Notre Dame, Bowls and Michigan's Spring Game

A few quick notes on this Wednesday...

• The spring game will be held at 1PM on April 17th at the Big House (Gates open at 10AM). Admission is free and open to the public. Also, the alumni flag football game, which debuted last year, will make a return for 2010 and will be held two hours prior at 11AM. [mgoblue]

• This came about a week or so ago, but the Big Ten announced it's slightly adjusted bowl lineup for New Years Day. In year's past, the Outback Bowl would begin at 11AM, Capital One at 1PM, and we had no affiliation with the Gator Bowl. But that's changed now. As of 2010, the bowl lineup for the Big Ten looks like this:

- Outback Bowl, ABC, 1PM ET
- Capital One Bowl, ESPN, 1PM ET
- Gator Bowl, ESPN2, 1:30PM ET

So not only does the Disney family of sports networks cover the Big Ten like crazy on that day (with also the Rose Bowl at 4PM on ABC), but it also makes the Big Ten compete against itself for coverage. Now I'm all for having 3, possibly 4 Big Ten bowl games in one day, but not 3 at the same time. If I were Jim Delany, I'd be a little upset that I'd have 3 marquee bowl teams all competing for a national audience with each other. [Rittenberg]

• Turns out, Notre Dame is very well indeed in the mix for addition to the Big Ten. And maybe not by choice. With all of the talk swirling around college football about the Big Ten, and now the Pac-10 possibly increasing their conference rosters, this could have a dramatic impact on every conference if it plays out the way things are looking. If the Big Ten goes to 12, 14, or even 16 teams, that will effect every conference in the country. There's no way it couldn't.

So it seems like the Irish are seeing the writing on the wall...and starting to realize that maybe joining the Big Ten, the only football conference that really makes any sense for ND, might be the best option both financially and strategically. It's clear that with the way things are going, the money from a Big Ten affiliation with their very successful Big Ten Network far exceeds the revenue from being independent and having a TV deal with NBC.

An interview with reporters in New York with ND's athletic director Jack Swarbrick yielded maybe some of the most dramatic statements ever about Notre Dame finally ending it's football independence.

“I believe we’re at a point right now where the changes could be relatively small or they could be seismic,” he said. “The landscape could look completely different. What I have to do along with Father Jenkins is try and figure out where those pieces are falling and how the landscape is changing.”


“We start that process with a clear preference,” he said. “You each could invent a scenario that would force our hand. It’s not hard to do. We just have to pay attention and stay on top of the game and talk to people. That’s what I’m spending 50 percent of my time doing right now. I’m talking to people who you’re writing about and trying to make sure I understand what they’re thinking and what’s going on.”

Clearly, without as much as even picking up the phone, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has sent a message loud and clear to the brass in South Bend. Changes are happening in college football. All this change will likely effect Notre Dame either positively or negatively. When asked about the scale of the potential changes, ND's AD said:

“I think seismic is a possibility,” he said. “I don’t know where the spectrum falls out. You have such an interesting media environment here. It’s having such an impact on people. You have two conferences who have separated themselves economically. And you have all the other conferences lined up in successive years for broadcast negotiations. That’s a tough situation for everyone in that position. The bar has been set so high, and the media market is so tepid, that it creates tension.”

He added: “I’ve been in and around this business for 29 years now. This is as unstable as I’ve seen it.”
Clearly, Notre Dame joining the Big Ten could have just as much of an impact as say, Texas. The larger benefit is that South Bend fits squarely in the middle of the Big Ten footprint. Financially, I'd have to think that both parties would reap the benefits from an affiliation. The only thing in the way up to this point is the rather large egos that reside under the golden dome in South Bend that have always felt they are above any conference for their beloved football team.
[NY Times]

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