It's exciting to hear that the Big Ten has opened itself up to expanding, and why wouldn't they? Not only is the conference an afterthought the last few weeks of the regular season, but the 18 million people that watched the SEC Championship or 12.7 million for the Big 12 Championship this year could be watching the Big Ten too. The conference is already the richest in the sport today, so why not take things to the next level?
Of course all of this talk about expansion means that the media has jumped on the idea of the Irish finally joining the conference. I mean it sounds like a great marriage right? The Irish have been irrelevant since 1993, as Kirk Herbstreit so nicely reminded everyone a few weeks back, and well we all know the Big Ten is hurting in perception points. So the two finally coming together could have both parties headed in the right direction.
Well, they don't see it that way in South Bend. Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick had this to say to the Chicago Tribune:
"Our strong preference is to remain the way we are. Independence is a big part of the tradition of the program and our identity. We'd sure like to try to maintain it."
So yes, that is another rejection from the Irish, just like back in 1999. This time it has a little bit less sting though, especially because they are in worse shape than they were 10 years ago. Don't get wrong, Kelly has the capability of turning things around in South Bend, but I still think it is the Irish that need the Big Ten. Not the other way around!
Fans instead enjoy the heated conference contests that take place year after year. For instance, the Buckeyes have waged battles against schools like Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa who aren't even suppose to be rivals. For the Irish, the contests we care to tune in for are the Michigan, Michigan State, and USC games that take place every year. The have history and hatred, and that is fun to watch. The problem is, that gives Notre Dame three of those games, when everyone else has seven or eight. Randomly picking teams to put on your schedule lacks the intensity or history, and I think the nation's lack of interest shows that.
So let make it clear when I say the Big Ten is doing the Irish a favor. Spare me all the talk about their large fanbase or draw, or how they are the most storied program in college football history because I am not arguing that. What I am saying is that they need to step into 21st century and realize that the draw of a conference is too important to pass up. The days when nothing was on television but Notre Dame football have long passed, and the current culture in college football has fans and teams uniting to rep not only their own program but their whole conference. I really believe the folks up in South Bend need to step out of their dream world and realize that they can't go it alone anymore.