Dennis Dodd writes about Notre Dame being a major sticking point in college football playoff negotiations. Like France with its Security Council veto, they were granted privileged access initially and will fight doggedly to hold onto it. The Irish will try to maintain their traditional independence or, more truthfully, their right to be nationally relevant while hoarding the revenue generated by their large national fan base.
Notre Dame is a factor in the format. Do they want equal access in a straight rankings formula, confident the human element would be a battering ram into the top four? Do they want a special dispensation to qualify as a “conference champion” if that is the criteria? More importantly, how much money (if any) will Notre Dame receive when not playing? The only recent year they would have had a chance to sneak in to a four-team playoff would have been 2005 when they finished 6th in the BCS Standings.
There’s also a simpler solution. Notre Dame could just join a conference. This may not be that far off.
We don’t buy Notre Dame joining the Big 12. Notre Dame’s “national fan base” really means large numbers of wealthy alumni and Catholics resident in the Great Lakes and the I-95 corridor. Texas would be awesome. Yearly trips to places like Lubbock, Ames, Manhattan, Stillwater and Morgantown would not be so awesome.
Joining the ACC is a better cultural fit. Notre Dame has the rivalry with BC, could schedule Syracuse as a netural site at MetLife and get into Florida, Georgia and South Carolina for recruiting. The trouble is making the numbers work. The ACC is locked into an all-inclusive ESPN deal through 2023. The conference might get an improved deal by adding Notre Dame, but likely not enough to get it on par with the SEC/Big Ten/Pac 12, especially divided 16 ways.
Now look at the Big Ten. It has the best cultural, geographic and rivalry fit for Notre Dame. It has had that the last 20 years. What will draw in Notre Dame will be money, which will make things rather interesting after 2015.
The Big Ten’s first-tier TV rights expire in 2016. With the SEC and Pac 12 locked down until 2024, these will be the only top-draw college football TV rights available until then. Those rights were worth $1 billion over 10 years, in 2006. This is the one real opportunity for FOX and Comcast/NBC to crack ESPN’s monopoly. The bidding for those rights in a few years could be astronomical, without Notre Dame. Adding them could push the number even higher.
Notre Dame will join a conference when it makes financial sense to do so. If the Big Ten (a) offers more stable access to playoff revenue and (b) offers more in TV revenue after the next rights deal, the school would be hurting itself by staying independent in football.
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