Notre Dame Was Feeling Left Out Of All The Expansion Talk, And Set About Fixing This

↵Soon, spring practice will start and people who follow college ↵football will have something, anything to talk about other than ↵conference realignment. But today is not that day. Today is the day when ↵Notre Dame athletic director  Jack Swarbrick talks at length about ↵the shifting sands that D-I's last major independent finds itself dealing ↵with, and drops this ↵ND-fan-panic-inducing quote: ↵

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↵⇥

↵⇥"You each could invent a scenario that would force our hand. ↵⇥It's not hard to do." ↵⇥

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↵Of course, he also ↵said this virtually simultaneously: ↵

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↵⇥"While we're paying attention [to realignment], we're trying ↵⇥like heck to maintain our football independence. It's good for college ↵⇥football and it's great for Notre Dame. That's our goal." ↵⇥

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↵But if it makes Irish ears bleed, it leads. ↵

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↵I'm having a hard time envisioning a scenario that forces Notre Dame ↵into a conference, actually. I've broached the idea that the Big East ↵would defensively boot the Irish, leaving Notre Dame's other sports ↵homeless and choosing between the Big Ten-which is an attractive place ↵to land but would insist on those gold helmet guys coming along-and CUSA ↵or the Missouri Valley or something else, which would consign all but a ↵few ND sports to hellish mid-majordom. (Niche sports like hockey and ↵lacrosse don't operate along the same conference lines as most other ↵sports do.) ↵

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↵But I sort of agree with "Frank The Tank," a man who has ↵dedicated every waking moment to conference realignment the past couple ↵months, when he ↵says that's not happening: ↵

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↵⇥The other Big East Catholics absolutely fall all over themselves to ↵⇥be associated with the nation's preeminent Catholic sports program, so ↵⇥that's 7 votes against kicking out ND right there.  Pitt has a ↵⇥longstanding relationship with Notre Dame for football which it isn't ↵⇥going to mess with - I would imagine that ND would easily go back to ↵⇥playing Penn State annually and drop its games with Pitt if the Panthers ↵⇥ever supported kicking ND out.  Syracuse and Rutgers are also ↵⇥holding out hope for Big Ten invites.  Since any kicking out of ↵⇥Notre Dame could possibly nudge the Irish into the Big Ten and close off ↵⇥that 12th conference spot forever, SU and RU aren't going to want to do ↵⇥anything to ND, either.  Those are 10 schools right there that will ↵⇥automatically support Notre Dame, which means that ND will be in the BE ↵⇥as long as there is the current hybrid structure. ↵⇥

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↵That's too certain to me. The Catholic stuff is mostly bluster. If ↵Georgetown is faced with the potential loss of primary rivals Pitt or ↵Syracuse, it would have a ton of motivation to give the Irish the ↵heave-ho. Various other Catholic schools are going to have to make the ↵same evaluation, and since they don't have football their quick calculus ↵for their bottom lines will be slanted towards the ↵true basketball powers in the league. The calculus may end up sticking ↵with ND. It may not. ↵

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↵But he's right that a team angling for a Big Ten invite won't vote to ↵kick out ND, and it may or may not be in the interest of other football ↵members to keep ND in. The Big East's bowl options are skimpy enough ↵right now and that's with the possibility that ND will land in one of ↵them propping up their value. ↵

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↵So what's the other scenario that forces ND into a conference? The ↵BCS could yank Notre Dame's special privilege to BCS bowls, but they can't take away ↵the school's ability to get in altogether without facing a lawsuit they will ↵lose like whoah. And given the way the BCS has fallen all over itself to ↵take plainly ↵undeserving ND teams whenever qualified, taking away that bonus ↵access is a threat without teeth. I don't see the scenario out there ↵without something truly epic going down. ↵

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↵Swarbrick, then, thinks something ↵epic could go down: ↵

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↵⇥"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." ↵⇥

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↵⇥He added: "I've been in and around this business for 29 years now. ↵⇥This is as unstable as I've seen it." ↵⇥

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↵After all this, the Big Ten will add the University of Toronto and ↵nothing will happen to anyone else. Book it. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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