Big East Coaches Want Notre Dame to 'Get In or Get Out'
Connecticut coach Randy Edsall (right) confirmed this during his Wednesday press conference. He told the audience that the coaches have been asking the league to give Notre Dame a "football ultimatum" for the last two years. The Irish compete in the Big East for all sports except football. Edsall also predicted the demise of the Big East if two teams should leave for the Big Ten, which is what is widely expected to happen.
It's easy to understand the football coaches' frustration with Notre Dame. Adding the Irish to the league would go a long way towards securing the conference's future at a time when that future is as shaky as a thrift store card table. The Big East was already raided once by the ACC. Edsall is correct in assuming that a Big Ten raid would make the Big East unviable as a football conference.
On the other hand, look at the awful situation Notre Dame, and particularly its athletic director Jack Swarbrick, is in. The alumni and donor base are adamant about not joining a conference. It's beyond me why it's OK to play basketball in the Big East but not football; then again, I didn't go to Notre Dame. If the Irish decide to go it alone, the Big Ten can swoop in and grab two or three teams from the Big East. That would put the Irish's ability to use the Big East's bowl tie-ins in jeopardy. They could probably work out new deals, but the games might not be as good.
Of course, if the Irish join the Big East, the Big Ten will likely pluck away Syracuse and Rutgers, and possibly a third team as well. That would leave the Big East dead in the water as a football league. It could even find itself out of the BCS. And, with all due respect, the Irish don't want to trade some of their traditional rivalries for games against the likes of Louisville and South Florida.
If, as is rumored, the BCS conferences ultimately did decide to leave the NCAA, that could leave the Irish in the lurch. They'd likely be invited to come join the new sanctioning body (say what you will about Notre Dame, but they do draw a crowd) yet joining a conference might be a required part of the deal. Or they could stay behind, remain independent, and compete in an NCAA of diminishing relevance.
That's what makes Swarbrick's decision so difficult. He's been saying all along that expansion could "force [Notre Dame's] hand" in joining a conference, and he's right. It's now or never. The only way Swarbrick avoids having to make a decision is if the Big Ten either invites only one team to join, or if they change their mind about expansion and decide to stay at eleven members. Either situation seems about as likely as scientists announcing they've discovered smoking actually cures lung cancer.
Thus it seems like Notre Dame's best option is to get out of the Big East. Right now it's a doomed league and there is little the Irish -- or anybody else, even Paul Tagliabue -- can do to change that.