Open Letter to ND, Big Ten
Why the Irish, conference need each other -- now
Posted: Thursday September 20, 2007 11:01AM; Updated: Thursday September 20, 2007 2:52PM
Mr. Jim Delany
Dr. Kevin White
I hope this letter finds you both doing well ... but then, who am I kidding?
I'm sure these past few weeks have not been the most enjoyable for either of you. Commissioner, you've had to deal with such maddening occurrences as Appalachian State stunning Michigan in Ann Arbor, Florida Atlantic beating Minnesota and 0-22 Duke knocking off Northwestern (which must have felt doubly cruel, seeing as you're a UNC guy). The only saving grace is almost no cable customer in America actually saw those take place thanks to your bumbling new television network.
As for you, Dr. White, I'm sure when you handed over that Fort Knox-sized contract extension to Charlie Weis a couple years ago, you were expecting a slightly bigger return on your investment than, say, zero offensive touchdowns through three games. It's too bad you didn't structure the deal so that he'd be paid per rushing yard. That way, he'd owe you money right now.
But, hey, I'm not writing you guys to dwell on the negatives. On the contrary, I'm hoping to help facilitate a solution. As a native Midwesterner myself, I think we can agree it's in all our best interests to help make sure college football in that part of the country doesn't become completely irrelevant.
What I'm proposing is simple. It's time to put pride, ego, stubbornness and all that other junk aside and to admit the obvious: Notre Dame needs the Big Ten, and the Big Ten needs Notre Dame. Enough dilly-dallying already. Let's make this thing happen.
I'll start with you, Dr. White, since you're obviously going to be the harder sell. This whole independent thing you've been holding on to so tenaciously -- it's cute, it's distinctive, but it ceased to be practical about ... oh, 20 years ago.
Your school's last national title came in 1988 (and at this point, I think it's safe to assume the next one won't be coming in 2008). Do a Google search for "College football standings, 1988," and click on "Independents." You'll find there were 25 of them that year, including Penn State, Miami, Florida State, West Virginia and Louisville. In other words, you guys weren't exactly alone.
Fast forward to 2007 and there are ... three: Notre Dame, Army and Navy. What's wrong with this picture?
I realize you've got your NBC money ($9 million a year through 2010), your BCS money ($4.5 million for each appearance, plus $1 million annually), even your own provision for BCS qualification (guaranteed with a top-eight finish), so obviously the independent thing's not hurting your bank ledger. But it is forcing you to play an entirely impractical and counterproductive schedule.
All around the country these days, all anyone can talk about is how bad the Irish have looked in their first three games. NBC is going through its archives to decide whether to start showing Blossom reruns in future weeks. But at the same time, what other team in the country has opened its season with three consecutive games against New Year's Day bowl participants from last year (Georgia Tech, Penn State and Michigan)?
While the rest of the country's powers tend to ease into the "meat" of their schedules (i.e., their conference opponents), Notre Dame starts out with the main course while saving the appetizers (Navy, Air Force, Duke and Stanford) for the end. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, yet it's unavoidable because the Penn States and Michigans of the world do belong to conferences and therefore only have room to play you in September.