plays Florida State and Miami every season, and they’re not in the SEC. Under the SEC’s 12-team format, the Gators play eight SEC teams, which leaves three or four slots for non-conference matchups. Since Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue would still be on the schedule in the Big Ten, Notre Dame could still play USC, Stanford, BC and Navy in non-conference action, if they so choose.

A 14- or 16-team format would allow for the same kind of schedule flexibility.

A move to the Big 10 would make sense for the other schools. Rutgers is trapped in the weak Big East conference, and is stuck in college sports purgatory. Nebraska and Missouri are in a Big 12 conference that could quickly deteriorate, and soon, may not even exist.

A move for either of these schools would make much more sense, and could greatly benefit them.

Things are different for Notre Dame. The Irish have no reason to join the conference. They are currently in a position where they don’t need to move.

A move to the Big Ten would help Notre Dame’s bottom line (however insignificantly for the ultra-rich university) and increase exposure for the school’s secondary sports on the Big Ten Network. A move in basketball would create/enhance rivalries with a number of Big Ten schools, including Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois and Northwestern. Currently, there isn’t much in the way of geographic rivals in the Big East.

For the football team, a move to the Big Ten would not threaten the aforementioned rivalries with USC, Stanford, BC or Navy. And it would enhance the rivalries with Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State, because now the games mean more (i.e. they’re playing for a conference championship). It would also create rivalries with programs like Ohio State and Wisconsin who are battling for the Big Ten title every season.

If Notre Dame supporters want the football program to stay independent, that’s fine, but they should at least be honest with themselves about the actual advantages and disadvantages of joining the Big Ten. The way I see it — a move to the Big Ten would help Notre Dame’s other sports and it wouldn’t threaten the football program’s television deal with NBC or its rivalries with programs like USC or Stanford. It sounds like a good deal to me.

Photos from fOTOGLIF

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