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Post Notre Dame figures it out

Monday May 22, 2006

It’s somewhat satisfying to see Notre Dame figure out what the SEC has known for a little while now. But it’s a bit sad as well as it’s an acknowledgement that, yes, this is what the great game of college football will look like without drastic changes.

Notre Dame’s approach in this new era of “barnstorming” is pretty clever. They will play some mid-majors in fertile recruiting territory and move the games to larger venues where the Notre Dame brand recognition will allow them more fans. Hmmm…Jacksonville, Orlando, New Orleans, and Dallas. Not much prep talent in those parts, is there? So Notre Dame wins all around…they get a game on their schedule that’s a likely win, they play it in a nearby neutral professional-quality venue that allows their national fan base to outnumber the smaller local following for the “home” team, and they play the game in the backyard of some of the nation’s best high school prospects. Oh, and they even pocket the gate receipts. My hat’s off to them.

As much as bowl-system purists will complain, the reality is that there is just too much at stake to pay much attention to emotional and hypothetical appeals to play a tougher-than-necessary schedule. Such things are nice for those of us playing offseason parlor games and making lists of the greatest schedules ever, but we are not those whose jobs depend on win-loss records, titles, and postseason money. Notre Dame obviously recognizes this reality, and their scheduling will reflect it.

Is it bad for the fans? Of course it is. I’ve admitted that. In fact, I’d expect those most upset by this “red flag” as CFR calls it to be at the forefront of those pushing for change because the current system of incentives is incompatible with the kinds of schedules we’d like to see. I’m glad to see it. When a program like Notre Dame takes a stand on this issue, people pay attention.

Something has to give.

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