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Notre Dame's Options Now That USC/UCLA Are Joining The Big Ten

Notre Dame has plenty of options in the face of USC and UCLA leaving for the Big 10

There is one thing you can always expect every time there is any kind of conference realignment in college football. That, of course, is the drumbeat from the media - especially those at ESPN (who I'm sure have no ulterior motives here, right?) - and many fans that this means Notre Dame can no longer remain independent.

The news today that USC and UCLA were abandoning all their rich history and tradition and loyalty for a money grab in the form of moving to the Big Ten brings about the latest round of "There's no way Notre Dame can stay in a conference now."

Notre Dame has plenty of options in the face of all the movement in college football, and here are the options I would consider.

1. Do nothing - This, of course, is my primary move. By doing nothing I'm not saying Notre Dame should sit back and just watch. They should be movers and shakers behind the scenes to ensure that their scheduling and rivalries will remain in tact, and perhaps build a scheduling relationship with conferences that are being raided (Pac 12, Big 12). But they don't need to do anything in regard to joining a conference.

The conferences are going to look A LOT different in the next couple of years, but the number of teams playing in a conference or playing as an independent won't change much outside of BYU joining the Big 12. The only change is the number of conferences that exist, not the number of teams playing in a conference. 

From a playoff standpoint, fewer conferences only enhances Notre Dame's chances to earn a playoff berth. The notion from so many in the media in recent years is how can a conference champion be left out in favor of Notre Dame? Well, the Pac 12 and Big 12 weren't strong conferences previously, and they were gutted of their prestige programs. It's basically a weak Big 12, a weaker Pac 12, the ACC, the SEC and the Big 10.

There are really only two things that would force Notre Dame to join a conference. One is all the conferences decide to play 10-11 game conference schedules. Two is the new "super conferences" make some sort of rule that forbids their teams from playing Notre Dame.

The latter won't happen, so ultimately it really boils down to the in-conference scheduling. 

2. Join The ACC Full-Time - This would be the easy move if Notre Dame somehow felt compelled to join a conference. I don't see that as being the case, but if it came to that they could easily do that. The ACC would jump at the chance to land Notre Dame, and the conference would have much more bargaining power for its next television deal with Notre Dame in the fold.

Coaches in those leagues would hate it, the athletic directors might as well, but it would be wise for the ACC to throw a bunch of sweeteners into the deal in order to. get Notre Dame on board. 

The reality is if the ACC just stands pat they'll end up going the way of the Big 12 and Pac 12. The SEC is going to keep coming after Florida State and Clemson, and perhaps Miami. Seeing the Big Ten make this move to get the Los Angeles market is only going to increase the SEC's desire to poach the ACC.

Notre Dame has A TON of leverage over the ACC right now, especially with the Big Ten likely ramping up its push for Notre Dame, which is no secret. If Notre Dame ultimately wanted to be in the ACC, now is the ideal time for that. Notre Dame joining would help keep the aforementioned programs from bouncing to the SEC for a payday.

This is especially true for Florida State, who has been having financial issues for years. If the ACC doesn't figure out a way to get a lot more money for its members it will cease to exist in its current form.

3. Join The Big Ten - This is a no-go for me. Yes, there are logistic and financial reasons for this, and if this was all it was about then it would make sense. Notre Dame could get a huge pay day to join the Big Ten.

Of course, that would mean Notre Dame would have sold its soul for money. It would mean the institution would spit in the face of all those who worked so hard to build the program into its current form after the Big Ten (then known as the Western Conference) twice rejected Notre Dame due in large part to anti-Catholic bigotry.

If you're unfamiliar with what I'm talking about read this four-part series from Irish Breakdown:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

If I'm being petty there is one way I would accept Big Ten membership, and that is if the conference agreed to kick Michigan out. Yeah, that's petty, but those would be my terms.

4. Form Its Own Conference - I'm still waiting for someone to step up and take on the SEC. I hoped it would be the Big Ten, but I should have known better. But perhaps Notre Dame could still partner with the Big Ten and ACC to form a power group that could then go pick at the carcass of the Big 12 and AAC.

The reality is this is all about money, right? I believe Fox is trying to rival ESPN, and a way to really strike a blow is to pull off a massive deal to steal the ACC away from ESPN and get more control over the Big Ten scheduling.

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This would allow the conferences to remain smaller but still spread the money around the way you would if it were two huge conferences.

How would this look?

Legends Conference

Notre Dame
USC
Penn State
Nebraska
UCLA
Pittsburgh
West Virginia
Maryland
Boston College
Syracuse
Rutgers
Navy

Big Ten Conference

Ohio State
Michigan
Michigan State
Wisconsin
Iowa
Purdue
Illinois
Indiana
Northwestern
Minnesota
Cincinnati
Temple

Atlantic Coast Conference

Clemson
Florida State
Miami
North Carolina
Duke
NC State
Wake Forest
Louisville
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech
Coastal Carolina

This would basically be the Big Ten and ACC being joined by Notre Dame, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Navy, Temple and Coastal Carolina.

I know, it will never happen, but I'd much rather see that than the silly mega conferences that are nothing more than money grabs at the expense of the tradition of the game, or the well-being of student athletes.

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