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When will Notre Dame join a conference? Two college football insiders weigh in

IMG_9992by:Tyler Horka07/03/22


If you’re waiting for Notre Dame to make a reactionary move to USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten, don’t hold your breath. It might not come for a while.

Two prominent college football insiders believe the Fighting Irish have time to wait and see.

“They’re the belle of the ball, but they want to have their own ball,” Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel said on the College Football Enquirer podcast. “They have their own ball. If the (College Football Playoff) doesn’t get to the point where it’s just the Big Ten and SEC having a playoff and everyone else is screwed, I think they’re OK. I don’t think they have to make a move.

“Should they? Could they? Look, I’ve always been in favor of them keeping their independence because that’s how they recruit so well. If they’re just another school in the Big Ten, they’re not going to be as good. NIL has changed some things.”

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Notre Dame is recruiting just fine at the moment; the Irish have the No. 2 class in the country behind would-be Big Ten rival Ohio State according to On3’s 2023 Consensus Football Team Recruiting Rankings. Would that change if Notre Dame was a part of the Big Ten? That’s entirely subjective. It could. But if it’s working now, and making the playoff is always the end goal, then why alter well over 100 years worth of a status quo?

Wetzel’s cohost, Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, agreed on the point of the playoff.

“They can wait until there is a new playoff contract,” Forde said. “If it says we’re not giving Notre Dame any sort of easy path in, then they have to say, ‘OK. We give up.'”

Notre Dame’s ‘join a conference’ question takes on a new meaning after Big Ten adds USC, UCLA

“They are probably attractive enough that they can wait even if the Big Ten goes to 20 (teams) and know someone is going to take them,” Wetzel added. “They become No. 21 or the SEC grabs them. The ACC, whatever conglomeration is left.”

Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn calls Notre Dame’s ties to the ACC a “loose affiliation” because of an agreement for the Irish to play a certain number of ACC games per season as a partial member in exchange for $10 million from the conference. It’s long been rumored that if Notre Dame ever joins a conference it’ll be the ACC because of that deal — and because every other Notre Dame program except for hockey competing in the ACC.

Last week rewrote the whole narrative.

Quinn said if Notre Dame joins a conference, it needs to be the Big Ten. Realignment has always hinged on monetary motives. The Big Ten would be far more lucrative than the ACC for the Irish. And it would be a grand-slam addition for the conference itself, too.

From Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC to USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten, no addition would be more earth-shattering than Notre Dame following the lead of the Trojans and Bruins.

“If you’ve already gone to 20, who the heck cares about going to 21 if you’re bringing in the hottest babe at the ball?” Forde said.

The main takeaway? Don’t put all your chips on the table in thinking Notre Dame will be Big Ten team No. 17 behind USC and UCLA. There might have been a rush for those two to jump ship from a dying conference, but Notre Dame doesn’t have anyone dragging it down. The Irish have done their own thing since their existence.

That could continue.

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