A 7-5 bowl-eligible Notre Dame team may be spending this December in South Bend, Ind., instead of Honolulu, Hawaii, according to an ESPN report.
How is this possible, you ask?
One of the biggest perks for a football program joining a conference is its bowl tie-ins. Each conference has contracts with bowls that allow its bowl-eligible teams to play in those games.
Notre Dame's football program is independent and does not have non-BCS bowl agreements in place for the 2013 season. The school has made bowl agreements in the past—Notre Dame was an alternate selection for the 2011 Russell Athletic Bowl.
This year, "we don't have something set," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN.
If Notre Dame finishes the regular season ranked in the top eight of the BCS final standings, it is guaranteed a BCS bowl berth. Is it BCS or bust for Notre Dame this year? ESPN's Brett McMurphy doesn't think so:
Contractually if there are 70 bowl-eligible teams, Notre Dame—if it doesn't qualify for a bowl—would have to stay at home.
However, industry sources believe there would be some last-minute re-negotiations between bowls to make room for Notre Dame. A bowl could "pay off" a conference by allowing the bowl to take Notre Dame instead of a team from the conference it's affiliated with.
That's an understatement by McMurphy. Notre Dame will not be sitting home. Even with a 6-6 record, it will go bowling unless it declines a bowl berth, because Notre Dame football is that powerful.
This is a school that changed the definition of independent.
[ ìndə péndənt ]
- not controlled by another: in politics, free from the authority, control, or domination of somebody or something else, especially not controlled by another state or organization and able to self-govern
- able to function by self: able to operate alone because not dependent on somebody or something else
- self-supporting: not forced to rely on another for money or support
Notre Dame does function by itself. It is self-supporting. But claiming independence also infers that one is not interested in joining a group. Yet, Notre Dame has a distinctive voice in how conferences it has no membership in conduct their business in regard to naming a BCS champion.
A BCS conference champion is guaranteed a BCS bowl berth, but that guarantee is for a nameless conference champion, not a specific school. Not one college football team, except for Notre Dame, has a guaranteed BCS bowl berth if it is ranked in the top eight, unless it wins its conference.
And that power is a result of a fanbase that it is not just national, it's global. Notre Dame fans travel exceptionally well, probably better than almost any other football team's fans at the college or NFL level.
The 2010 Sun Bowl featured a 7-5 Notre Dame vs. a 7-5 Miami (Fla.). The bowl had the "fastest sellout in the 77-year history of the bowl game," according to the Sun Sentinel. One day after the bowl announced its two participants, Notre Dame sold its ticket allotment. The Irish fans made El Paso, Texas, their holiday destination.
Notre Dame to football is what Kate Upton to Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. They are guaranteed sellouts.
This December, 35 bowl committees will be discussing to whom they extend their respective berths.
Bowl committee members don't concern themselves about how many butts are in seats as much as the schools do. Participating schools are required to pay for their ticket allotments, whether those tickets are sold or not.
But bowls do care about the impact fans have on the local economy.
Hotels, restaurants and retailers benefit from fans who use their services. For every dollar spent, the host city collects taxes on those sales. Notre Dame's geographical location almost guarantees a minimum two- or three-night stay in a bowl's host city.
As long as Notre Dame is bowl eligible, it can punch its ticket out of South Bend for one week every December.