The Oklahoman obtained a memo from Chuck Neinas to the Big 12 expansion committee in January. Inside that memo, ESPN and FOX confirmed that Notre Dame would be the only school that “would enhance Big 12 value for television.” The Irish would enhance any conference’s value for television. The Big 12 would want them. The Big Ten would want them. The ACC would be willing to do degrading things to get them, but the essential part of any hypothetical is how joining a conference would benefit Notre Dame. Don’t expect rapid movement on that front.
Would joining Conference X make financial sense? Notre Dame would increase the TV deal for every conference it joined, but is that deal enough to equal or to outdo what the Irish would earn selling their TV rights as an independent? How much of a cut will Notre Dame get from the new postseason structure? The only conference that could probably approach that is the Big Ten. Everyone else is locked down until the mid-2020s. The B1G makes as much as any conference now and renegotiates its first-tier rights in 2017.
Would joining Conference X make competitive sense? College football moves to a playoff in 2014, with a selection committee. How much will Notre Dame’s schedule be valued? Does Notre Dame consistently get boned at 11-1 by 12-1 teams that just won the Pac 12 or the Big Ten? With home, body bag non-conference games only becoming more appealing, will it become increasingly hard to fill-out a top-tier schedule?
Would they be able to join Conference X without football? The Big East isn’t the most stable place to be. If football is viable, it could make sense for the ACC and Big 12 accept Notre Dame’s other sports and work out shared rights on a scheduling deal, with something like two home games and two away per year. If Notre Dame determines it can remain independent indefinitely, this might be a likely scenario.
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