Wisch: Notre Dame Needs The Big Ten

By Dave Wischnowsky–

The team is mediocre, the coach is already under fire just 11 games into his tenure, and the school’s administration is taking more hits than its quarterback these days.

Quite simply, Notre Dame is a mess.

And college football’s most famous program could use a lifeline.
I’m guessing that the Big Ten probably still has one waiting. And, if it does, the Irish should wise up and grab the dang thing.

Last winter, Notre Dame hired Brian Kelly to wake up the echoes, not stir up controversy. But ever since the former Cincinnati coach took over in South Bend, the program has done little but produce bad news.

First, the Irish got off to a 1-3 start. Then, last month, student videographer Declan Sullivan fell to a senseless death while recording a football practice from a scissors lift during a windstorm. And, now, news broke this past weekend that, in September, St. Mary’s College student Lizzy Seeberg apparently took her own life just days after alleging a sexually assault by an Irish football player. That player has continued to play football without interruption since the accusation.

With Sullivan’s death, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick was dodgy at best in having the university take responsibility. With the Seeberg situation, the Irish have been even less forthcoming, leading to a firestorm of criticism by media.

In fact, lately, the only time that Notre Dame hasn’t been making negative headlines has been when the school’s been making no headlines at all.

This summer, the Irish again declined an opportunity to join the Big Ten Conference – and then proceeded to open the season with three games against Big Ten teams (Purdue, Michigan, at Michigan State).

Then came late October when Notre Dame willingly dropped itself off college football’s radar by facing, in consecutive weeks, such heavyweight schools as Western Michigan, Navy and Tulsa.

Again, in October.

Oh, and the Irish lost two of those games, to boot.

Scheduling boring games like that during the heat of the college football season, when you could be playing OhioState, Penn State and the like in the Big Ten is not the way to maintain a national powerhouse. Just like managing the fallout from the Declan Sullivan and Lizzie Seeberg situations the way Notre Dame has is not the way to maintain a school’s integrity.

Last December, when discussing with the New York Times the possibility of joining a conference, Swarbrick insisted that it remains a “priority” in South Bend to retain the university’s long-held independence.

“It’s not about wanting to stand alone,” he said. “It’s about who we are and the history of the place. So maintaining that is very important.”

Right now, the Irish need to figure out not only who they are, but also who they really want to be. And the school also needs to think not just about the history of the place, but its future, as well.

Notre Dame is still a great school and a legendary football program. But it needs to get its house in order. And then it needs to wise up and join the Big Ten.

It’s best way to change all those negative headlines. And it’s the best thing for the school.

Do you agree with Dave? Leave your comments below?

davewisch Wisch: Notre Dame Needs The Big Ten

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.

  • Mike Cannon

    I think it makes all the sense in the world, but I don’t think we’re going to see ND join the Big Ten team anytime soon because of their arrogance. They feel they are somehow above all other schools and as such deserve preferential BCS treatment, big money NBC deals (which I have to believe are going to run out soon), and a big money donor base. Of course that big money donor base might dry up after a few more seasons like its had. But even then, i just don’t think they’ll give in anytime soon.

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    You might be right, Mike.

    As for the money situation, there’s way more TV money to be made in the Big Ten. Currently, ND gets an estimated $15M per year through the NBC contract. Last season, each Big Ten school got $22M apiece from the ESPN/ABC/BTN deals.

    People, by and large, think that Notre Dame makes a lot more than it really does though the NBC deal. The Big Ten is far more lucatrive, and if ND joined, the conference could sell the BTN as a national cable package, making it even richer.

    Notre Dame’s insistence on staying independent doesn’t have nearly as much to do with cash, as it does with the haughtiness of its alums who are so adamant about maintaining independence even in spite of what’s best for the school, both academically and athletically. If Brian Kelly doesn’t work out, though, then I think the university’s hand may be forced and they’ll join the Big Ten.

    It’s silly, however, that the Irish won’t recognize all the plusses that would come with Big Ten membership and just join the conference of their own accord.

  • Dan Rakow

    I’m very happy with Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Program is Independent.

    I would like to see the Big Ten Opponents to be more spread out with the Football Schedule with Michigan Wolverine to be played in September.Michigan State Spartans in October and Cross State Rival Purdue Boilmakers in November.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Yeah, but Dan, Michigan State and Purdue are busy playing conference games during those months. I don’t think they’d have any interest in scheduling Notre Dame for late in the season, nor they should they, really. They have more important foes to worry about that time of the year (no offense, just the truth).

  • Gary

    Notre Dame does NOT need the Big 10 or any other conference

  • Derek

    The Big Ten does not NEED Notre Dame. With all that’s happened, why would the Big Ten want a program on the hot seat? No reason to bring controversy into the conference. Leave ND alone.

  • briian

    II think you need to look at who Big Ten schools are playing in the month of September, most are playing schools like Tulsa, Navy, and Western Mich. Hell, Michigan State didn’t even leave the state of Michigan until October this year and now they could be going to a BCS game. Notre Dame front loads their schedule with Big Ten teams because they need to play them before BT play starts. Just because you don’t think teams like Navy are good is not a good argument for why ND should be playing a Big Ten schedule. Notre Dame played the most bowl eligible teams this year out of all the BCS bowl eligible teams, the only team that ND played that isn’t going to a bowl game this year is Purdue, and what conference are they from? (USC can’t go bowling)

    Plus, the teams that have been scheduled the past few years were by the old AD, Swarbrick has ND playing Texas, Miami, Oklahoma and other SEC, Big East, Big 12 schools in the years to come.

    Notre Dame will be playing some very good teams next year, and take a look at the 2012 schedule. which school in the NCAA would want to take that schedule on?

    I bet no one in the Big Ten would.

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