By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) It passed on the Big Ten’s TV millions. It passed on aligning itself with the familiarity of many of its most traditional rivals. And it passed on the region where its campus is based – although some Fighting Irish fans might tell you that, you know, Notre Dame doesn’t really reside here in the Midwest.
It levitates above it.
But with Fighting Irish football finally – and finally – passing on any chance of membership in the Big Ten Conference with the school’s decision to kinda, sorta join the ACC instead, what will that pass on to Jim Delany’s favorite league?
For many folks, it’s probably a sense of relief as the Big Ten’s honchos, schools and fans no longer have to play the “will-they-or-won’t-they” guessing game about the Fighting Irish linking up with the league. Clearly, the answer now is: They won’t. Ever.
In my playbook, though, Notre Dame’s choice to look eastward for a stable home rather than show respect to the proud conference its own backyard is a disappointment.
I understand the reasons why Notre Dame is bolting to the ACC – most significantly, its ability to have the cake of conference affiliation, while being able to dine on football independence, too. Nevertheless, I still think the Big Ten was the best fit for the Irish.
Because, someday, in an age of superconferences (which most likely is still coming), a situation will arise where Notre Dame is going to have to join a league – all the way. And when that happens, its football program would have been a better fit in the Big Ten than the ACC, which will always be more of a basketball conference than it ever will be a football one. And, as we all know, football is what Notre Dame is really about.
Today, tomorrow and forever.
Love them or hate them or loathe them, having the Fighting Irish in the Big Ten would have been a blast. But, now, I expect that ND’s longtime ties to the league will weaken as the years wear on.
Currently, Notre Dame has a contract to play Michigan in football in every season through 2031. Michigan State and the Irish are scheduled to play football through 2031, on a four-on, two-off basis (breaks in 2014-15, 2020-21 and 2026-27). And Purdue has an agreement to play Notre Dame annually through 2021, although only the 2013 and 2014 contracts are signed, according to school officials.
Those contracts should be able to continue with Notre Dame’s new deal with the ACC – but that doesn’t mean that they will.
“I’m not here to tell you there won’t be any schedule changes; there will,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday night. “But I don’t necessarily think that they will be of the magnitude of what some people are predicting they will be. We are going to keep some traditional rivals, and we are going to get around the country.”
Along with five ACC games (which will cover its regular rivalries with Boston College and Pittsburgh), Notre Dame is reportedly committed to keeping Navy, USC and Stanford on its schedule – ensuring at least one annual trip to talent-rich California.
That leaves four open dates each season, meaning there’s room for those traditional battles with Michigan, MSU and Purdue. But also keep in mind that the Irish play Arizona State in 2014, Texas in 2015 and 2020 and has other teams such as Temple, Air Force and Northwestern on future schedules.
Notre Dame can’t play everyone. And it won’t. But now that the Irish have tethered themselves to the Atlantic Coast for almost half of each season, don’t expect them to also tether themselves to the Midwest for another third.
On that subject, prominent Notre Dame alum Mike Golic of ESPN said on Wednesday, “I think you’ll maybe lose some other teams or go on a rotating basis with the Purdues, the Michigans, the Michigan States of the world.”
That comment prompted to the Detroit Free-Press to write today: “The Michigans and Michigan States of the world? That’s not some of that famous Notre Dame arrogance we’ve heard about, is it?”
Indeed. And even though Notre Dame is leaving the Big East, prepare for the Irish persona to adopt an even bigger dose of East Coast bias as the Golden Dome fades further away from the Big Ten.
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. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.