Big 12 football: No Notre Dame
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick reiterated his school’s commitment to independence Monday, telling the Austin American-Statesman that the Irish’s priority is committed to staying in the Big East for other sports and going at it alone in football.Some thought the Big 12 would at least have a sales pitch for Notre Dame, and the truth is, the Big 12 does have a sales pitch for the Irish, and Arkansas, and BYU. Come to our league, make a lot of money with the new television contracts and you can have an avenue to success by being placed in the North Division. The easiest way to the BCS for Notre Dame, Arkansas and BYU is clearly the Big 12.
The benefits of the Big 12 are not the problem. Stability is the problem. How could the Big 12 sell Notre Dame or Arkansas on stability? How could the Irish or Razorbacks be convinced that the Big 12 has long-term viability? Maybe the league will disprove the doubters, but who on Earth could have faith the Big 12 will be here in five years?
Notre Dame isn’t going to walk away from more than a century of independence by joining a league that could crumble. If Notre Dame wanted to join a league, it has options. Starting with the Big East, a league of which it already is a member. Or the Big Ten, which for decades has been pining for Notre Dame. Heck, you could see Notre Dame joining the Pac-12 before the Big 12. The Irish already play Pac-12 schools regularly; if the Pac-12 was going to expand to Oklahoma and Texas, it’s not any kookier to keep going to South Bend, Ind., especially to land Notre Dame. You could call it the Trans-Pacific 16.
Same with Arkansas. Even if the Hogs could be convinced that the Big 12 was the better situation – close enough in money, better for competition — only an irresponsible administration would OK a move to an unstable conference.
That’s why Brigham Young is the focal point of Big 12 expansion. The Cougars, who just left a dysfunctional Mountain West Conference, have little to lose. BYU is independent this season; a move to the Big 12 wouldn’t harm BYU’s legacy or pocketbook, no matter when the Big 12 might dissolve. If BYU joined the Big 12 for two seasons, then the league went bye-bye, what would BYU have lost? Nothing.
But Arkansas and Notre Dame would have lost much. The Hogs, a spot in the premier football conference in America. Notre Dame, its identity.
Sources told me that Big 12 inquiries have at least been met with courtesy. That Arkansas and Notre Dame haven’t told the Big 12 to get lost. They’ve kept dialogue open. But good luck, Big 12, with talking Arkansas and Notre Dame into joining.
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