Notre Dame: buyer’s or seller’s market?

I don’t think this comes as particularly shocking news:

A source familiar with the school’s thinking told Sports Illustrated that “independence remains the preference and the leader in the clubhouse.” It will take a lot to move Notre Dame off its cherished identity, but the instability of the entire landscape remains a concern, and could further affect the Irish outlook.

I’m sure it would.  The problem for ND is that instability is the name of the game right now in college football.  Take these two examples, for instance.

Two areas to monitor: the fates of both the College Football Playoff and the Atlantic Coast Conference. If one or both collapse, Notre Dame could be compelled into the Big Ten. Per its current contract, the playoff ceases to exist in January 2026. There is no guarantee another iteration of it will take its place, at any size. “The vast majority of the writing assumes a playoff, and that it’s going to get bigger,” says the industry source. “I’m not sure about that assumption.”

The idea of the CFP ceasing to exist when its current contract expires would have been a laughable concept a year ago, but now, who the hell knows?  If it did collapse under the weight of the current state of realignment affairs, that seems like pretty good news for the Irish and their desire to remain independent.  Maintaining the four-team status quo seems even better, though.

Ironically, Notre Dame’s best ally in the cause of independence would appear to be Greg Sankey.  Make no mistake, Sankey would love for ND to join his conference.  Almost as good a win for the SEC, though, would be keeping them out of the Big Ten, whether through the ACC maintaining its viability or postseason circumstances allowing the Irish to maintain their cherished independence.

Along those lines, Sankey’s already got credibility with Jack Swarbrick, ND’s athletic director.  The two were the main drivers, along with now departed Big 12 head Bob Bowlsby, for the 12-team CFP proposal that was vetoed by the other three P5 commissioners.  A 12-team CFP is probably the most attractive option of all to the Notre Dame athletics brain trust.

But here’s the thing:  the Big Ten’s Kevin Warren knows that.  And he’s already on record as having shot down the 12-team playoff, so he’s got a certain credibility of his own in play.  (Admittedly, that only goes so far.)  The question you have to ask him is pretty simple — how long do you take no for an answer?  I think that depends on what he sees as an end game.  If it’s about maintaining the current CFP framework, then he can pretty much wait forever on Notre Dame (which he just might have to do).  But what if he’s already leaning into the super league concept of a Big Ten/SEC-controlled playoff?

That’s where it gets interesting, at least to me.  Facing that situation, Notre Dame can’t hold out forever, of course, but it might hold out long enough to force the Big Ten’s hand with regard to where the next round of expansion goes.  Warren’s problem with that scenario is that he’s not the only likely bidder for ND’s entry.  That’s going to be especially awkward if the ACC is busted up and a bunch of schools from that conference shop for a new landing place.

There are lots of games left to play, in other words.  But the Irish don’t strike me as being in a desperate position — not yet, anyway.

45 Comments

Filed under Notre Dame's Faint Echoes

45 responses to “Notre Dame: buyer’s or seller’s market?

  1. Salty Dawg

    Shit or get off the pot, ND. Chose a conference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • PTC DAWG

      Why? They are doing fine without one, IMHO.

      Like

      • Down Island Way

        Will never let that saturday evening DAWG crowd at touch down Jesus leave mine eyes, mine ears nor my Bulldog heart…GO DAWGS!

        Like

      • archiecreek

        PTC,
        They were doing fine until the COVID hit, then they had to scramble and beg the ACC to let them in the conference to be able to schedule games. If I was in charge of the ACC, I’d of told them, fine if you agree to come into our conference for a minimum of five years, if not,
        pound sand and take a year off.
        Didn’t happen though,
        the ACC caved.

        Like

  2. Hard to make a decision when there is no plan. Hard to make a plan when there is no leadership at the top.

    Liked by 3 people

    • This thing is either going to 12 or staying at 4. I don’t buy the 2 mega-conference/league scenario. It just doesn’t work unless this ends up only as a football construct. Even then, it would take the ACC’s media rights agreement either being thrown out in court, the exit fees paid, or the league voting to dissolve itself. None of these make any sense. It would then require the Big 12 to do something similar given they are trying to shore up their membership.

      Both of those scenarios allow Notre Dame to remain independent for football.

      Like

      • If there’s a jailbreak by, say, eight ACC teams at once, that GOR is dead in the water. Who’s gonna be left to enforce it? And what’s it gonna be worth when the top team left is Wake Forest?

        Like

        • Do you really think that will happen? I guess I could see it. I would think the ACC’s attorneys would attempt to enforce the agreement to collect the full amount owed by each school. It looks like based on some research that the fee could be $96m (based on the creation of the ACC Network).

          Like

          • Depending on which schools intend to depart to the SEC, I would expect ESPN to step in and calm the waters.

            Like

            • Interesting angle there, Senator. I don’t imagine Mickey will be so accommodating to the schools that decide to leave for the Big 10 Network and Fox. I know Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, NC State, and Virginia Tech would immediately line up to join the SEC. What do you think UNC and UVA would do? What happens to the 3 northeast schools who never were a fit (I’m guessing American and the Group of 5)? At that point, ND is truly between a rock and a hard place for their non-football sports.

              Liked by 1 person

        • 81Dog

          The devil is always in the details. What is the buyout for teams leaving the ACC to regain their media rights? Is there some trigger that let’s them walk away? What if the ACC ceases to exist?

          There are ACC teams with value. Maybe they’d rather firm some kind of scheduling alliance with the SEC than blow it all up. ND can’t join another conference if the ACC still exists, can they?

          That may not be ideal, but perhaps Sankey sees it as preferable to letting ND just join the big 10. And it essentially corners 32 teams in what I can only figure to be a pretty good scheduling pot.

          But what do i know?

          Like

          • chicagodawgfan

            Agree 81Dog – Everyone keeps talking about a $96M GOR buyout, but there are probably events that trigger it to decline or go away. Also, these guys are locked into a crappy $36M per year TV deal until 2036. If the SEC picks off 4-6 of those teams along with adding UT/OU, they could likely get $125M+ per team each year, which quickly pays off the GOR penalty. A strong conference with perennial CFP contenders = more streaming/viewing eyeballs countrywide and a greater share of an expanded CFP payout.

            I haven’t verified the above buyout or TV payout figures, these are just the ones people keep throwing around.

            Like

          • miltondawg

            I think that the number I heard on the radio for ND to jump out of their agreement with the ACC was $140MM. I (personally) don’t see the ACC surviving this in its current state. And the Pac-12 may be dead sooner rather than later. The fact that Oregon and Washington reached out to the B1G and were told by the B1G that the B1G was going to stand pat right now to see what ND did pretty much means that when the opportunity arises the Pac-12 is going to cease to exist (at least as a P5 league).

            Liked by 1 person

            • chicagodawgfan

              I’d be surprised if the ND buyout was that much money because it doesn’t even include any football rights, which is the big money even in the ACC. I think there’s a lot of speculation going on right now, but who knows.

              Like

            • chicagodawgfan

              Also, I agree with your comments about the Pac12. If I’m the Big12, I’m trying to sign up as many Pac12 teams as I can get with the goal being to 1) weaken the position of the ACC/Pac12 and 2) try to get enough critical mass that you’re considered a super conference albeit a weak one who will at least get a chance to send teams to the expanded CFP.

              Liked by 1 person

              • miltondawg

                Pretty amazing, really, that when OU and Texas announced that they were joining the SEC that we (everyone) all thought that the Big XII was dead. Now the Big XII stands potentially poised to be third behind the SEC and B1G with the Pac-12 all but going away and the ACC on life support begging for ND to join and trying to get a new GoR to keep them relevant (and keep teams from jumping for the SEC or B1G).

                Liked by 1 person

                • chicagodawgfan

                  The real irony is that last summer the Pac12 told the Big12 to go pound sand when they needed help and instead formed “The Alliance”. I bet the Big12 AD’s and Presidents haven’t forgotten that either.

                  Liked by 1 person

            • 81Dog

              if it was 140 million to join someone other than the ACC, that’s still a pretty big hit. I guess they could borrow the money and probably 15-20 million a year to make what, 150 million a year gross from the Big Ten? It’s still a lot of money. NBC owns their tv rights (I think) until 2025, so I guess that is a separate buyout. But 2-4 years of tv buyout for them would be really expensive, one would think. 20 million a year? More? So you’re talking what, 180 to 200 million plus total to bail and join the BigTen? That’s a lot of cash. IDK if the numbers are right, but they sound kind of staggering. Guess it’s a math problem.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Senator, given your undergrad alma mater, do you really think the country’s best and deepest tradition basketball conference is going to go away? They may be Almost Competitive in football, but they clearly are not in basketball with legendary coaches, passionate fans, the best rivalry in a sport that doesn’t value the regular season, national championships, and some of the best players to have ever played the game. That generally sounds a lot like the SEC in football.

    I just don’t see the ACC disbanding because of media rights and basketball. What’s your perspective?

    Like

    • Maryland was a founding member of the ACC. Remind me where they play now.

      Football — more particularly, football money — rules.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s true, but Maryland, along with Rutgers, is now the butt of any jokes about B1G expansion. I don’t think their fan base believes now it was the right move.

        Like

        • UM didn’t make the move for the fan base. The administration was desperate for the cash infusion promised by the conference jump. They have no regrets.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I guess that’s the problem when your most valuable product (basketball regular season) is devalued over time.

            Living on Tobacco Road for 14 years gave me an appreciation of ACC hoops. It would be a shame if that ever went away. The Big 10 nor the SEC will take Duke if the dam were to break. It would be pretty awful to see one Duke/UNC game a year with literally nothing on the line other than bragging rights.

            Like

            • Texas Dawg

              The way things are changing so rapidly, I could easily see a school being in one conference for football and another for basketball. Those west coast teams are not going to want to travel all the way to the east coast regularly for volleyball, soccer, softball (etc). Nothing appears to be off the table at present. The only thing I’m 100% sure of is that it will be a totally different landscape than we have been accustomed to once the dust has settled.

              Liked by 2 people

              • That’s interesting and plays into the mega-conference concept. That would be the only way this works. The problem is that the 3 other traditional power 5 conferences lose a ton of money off their media rights without football.

                Like

              • sundiatagaines

                I think that’s the end game as well. Football is too different and carves off. Lots of schools will play in one conference for football and a different conference for all other sports.

                Like

              • miltondawg

                Yeah. That already happens in a bunch of sports. ND has a loose alliance with the ACC for football, is a full member for most of the other Olympic sports and things like baseball and lacrosse, is a member of the NCWA for wrestling, and is a member of the B1G for hockey. There are multiple schools that have such arrangements for various athletic teams.

                Like

              • 81Dog

                that actually seems to make the most sense from a purely fiscal responsibility standpoint, as well as a wear and tear on the athlete and student responsibility standpoint. Certainly for the Olympic sports. Basketball makes some money, and they already schedule for tv purposes on lots of games/leagues. Maybe it’s part regional leagues, part national matchups.

                Like

              • William Ferguson

                Tex – I was wondering the same – maybe a sum of the parts strategy – no more “conferences per say, but College Leagues – Super Football, Super Basketball, etc – the non rev sports would be sponsored by the big schools.

                Liked by 1 person

  4. mp

    At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s any urgency for Notre Dame to make a decision and thus will get a de facto independence. Teams in SEC, Big10 will be happy to schedule them in non-conference. Both leagues will continue to pursue them and it is not until they make a choice that the option comes off the table. Only thing that creates the urgency is if ND’s brand becomes less valuable…don’t see how that happens.

    Like

  5. Gaskilldawg

    Possibility that the CFP, LLC may go away in January 2026? Be still. by beating heart!

    Like

  6. W Cobb Dawg

    A Big 10 vs. sec playoff? Does the Big 10 really want their teams to get depantsed in front of the entire nation year after year?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Corch Irvin Meyers, Former Jags Corch (2021)

    Also, and people seem to keep forgetting this, Notre Dame can only join the ACC before 2036. That is as ironclad as the ACC’s grant of rights deal with their own football members.

    So ND is either staying independent or joining the ACC. If the ACC does get to add ND in the next few months, their next step should be to invite WVU, which will put the Big-12 back to 11, which means they would then logically look to the new Pac-10 leftovers.

    Four 16-team conferences is the best possible outcome for everyone, including the SEC.

    I want no part of two 20+ team conferences.

    Like

    • Corch, this has been my perspective as well. I think the sport would be well served with 4 16-team conferences (even if 2 of them don’t have the cash of the other 2 from their regular season TV deals) over 2 mega-conferences. I tried to find online whether the ND grant of rights requires the Irish to join the ACC for football up to 2036 and couldn’t find it (I think they do have that type of agreement). If this ends up as the outcome, the Power 4 will have an interesting dilemma. Conduct its own football playoff and remain with the NCAA for all other sports, or fully break from the NCAA and run their own championships across the board. If the rest of D1 is ok with option 1, I think that’s where it goes. I think the Power 4 have to be ready to do a full separation if that’s not the case.

      Like

      • 4 Power conferences, a playoff structure, ND landing somewhere, TV deals…that would require these guys working together as One. They are not, and with one of the P5 losing the “duck, duck, goose” game, which commish and league university presidents are going to be willing to drop out? There is nobody with the power to lock the guys in a resort hotel room and reach an agreement. Disney can’t do it because Bezos or even someone like Mark Cuban can decide to jump in and toss stupid money around. And I still think the NFL warlords are watching to be sure no one scratches the paint on their car. The college presidents can try to step in through the NCAA structure but that gives the little guys too much say to grab money and reach a consensus. It’s a shit show. I’m betting a billionaire or group of them eventually step in the void and break the top teams/brands into a semi-pro version of NFL lite by 2028.

        Get us one more Kirby and I’ll die happy with the memory of what CFB used to be.

        Liked by 1 person

    • miltondawg

      I don’t think that anything is ironclad in college athletics now. The question isn’t whether ND could join the B1G if they wanted to before 2036, the question is just how much it would cost ND to do so and whether the money would be worth it. There is no question that if ND joined the B1G the media deal for the B1G would be the biggest ever and that $100MM+ payment to get out of the ACC would be made up in a year or so with their annual payout from the B1G.

      Like

  8. 69Dawg

    Well this is a fine kettle of fish they have gotten us into. The only sensible way to decide all of this is a “Summit Meeting” between the warring parties. The Pac 12 is toast in most scenarios, with the Big 12 surprisingly surviving. If the Big 12 can get Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado they have repaired some of the damage and I’m sure with more media seeking an in to college sports, they would get a tv deal. The ACC from what I have read can dissolve the conference, if the majority votes to do so. However, what if the ACC decides to drop football but remain a basketball conference ala the Big East. The schools could then be free agents for football but keep tobacco road together. The crazy thing I hear is that the B!G is still trying to maintain their AAU (academic) thing but it’s getting harder to find the schools that would fill the bill.
    Will the Big 12 hold UT & OU to the exit date or just tell them to get the hell out? Will Mickey get involved more than they already have since Fox has got the B1G already? Stay tuned it’s going to be long season,

    Like

    • Where have you read it only takes a majority vote to dissolve the ACC? That seems unlikely.

      Like

    • miltondawg

      At this meeting of the Five Families, Sankey and Warren hold all the cards and the Kliavkoff and Phillips know it. Unless Sankey and Warren want to keep the Pac-12 afloat, I don’t see the conference being much in a few years. Phillips needs to make some aggressive moves and do so now so that he can get ESPN to rip up the GoR and renegotiate a better deal that is more conference friendly to the ACC.

      As for the B1G and the AAU thing, there are plenty of schools but it is going to be corporate raider scenario because it is going to be Pitt, Virginia, UNC, Duke, or Georgia Tech from the ACC, A&M, Missouri, Vandy or Florida from the SEC, or Oregon, Washington, Colorado or Stanford from the remnants of the Pac-12. Considering that Oregon and Washington reached out to the B1G in recent days and were rejected for the time being, it is just a matter of time until it all blows up. Although nothing about USC and UCLA to the B1G makes any sense to me geographically, if ND decides to play everything out as an independent it actually makes sense adding Stanford, Oregon, Washington and Colorado from a geographic standpoint.

      Like

  9. uga97

    Seems ND & B10 student athletes, families & staff traveling to the atheistic left coast behind 2-3 hours every other weekend is their worst nightmare and a poor fit. But if some other acc north schools break for the b10 that could ease the grief and take ND if that happens, then SEC gets the remaining southern ACC. Seems ACC conf schools are ready for this split. The b12 & remaining pac 12 need to finish their alignment and then u have the 4 super conferences needed for the expansion playoff.

    Like

    • chicagodawgfan

      I only count 3 super conferences in the above scenario – SEC, Big10 and Big12. ACC essentially dissolves and even if the Pac12 remains, it’s so weak they won’t be a part of the discussion. What am I missing?

      Like

  10. Hobnail_Boot

    ND has never held a stronger hand.

    If I’m them, F everyone else as long as those sweet Comcast checks keep rolling in.

    Like

  11. RangerRuss

    Arkansas at Georgia @ 6am SEC Network.
    Ga-Fla now.
    Almost makes it worth getting up in the morning.

    Like