By Radio Man - www.cfb360.com
Rivalries are the lifeblood of College Football. Florida vs. Georgia, Ohio State vs. Michigan, Southern California vs. UCLA, and Alabama vs. Auburn are just a few of the rivalries that make College Football a great spectacle. But what transcends conference rivalries and make College Football unique are the short, intense series between traditional powers that do not normally play one another. In recent years, Ohio State played Texas, Michigan played Oregon, and Louisiana State played Virginia Tech, to name a few.
The Ohio State vs. Texas match ups were truly great because it brought two tradition-rich programs together during a time when both teams were contending for National Championships. The two games bolstered both programs on and off the field (see recruiting,) and gave their fans and alumni something to enjoy and look forward too all summer. Now the question is why does Notre Dame appear to be shying away from scheduling similar match ups?
Former Notre Dame Athletic Director Dr. Kevin White has left Notre Dame for Duke, much to the delight of many Notre Dame fans. White's ideal scheduling model of seven home games, four road games, and one neutral site game brings in more revenue, no doubt. What it lacks is the ability to attract upper echelon teams for home and home series because like Notre Dame, they desire the financial windfall of playing seven (and sometimes eight – see Ohio State) home games.
Ah, yes, greed. College Football is full of it, Notre Dame included, with or without Dr. White running the Notre Dame Athletic Department. More importantly, White's scheduling model takes away from the tradition of College Football. Fair or not, when Notre Dame makes a scheduling move, other programs are likely to follow. Notre Dame was literally the last of the tier one schools (more on that list in an article later this summer) to fall into the "lets just make money" scheduling category when it added San Diego State to the 2008 home slate. In other words, road kill is coming to South Bend on Sep. 6. The Aztecs are not a traditional rival, are not on an upswing in talent – in fact they are truly down, and do not have a tradition rich program. Yet, Notre Dame added San Diego State to the schedule. The main reason was revenue. The Aztecs do not possess the clout to require Notre Dame to play a return game, meaning the Irish will not be heading to San Diego to play the Aztecs in a future game. Therefore, Dr. White's 7-4-1 model was utilized for the 2008 season (Navy is the neutral site game in Baltimore).
There has to be middle ground, doesn't there? And there is.
With White gone, there is no better time than now for Notre Dame Football to once again become a trend setter instead of playing follow the leader with regard to peers in college football. Here is how it should work:
For years, Notre Dame and the Big 10 have not seen eye to eye. Fair enough. Both sides have their reasons, and this is no time to reinvent the debate for either side. The one point that is odd, however, involves scheduling, at least with Notre Dame. The Big 10 teams will not play Notre Dame beyond the early portion of the season. It upsets the flow of the Big 10 season, or something to that effect, is what is rumored to be the reason. Hogwash. Michigan is one thing, as they are a peer athletic institution. Honestly, Notre Dame should seriously consider playing that game later in the season, too.
Purdue and Michigan State, however, quite simply do not enjoy the proverbial power to dictate when Notre Dame plays them, if at all. That's just business. If they do not want to reschedule for later in the calendar year, bye-bye. Notre Dame can find other traditional mid-level teams to play. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Purdue and Michigan State, err, the Big 10, cannot dictate to Notre Dame. They hate Notre Dame anyway, give them a reason. Again, it's business. One must use power when power is available. And the TV contracts…they give Notre Dame that power (insert image of Big 10 Athletics Directors gritting their teeth) because mid-level programs need all the revenue they can muster to sustain financial balance within their Athletic Departments (don't get me started on the financial chaos that Title IX created long ago).
In short, Michigan State, Purdue and the like need Notre Dame whether they admit it publicly or not, and not the other way around. If they balk at such an offer from Notre Dame, there will be several other programs lining up at Notre Dame's door waiting to play the Irish during different points in the season, like October and November; hear that Michigan State and Purdue?
With more scheduling balance, i.e. September dates available, Notre Dame could conceivably use the 7-4-1 model and still play a third high level opponent (an additional top team beyond Southern California and Michigan) from the likes of the following five schools:
- Alabama – It has been far too long since the Irish traveled down South to Tuscaloosa to play the Crimson Tide. What a game that would be, the notoriety, the pageantry, the tradition, the TV ratings (hear that ND officials? $$$...), and two tradition rich teams that aspire to be back in the top five of the national polls. This game tops the list, and should be scheduled sooner than later, for a home and home series, of course.
- Texas – This is another team that Notre Dame has some history with, dating back to the early 1970s. Texas has a very good program; Austin is a great city to visit, and its one of the states that Notre Dame has recently tried to invade for more recruits than in recent years. This series makes sense.
- Penn State – It's no secret that Joe Paterno does not like Notre Dame. With that said, he is soon to be out in Happy Valley. The new Nittany Lions head coach would surely be delighted at the idea of playing Notre Dame during the early portion of his tenure. The two schools have played in many great games, and that tradition should continue. In fact, a long term contract would be a good idea.
- Nebraska – With new stewardship, the Nebraska Football Program has an invigorated fan base and sense of optimism. This game would be excellent from a national perspective and give both programs fans something to look forward to.
- Miami – Now that Miami is no longer playing in "Little Havana," or as it was truly called, the Orange Bowl, Notre Dame fans are nearly as likely to be harassed by the ahem…not so nice nearby residents of the Orange Bowl, which quite simply is located in a bad area of Miami. That was a big reason the series was cancelled frowned upon by Notre Dame Administrators, alumni, and fans. It also helps that Miami is a much cleaner program now (how could it have gotten worse than the late 80s/early 90s) and the game would not include all of the taunting and thuggery of the old Miami program due to current NCAA rules. This game, over all the others, would have the most intrigue, but Miami is still not a consistent program, at least not yet.
Other programs such as Arizona State, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Florida State, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Louisiana State, and Washington should be a part of a rotation of schools that enter and leave the Notre Dame schedule on a periodic basis. It is time for Notre Dame to set the trend once again.
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