Might not have choice
Notre Dame takes a lot of pride in its independence from any conference affiliation in football, despite the changing college landscape.
However, the barbarians at the gate might force the school to finally make a choice it has been avoiding for years. The recent instability in the Big East — Notre Dame's conference in other sports — has school officials considering all of their options.
For conferences such as the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, Notre Dame is the Holy Grail of additions. For Notre Dame, a viable home for its basketball teams and non-revenue sports is a must that could be on the table with several suitors. If so, Notre Dame could remain independent for as long as it likes.
On-field success holds key
Los Angeles Times
The key to Notre Dame's future is tied to its football success. It's only vulnerable if Brian Kelly cannot get the program back to college football's upper echelon. If the Irish start winning nine or more games a year again, they can prosper as an independent. If they slide back to mediocrity, they might be vulnerable to external pressures.
Despite great uncertainty, I think the Big East will survive in some form, leaving Notre Dame a place to keep its other sports. It will have to consider football membership only if college football ends up with 16-team superconferences. The Big Ten would be the likely landing spot, but Notre Dame still hasn't been forgiven for passing up a chance to join in the late 1990s. The Big Ten isn't going to beg.
Will take some creativity
Notre Dame will be a football independent as long as everyone allows it to be, which might take some political gymnastics by its administrators when the next set of Bowl Championship Series rules lands in place.
Three factors drive Notre Dame's decision-making: having a viable, worthwhile home for other sports; the ability to compile representative football schedules; and most importantly, access to the mechanism that decides the national football champion.
If any of those elements is compromised, Notre Dame might have no choice but to join a conference. But if not, or if the school gets creative and proactive, then every day could remain independence day.
Scheduling may be tough
If the Big East implodes, perhaps a conference would invite Notre Dame to join in basketball and non-revenue sports without demanding its football team be part of the package. Wouldn't, say, the ACC rather have a piece of Notre Dame than watch another conference latch on to the venerable school?
But for Notre Dame, there could be the challenge of putting together an independent schedule in a world where conferences are swelling. Programs will have fewer and fewer nonconference dates, leaving Notre Dame with a potentially weakened schedule. That could give leverage to potential landing spots. And if the Big Ten or ACC required Notre Dame to join in all sports, the Irish might have to abandon independence.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun