Why a Notre Dame football alliance with the SEC makes so much sense
Whether our Lady wanted to be in conference, it would be in a conference. The Irish have no shortage of suitors. Clearly, Notre Dame savors its footballing independenceeven as the super conferences arise.
The Irish do not have all the cards in hand, however.
Conference commissioners could push Notre Dame into a conference by staging a college football playoff that would penalize Irish independence.
This is where the SEC comes in.
Greg Sankey’s conference could become an important ally in Notre Dame’s drive to remain independent.
A Notre Dame-SEC alliance should be more productive than the farcical alliance between the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12, because the desired outcomes for Notre Dame and the SEC overlap. An independent Notre Dame rests with the SEC, as opposed to the Irish joining (and enriching) the Big Ten or the ACC.
Moreover, Notre Dame’s ideal outcome for the future of the playoffs matches that of the SEC: the more general offers for the playoffs, the better for the SEC. Same for Notre Dame.
Sankey said he was happy with the continuation of the four-team playoffs, in which no automatic offers are awarded to the conference champions. This format will remain in place until at least the 2025 season, after which the CFP contract will end. Sankey has also expressed interest in an eight-team playoff filled entirely with overall picks (no QA for conference champions) or a 12-team playoff with at least six overall berths.
Any of these formats would allow the SEC to command a strong playoff presence while Notre Dame maintains a clear path to the playoffs.
POSSIBLE SEC EXPANSION TARGETS:Is Clemson football suitable for the SEC? Why Steve Spurrier Says Yes
The Irishman’s independence has never created a national championship hurdle, as college football‘s various post-season formats have never penalized independents in any substantial way. The Irish won eight national titles during the great polling era, qualified once for the BCS national championship and were capped twice for the CFP.
Notre Dame doesn’t need to join a conference if its independence continues to offer a fair chance at the national championship.
And the money, will you tell me? Well if the Big Ten’s media rights war chest was Notre Dame’s top priority, so it would now install a B1G logo on its land.
The Big Ten’s interest in Notre Dame dates back decades.
In 1999, the university’s board of trustees pushed back a Big Ten opening. The Irish participated in the ACC in other sports while preserving the independence of football.
Notre Dame’s granting of ACC deal rights creates financial penalty for joining another conference, though Big Ten riches from upcoming mega media rights deal would fight this.
A prominent Big Ten director of athletics, Gene Smith of Ohio State, has been open about his desire to see the Irish as a conference peer.
“I always thought they should be in a conference, and I hope they consider that,” Smith, a Notre Dame alumnus, said this month. “I don’t know what the next step would be, but I’ve always said that I hope they consider this opportunity, and hopefully it will be the Big Ten.”
That’s the last thing the SEC should want, and it’s why the SEC should team up with Notre Dame to help secure a future playoff that doesn’t prioritize conference champions.
The Alliance failed because these conferences never had a clear purpose, other than to give the SEC a collective middle finger.
The ACC and the Pac-12 foolishly joined the Big Ten in rejecting a 12-team playoff proposal that would have included automatic offers for six conference champions. Months later, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff found himself wearing a dunce cap after the Big Ten looted his two prized conference members, Southern Cal and UCLA.
[ WANT MORE OPINIONS FROM BLAKE TOPPMEYER?: Subscribe to the SEC Unfiltered newsletter for an exclusive column every Friday ]
The SEC backed the 12-team playoff proposal. But after the plan failed to win unanimous support from conference commissioners, Sankey promised the SEC would reassess its position on the playoffs and may even hold its own postseason after the current CFP contract expires.
Sankey’s suggestion of an SEC-only playoff is not an empty threat, but that doesn’t seem to be his favorite outcome either. The idea sounds more like a hidden asset in Sankey’s back pocket to make sure the SEC negotiates a playoff format it wants.
The ideal SEC format should be an expanded playoff that grants access only through general selection, allowing for the ability to store multiple offers. Such a format would also be beneficial to Notre Dame’s quest to remain independent.
So you can see where this lowercase alliance may be more aligned than the Alliance has ever been.
Blake Topmeyer is an SEC columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s cover, consider a digital subscription which will allow you to access all of this.