After years of clamoring from fans to put pressure on Notre Dame to join the Big East Conference in football, the league may be in the process of pressuring the Irish to do just the opposite — leave.
As explained in this blog a couple of weeks ago, perhaps the best scenario in which the Big East remains a viable conference despite expansion elsewhere is one in which Notre Dame agrees to join the Big Ten Conference and Big Ten presidents are content to leave expansion at that.
There’s plenty of merit to the idea. If the Big Ten were to poach three Big East Schools — Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh are three that were studied in a report commissioned by the league — that would leave the Big East teetering on collapse and would likely force Notre Dame’s hand with no home for all of its non-football sports.
So if its hand is going to be forced anyway, why wouldn’t Notre Dame just agree to become the 12th Big Ten member on the condition that the league not expand more, thereby having to share revenue with only 11 other schools instead of possibly 15?
Now, it appears the Big East may very well be nudging Notre Dame that way. At least, Connecticut football coach Randy Edsall thinks so.
In an otherwise standard Chamber of Commerce speech last week, Edsall told the audience in a Q&A portion that if even two teams leave the football Big East, “the Big East is all done.” He said football coaches have been pressuring the league to lean on Notre Dame for some time and, in response to a question from Marc Allard of the Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin, said, “I think that’s something the powers that be are discussing in terms of the strategies that they’re looking at to be proactive rather than reactive.”
At the same time, the Big East’s hiring of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue would point to a new aggressive approach by the league. Tagliabue certainly didn’t mince words in an interview with the New York Times when asked about Big Ten expansion:
“It’s very disruptive to everyone outside of the Big Ten,” Tagliabue said in a phone interview. “Everything outside the Big Ten is held in artificial suspension. The Big Ten looks at a bunch of choices and everyone else has to deal with the depreciating value and a ton of negativity. I hope there’s a better way. Otherwise it’s going to have a terrible negative effect on everyone other than the schools in the Big Ten.”
Tagliabue said he wondered both from a practical and financial standpoint if the Big Ten expansion would be worth it.
“At some point they’re going to overreach and get a big negative reaction out of Congress or someone else,” he said. “You have to eventually tie your television to people actually watching and not just to television subscribers added up and totaled.”