Big Ten needs to change name, boycott Notre Dame

September 8, 2011
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With all the talk of college conference reformations and super powers, it’s time for the Big Ten to do two things.

First, change its name.

The Big Ten is a symbol of where the conference has been, not where it is going. And we all know in due time it is going to become a 16-team conference right alongside the Southeastern Conference and the Pac-12 (soon to be 16).

If the Big Ten wants to compete in the two most important revenue sports—men’s basketball and football—and grow its lucrative Big Ten Network along the way, conference officials know they must grow the league.

In this ultra-competitive landscape for recruits, sponsors, donors and broadcast partners, the Big Ten can’t afford to stand pat. That means they need to grow beyond its current 12-school roster. And in the midst of all this change, keeping the Big Ten moniker just looks silly.

It’s time to lose the name, and while they’re at it, they need to lose all references to the number of schools in the conference, since that will likely be changing in the near-term. And at this point, who really knows what’s going to happen in the long-term.

If the Big Ten doesn’t take some deft action, it is going to find itself far behind in the arms race that is college athletics.

Which brings me to the next thing the Big Ten needs to do. Put the squeeze on Notre Dame.

If the Big Ten is going to be one of the true super conferences, it needs one more power in football and basketball. Throw in its academic prowess national draw, and Notre Dame quickly becomes the school the Big Ten has to have.

Just how to lure Notre Dame to the Big Ten is another matter. That’s where squeezing comes into play.

There are two financial points worth making here. First, people love to bring up Notre Dame’s TV contract—it’s too lucrative for ND’s football program not to be independent, and they’ll never share that NBC TV contract.

Rubbish. Most if not all the Big Ten schools will make more in the long run through the Big Ten Network than ND will make through its NBC contract. I chronicled those numbers in a previous blog post.

And the Big Ten Network would become a lot fatter cash cow if ND were in the barn with the rest of the Big Ten stock. Obviously ND’s non-football programs would be much better off in the Big Ten than the Big East.

In the short-term, the Big Ten should allow ND to keep its NBC money. Then when that contract expires, some kind of split should be worked out if NBC still wants to air Irish football games.

Here’s where the squeeze comes in. Notre Dame needs Big Ten as bad as the Big Ten needs Notre Dame. The only reason the Irish can exist as an independent is because the likes of Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue keep scheduling high-profile out-of-conference football games against them.

Stop it. The Big Ten needs to flat out boycott all Notre Dame sports, especially football. The Big Ten—and all of its schools—need to take a stand; either you’re with us or you’re against us.

Because here’s the deal. Football is the biggest money maker of all. And if these super conferences spurn the NCAA and start their own playoff system, the potential revenue from that line becomes even greater.

In that scenario, it’s important for the Big Ten to be able to stand toe-to-toe with any rival conference. Right now, the conference is chasing the SEC. For those numbers, stay tuned to a near future print issue of IBJ. The Pac-12 is poised to move up the food chain.

Texas A&M will soon make the leap to the SEC, fortifying their already substantial ranks. The Pac-12 is eyeing Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech.

The serious courtship is underway. And for all the talk about the Big Ten adding Missouri, Rutgers and who knows who else, there’s only one partner the conference can’t afford not to land.

It's time the Big Ten uses a little tough love to invite Notre Dame into the family. If that doesn't work, a squeeze may be more appropriate.

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  • Discrimination by any other name
    In years past, certain Big 10 schools refused to schedule Notre Dame, because of its ties to the Catholic Church. Whether you intended it or not, your recommended boycott reminds me of the prior boycott. And, while the NCAA might enjoy Anti-Trust exemption, the superconferences may not. So, what right will the 16 team conferences have to tell Purdue not to schedule ND? (It is my understanding that Purdue was NOT one of the teams that discriminated against ND and that is part of the reason ND and Purdue maintain their rivalry today.)
  • Shunning Irish?
    ND has attempted to join the Big Ten on a couple of occasions over the course of the past 20 or so years. However, the Big Ten has shunned them both times and ND took their programs and made the best of them outside of a conference. Why would ND now want to all of a sudden join the Big Ten other than sports outside of football? The Big Ten is based within the Midwest and that is their audience. Do you really think that people in CA, TX or NY really care about watching Michigan, Penn State or Purdue? ND has a national audience already. Wouldn't being in this conference only serve to diminish who they can play and where they can go? As an Irish fan, it is difficult watching my team play the most difficult of schedules in football. But, at the same time it is exciting to watch them play a variety of new and different teams each season and to play and in different areas vs. watching them play the same teams in the same division over and over and over again, year after year.
    • Boycott
      Maybe Michigan should try to go independent. See haw far they get. They would not survive.
    • Breath in; Breath out
      The idea that the Big Ten needs to change its name and consider further expanison given the multiiple conference hop scotching that is taking place---plus the desire of key conferences to leverage their worth for bigger TV contracts probably is a product of today's ever increasing value of collegiate athletics in the marketplace. I understatnd that. To take it a step further and propose that Notre Dame should join the Big Ten or face not playing conference members is taking it too far. First of all Notre Dame is an independent---always has been. Part of the value their football schedule is, for example, the wide variety of schools it schedules. From East Coast to West Coast, Upper Midwest to Deep South, the Irish play them all. To force them not to play Big ten foes if they don't join reminds me of the childish proclamation of the little boy who says, " If you don't do what I say, I'll take my ball and go home."

      The name may need to change. the adjective and numerical moniker doesn't define it like it use to. But adding teams needs a little more thought and cooperative action to persuade anyone to want to "play ball" with you.
    • Valid Reality Check
      A good thought provoking article, Anthony. I don't agree with the earlier post that ND football fans in CA, TX or elsewhere outside of the midwest wouldn't watch their beloved Irish if their games were limited to Big Ten schools. ND could keep USC on their schedule and be assured of at least a few patsy Big Ten opponents (Indiana, Purdue to name two)to keep their BCS hopes alive. Never could figure why the Big East allowed ND to join the conference for basketball only.

      As to renaming the Big 10, this makes logical sense but there's an "Old School" cache to the name that transcends the number. And "Big Midwest" sounds lame to me.

      I hope the Big 10 poobahs will get in the hunt now and recruit Pitt, Missouri, Rutgers and Notre Dame to make it a 16 team power conference.
    • Notre Dame Needs The Big 10????
      I'm not even a Notre Dame fan and I laughed at that comment.
    • Dream On
      First of all to Patrick: This has absolutly nothing to do with previous prejudice towards the Catholic Church...its just about money...ok so maybe it does have that in common!

      Boycotting the Irish will not force them to do anything. Do you think for one second there wont be 12 more teams lined up to play the Irish? I wish it would work because I would love to see them join the Big 10 but it just wouldnt have any impact.
      • Wolverines are a discriminatory bunch
        Ah yes, Patrick has brought up the noted Michigan boycott's, which on at least one occasion did involve trying to ge the rest of the Big Ten to go along, and noble Purdue did in fact not go along with the boycott. By most accounts, Leahy and Crisler hated each other, and that is why Michigan boycotted...Catholicism ties had little to do with it...both of them were super competitive and could not stand to lose, and if they did not play then both had a better chance of running the table, and of course, Michigan always has to beat Ohio State too. Bo Schembechler, being steeped in Michigan lore, also quit playing them after a time, and said the same things, "they need us more than we need them", "to hell with Notre Dame", and that he would not play them if the begged on their hands and knees...but Bo was also 4-5 against them...same deal, he got tired of losing to them. This is not Brown vs. The Board of Education...it is football, and neither institution could stand losing to the other one, and the coach was in hot water if he lost. Period.
        Even Fielding Yost back in the early 1900's quit playing them for a while...same deal...hated losing. Fact is, Notre Dame used to be a really good football team.
        As to your point Anthony, they probably do need to call it something else besides the Big 10 now that it is 12 going on 16 teams...and it would likely be a great thing for both Notre Dame and the Big Ten if they could put something like that together. If Jim Delaney is half as good a Commissioner as he thinks he is (and he thinks he is mighty good), then he should be able to woo Notre Dame with all that Big Ten (or whatever we call it) network money...it does make geographical sense, it would help ND recruit...Let's face it, right now the only people who think Notre Dame is a national power are the alumni and fans...they have not been a factor in the national conversation for a really long time...this could be a win win for both parties, it could help make them relevant again...assuming Patrick can get over his hurt feelings that Michigan took their ball and went home in 1909, 1940, and 1978. Truth is, I don't really care what Notre Dame does, and the Big 10,11,12,16 will be fine if they don't come along for the ride.
      • Pain or Fear
        are the only emotions that will drive ND to join a conference. If the B10 boycotts ND football ND will EASILY find takers for games, at least right now. ND still has cache' across the land. Until that cache' dies (and they are trying very hard to kill it) ND still doesn't need anyone. Only when ND feels enough pain (when NBC decides the ROI of that relationship is gone -- at that time would the B10 even want ND?) or enough fear will ND go seeking suitors. I think the B10 would be better off at this time nurturing ND by telling them that they'll leave a spot open for ND football. When the momentum of all this conference shifting hits high gear and it's every team for itself ND just might realize that there won't be any more $ after their current NBC contract unless they are in a conference. Sure the B10 would be better off with ND in it - if they still have that cache' - but it won't get them by drawing a line in the sand. In the meantime offer to bring in two of the following: Pitt, Mizzou, Louisville, Any big east school with a football program.

        I would not want to be Baylor, KU, KSU or Iowa State right now...Conference USA is calling you.

        As for a new name I would lean toward The Big Ugly, which is what the rest of the country thinks of the B10 anyway based on the perceived play of football and basketball!
      • Not so fast, my friend
        Both of your points are losers, and I'll tell you why:

        First, the Big Ten should absolutely not change its name. "Big Ten" as a brand has a great deal of value and, as the oldest collegiate athletic conference, 115 years of legacy. Changing the name to "Big Midwest" or something of the sort would foresake all of that history and any value currently in the brand (plus, put arbitrary restrictions--at least hypothetically--on recruiting new members). It does not matter how many teams there are, the conference will (and should) always be the Big Ten.

        And as for shunning Notre Dame, they could certainly do that. Of course, that would mean foregoing any cut in the NBC revenues for playing Notre Dame. And if you think Notre Dame can't survive without the Big Ten, you're crazy. They could join any other major conference (they are already in the Big East for basketball, for example). The problem is that, if they join any conference, they would probably have to give up some of their rivalry games in football. The college football season is simply not long enough for them to squeeze in a full conference schedule of 8 games along with all of the rivalry games they currently play.

        I'd love to have Notre Dame in the Big Ten... I think they'd be a great fit for the conference. But I think you'd better get use to the idea that it's not going to happen as long as they have compelling reasons not to join.
      • The Great Midwest
        Always thought that was a great name for a conference, and indeed it was a conference for like two weeks in the 80s.

        But as a replacement name for "The Big Ten" though...come on, even in the past it was The Big Ten even during the interregnum between UChicago leaving and Michigan State joining.

        Let's not get hung up on numerals, everyone knows what the Big Ten is, there is no need to change the name if it goes to 14 or 16 teams.
      • Superconferences may force ND's hand
        It really depends on if the 16-superconferences initiate a playoff format in college football and quite a few college coaches believe that is on the verge of happening.

        I've heard everything from ND has open invite to the BIG (Ten) for years to ND won't join any conference in football unless it's hands were forced.

        If the superconferences adds a playoff to college football, ND will have to join some conference and obviously the BIG makes sense.

      • Anthony, You're an Idiot
        Once again when it comes to "hard hitting" sports analysis, Anthony, you clearly have an ID-Ten-T problem.
      • No knowledge of history
        The previous comments are correct in pointing out this boycotting Notre Dame is silly, and the entire idea lacks historical context.

        Michigan and other teams did boycott ND (except Purdue and MSU which is why they still play them), which is what made ND a national team in the first place. They had to travel around to find people to play, which garnered them a large fan base in far-flung places like California, Pennsylvania, NY, NJ, etc.

        ND is one of the only teams in college football (if not the only) to have a truly national fan base. The Big Ten boycotting them would not effect ND at all.

        And as for money, thats silly too. While ND doesn't make as much per year from its TV contract due to profit sharing, they also don't have to share their bowl revenues. And only ND and Texas have football programs that have revenues over a $100 million dollars a year. ND gets to keep all that, and has a multi-billion dollar endowment for a small school of 8,000 students. They don't need the money.

        This article proposes that ND needs the Big Ten, but the fact of the matter is that the Big Ten needs ND. The Big Ten used to be college footballs best conference, but because of demographic changes and shrinking populations in the Midwest, its now the SEC (and has been for some time). The PAC whatever is expanding and picking up top-flight programs which want to join the PAC, or the SEC. Nebraska picked the Big Ten, but you'll notice that the heavy hitters of Oklahoma and Texas haven't even considered the Big Ten.

        The Big Ten needs to gain TV markets and teams to stay relevant, and their only options outside of ND are Missouri, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Pitt, while the SEC/PAC chase Texas, Oklahoma, Florida State, Clemson. Ask yourself who needs who more.
      • ND does not need the Big Ten
        Notre Dame does not need or want the Big Ten. Notre Dame want to remain independent so it can play teams like USC, Stanford, and others.
        (Oklahoma next year)! There is not enough competition in the Big Ten. It is a weak conference whether local fans want to admit it or not. Michigan and Michigan State are strong but ND plays them already. Ohio State is the only other challenge. While others may deny it, there was a time when the Big Ten boycotted ND because of religion. ND will remain independent until they are denied the possibilty of playing in a BCS game because of their independence. BTW- we do not have fans all over the country because we play teams all over the country. Those other teams are rooting for their own. We have fans from all over the country because ND is a strong academic institution that draws from all over the country. Its alumni are strong everywhere.
      • Right...
        so... current prejudice against the catholic church?
      • Big conference
        If Miami can just be the U, why can't the Big 10 just be the Big? That way it doesn't matter how many schools are in the conference.
      • Irish Schedule is a Joke
        I don't know what year this guy's living in, but the day when the independents (ND, UM, FSU, etc.) had killer schedules is long gone. If ND was in the SEC, they'd be even worse than they've been since Lou Holtz, and that's pretty bad. A quick look at the Congrove Computer Rankings of strength of schedule had Notre Dame at 34 last year, and 45 currently. They just aren't good anymore, and maybe won't ever be.
      • Adam
        The Big Ten is a solid brand name, like Coca-Cola or AT&T. What did Cingular do when it bought AT&T? It changed its name to AT&T. In the world of college football, the Big Ten has one of the top name brands and its name has grown its own inherent value. It'd make no sense to switch it to the Big 16, despite its accuracy.
      • Adam
        And speaking of name brands, I love the persistent, unending arrogance of Notre Dame fans to think the Notre Dame brand means something after the program has been nearly defunct since 1993 (the year most incoming freshmen were born, who have no idea what it means to "wake up the echoes," nor do they care what it means. What has ND done it that time? They made three "gimme" BCS games based on the special "Notre Dame rules" they worked in at the BCS's genesis, only to get blown out in each of them (Losing to Oregon St. 9-41 and LSU 14-41, anyone?), 10 seasons with at least four losses, four losing seasons, three coaches fired (the new one looking like he'll be next). The Big Ten would be better off picking up Texas. Half the arroagance, and generally with the on-field performance to back it up.
      • netbooks
        We are Subway Alumni Notre Dame Fans who love IRISH Football and The University of Notre Dame Du Lac. This is the place to interact, learn, discuss, perk interest, argue, keep you informed, have some fun and maybe help perpetuate the traditions and history of Notre Dame Football.Check out the archives, for some great posts or scroll down the right side for the most popular. At the bottom of the Blog, we have added 50+ neat pictures of the Notre Dame Campus.
      • Agree with Boycott
        The whole premise of the B10 conference and revenue sharing is so foreign to ND that any attempt to go this route will be fruitless and very unproductive. Let them go and play what ever team can make room for them. It's not like they have been adding much to a teams SOS lately anyways. I have never thought they brought much to the table and feel that any attempt to help them out now would be a lose lose result for the B10. Sometimes you just have to stand your ground. We the B10 can always add another school or two. I am pretty sure Missouri for one would jump at the chance to join.
        • hahahahaha
          The only issue with SOS is how playing the Big 10 has hurt ND's in recent years. You always needed us more than we needed you - as was most obvious 2 months after your dumb comment when we joined the ACC. And looks like Mizzou is happy in the SEC...wonder how long Gee stays in Columbus after those dumb comments...

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