The times they are a-changing. With the latest round of college football conference realignment, it’s seemingly now a free-for-all. Schools are jockeying for slots among either the two biggest Power conferences, the SEC and Big Ten, or the only other conferences with a seat at the national table anymore, the ACC and Big 12. For the Notre Dame Football, this means a crossroads as they weigh whether to end over a century of independence in favor of the stability offered by joining a conference.
This is the kind of make or break decision that could have ramifications on the national standing of the Fighting Irish program for decades to come, and Notre Dame seems, unlike the vast majority of schools, spoiled by having a choice on their potential conference.
With everything regarding realignment in mind, it may just turn out that Notre Dame’s best option is to spurn the ACC where their other sports play, and join the Big Ten. Here are two reasons why.
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Why Notre Dame football must join Big Ten
2. Added revenue
If Notre Dame were to join the Big Ten, they’d be in for quite the payday by the end of the decade, pulling in over $100 million per season when also accounting for sponsorships and such. This is a far cry from what they currently earn, and would allow Notre Dame to not only remain part of college football’s aristocracy, but jump into the stratosphere in doing so.
This level of income would also allow the Fighting Irish to improve their standing nationally, as the funds would allow them to further upgrade their facilities, which undoubtedly helps with recruiting. Often in recent years, when Notre Dame has been a true contender for a national title, it has been a bit odd because once you placed the Fighting Irish on the national stage it seemed as if they’d always crumble. But with this added revenue, if they’re able to improve their recruitment strategies, they may truly be able to compete with the big dogs in college football on the big stage once again.
1. Rivalry protections
The expanded Big Ten, with the addition of USC and UCLA (so far, more may be coming) means that Notre Dame has plenty of traditional rivals in the conference, with the aforementioned USC joining Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue as familiar foes for the Fighting Irish. Tradition means a lot to the Notre Dame football program, and having such storied rivalries in the conference schedule every year is sure to please a lot of people should they make the jump to the Big Ten.
It would, however, leave Stanford and Navy as annual out-of-conference opponents. Depending on how many conference games the Big Ten elects to play in the future, this may leave the Fighting Irish with only one open slot a year if they continue those series on an annual basis. Of course Notre Dame is no stranger to playing their rivalries on a non-annual basis to accommodate their foes who are in conferences, such as Purdue.
It also allows them to strengthen dormant rivalries such as the one with Penn State, which hasn’t been played since 2007, or to potentially create new ones. with such teams as Ohio State. The Fighting Irish haven’t played the Buckeyes in a regular-season game since 1996 and have lost two Fiesta Bowls to them in 2006 and 2016, respectively.