Skip to main content

Greed and Money Are Why Notre Dame Is The Final CFB Independent

Notre Dame gets blamed for being greedy and staying an independent, but it's not their greed that caused the Irish to remain free

College football is going through a massive overhaul from a conference standpoint, but Notre Dame remains the lone major independent program. The reason Notre Dame is the lone independent among the power programs is all about money and greed.

Wait, you think I'm talking about Notre Dame? Nah, this isn't about Notre Dame. It's not Notre Dame's greed and pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of all other things that is causing the current hysteria that has overtaken college sports, and it's all about football.

For Notre Dame that has never been its driving force. It's a major benefit of what the driving force is for Notre Dame, especially now.

Greed is absolutely killing the traditions of this sport, but it isn't and never has been about Notre Dame. 

It's funny listening to fans of other programs whine about Notre Dame's independence, and the more they talk the more you realize how little they actually know about the history of the sport beyond the last five minutes. 

"Notre Dame thinks they are better than everyone else," is the first line of attack you'll often hear, followed by "They haven't won anything in over 30 years." 

Both comments expose a lack of understanding of reality, and what drives dollars in college sports. The former is especially funny coming from Big Ten or SEC fans.

Irish Breakdown has already had a long series explaining why Notre Dame initially chose its path of independence. A quick refresher for those who aren't aware, but Notre Dame twice tried to join the conference that is now known as the Big Ten, and in both cases they were rejected. That forced Notre Dame to create something new, and the result was Notre Dame becoming a dominant national program.

So right there the whole "They think they are too good for everyone else" nonsense goes right out the window. It was the choice of the Big Ten Conference to initially reject Notre Dame. Once Notre Dame built themselves into a national powerhouse and a national brand, one capable of sustaining itself in a way that no other program can, they should get blamed for being greedy and not being willing to join a conference?


Let's also not forget it wasn't that long ago that independent teams dominated college football.

Notre Dame's last national championship was 1988, and that was the decade of the independents. In the season Notre Dame won that title, the No. 1 (Notre Dame), No. 2 (Miami), No. 3 (Florida State) and No. 5 (West Virginia) teams in the country were all independents, as was No. 13 Syracuse. No other conference that year had more than four teams in the Top 25, and only the Pac 10 had multiple teams in the Top 10.

Six of the 10 national champions in the 1980s were independent programs, with Miami, Penn State and the Irish all winning national titles. The ACC (Clemson), SEC (Georgia), Big 8 (Oklahoma) and WAC (BYU) all had just one title each in the 1980s, and the Big Ten was shut out. 

The 1990s began with the independents still going strong, at least on the field. Georgia Tech (ACC) and Colorado (Big 8) split a national title that season, but the No. 3 (Miami), No. 4 (Florida State), No. 6 (Notre Dame), No. 11 (Penn State) and No. 14 (Louisville) teams in the country were all independent programs. 

That was the last year of the independent schools really dominating. 

Miami, Syracuse, Pitt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Rutgers and Boston College all gave up their independent status to create the Big East Conference for football in 1991. 

Florida State left for the ACC in 1992.

Penn State left for the Big Ten in 1993.

That was the last season Notre Dame was a true national championship contender, and the Irish were left with Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Army, Navy, Tulsa, Tulane, Southern Miss and East Carolina as fellow independents. Louisville and Cincinnati left for Conference USA in 1996.

By that time Notre Dame had already signed its own TV contract. That is something that is part of the hatred that Notre Dame gets from fans. Notre Dame got greedy and went out and got their own TV contract and began the arms race.


The explosion in TV money has its roots in the 1984 Supreme Court decision that allowed schools to sell their own media content. Was that lawsuit brought by Notre Dame? No, of course, it was brought by the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia.

So Oklahoma and Georgia sue the NCAA so that schools could sell their own TV rights, and Notre Dame is supposed to do what? Say thanks, but no thanks?

Did Notre Dame do something that was unavailable to every other team? No, of course not. Every school in the country could have sold its own media content, and every school in the country could have signed a deal like Notre Dame's, if there was a network willing to do that.

That's really what bothers everyone. It's not that Notre Dame has done anything wrong, because they haven't, it's that Notre Dame did something that their schools can't do, and that's be strong enough to sign their own TV deal.

But why was Notre Dame in such a unique position? Let's go back to the Big Ten twice turning Notre Dame's attempts to join their league, which created the environment for Notre Dame to build itself into a national brand that was unlike any other school or program. They created the monster that became Notre Dame. It was a Big 8 and a SEC school that filed the lawsuit that opened up the door for Notre Dame to sign with NBC.

It was Miami, Penn State, Florida State, West Virginia and other independents that decided to give up their independence. Why? Because they aren't Notre Dame. Does anyone actually believe that if Miami, Florida State, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, USC or any other program would turn down an opportunity to be independent and sign their own deal if the opportunity was there?

Of course they wouldn't, but they chose instead to join a conference. Why? The money was better in a conference. It was all about greed, the pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of everything else.

I have actually listened to fans and analysts complain about Notre Dame's greed, and blamed their greed for remaining independent. In the same breath, those same people will then say Notre Dame should join a conference because they could make more money, and say Notre Dame can't win without joining a conference.

So wait a second. Notre Dame has taken less money for its TV deal with NBC for decades than it could make should it join a conference, and made it harder on itself to win a championship to remain independent, and Notre Dame is the greedy program?

Yeah, your reaction to that is correct, it makes no sense.

They are right, this is about greed, but it's not Notre Dame's.

Penn State gave up its status as a national power and an independent program for money. Miami gave up its independence for money. Florida State did the same thing.

USC, Oregon UCLA turned their backs on a conference they had been a part of since 1922, 1915 and 1928 respectively to join the Big Ten. Was this to improve its chances to win a title? No, of course not. Was this done to better the lives of their student athletes? Absolutely not, and it will in fact have the complete opposite impact.

This was done for one reason and one reason only, greed. Theirs as an institution, and the greed and poor leadership of the Pac 12 Conference. 

Oklahoma joined the Big 8 in 1920, right after World War I. The Big 8 became the Big 12 in 1994. Oklahoma is walking away from their 100+ year relationship with that league, and the schools in that league, to join the SEC. Is that to improve their chances of winning a title, or better the lives of their student athletes? No, of course not, because it does neither.

It's all about money.

Notre Dame is doing nothing different now from what it did 50 years ago. Notre Dame hasn't changed. It has put a premium on building its own brand, making sure its football players remain student-athletes, and being the national program it has always been.

Every single Power 4 school in the country could go this route if they want to, but they don't. They don't because they can't. Not because the rules don't allow it, it's because they aren't Notre Dame and can't survive on their own.

Greed is destroying the traditions of college football, but it's not Notre Dame's. Envy is ultimately the reason Notre Dame is hated so much by other fan bases. 

They hate us because they ain't us. That's what it's all about.

Be sure to check out the Irish Breakdown message board, the Champions Lounge

Irish Breakdown Content

2024 Scholarship Chart
2023 Football Schedule

Notre Dame 2024 Scholarship Offers

2024 Commit Rankings - Offense
2024 Commit Rankings - Defense

2024 Recruiting Class Grades - Offense
2024 Recruiting Class Grades - Defense


Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content and our premium message board! Click on the link below for more.


Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!

Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook

Sign up for the FREE Irish Breakdown daily newsletter