May 28, 2009

A Notre Dame-Wisconsin series on the horizon??

Big scheduling news this week out of ND with a long term series signed with Army and a possible series in the works with Wisconsin. I was a little disappointed about things early in the week, but now I'm feeling encouraged about the direction Jack Swarbrick in which might be taking these future schedules. When the news of the Army deal came out, I have to admit that I was a bit bummed about the whole thing. A multiple game contract with Army?? Really?? Was that really a high priority at this point when so many other programs are expressing interest in playing us?? Army is barely even a Division I program anymore. They have gone a combined 20-85 this decade. It's not exactly the kind of game that is going to turn some heads in the world of college football.

I know, I know, ND-Army have history together, but does anyone really care that much about a game with Army?? I mean, come on. So Army was a big deal in 1913. You know what else was a big deal in 1913?? World War I and the Model T!! Army hasn't been relevant as a football program in about 40 years. It's a cool idea in theory if we were just putting the finishing touches on an already high-quality schedule, but the reality is that no one outside of a few old school ND alums care that much about playing Army. Army is not a marquee game. When they announced this series early in the week, I was bummed out. It seemed like another sign that the athletic department was avoiding the kind of bold thinking that we need to get back to if we want to restore the image of this football program.

But then rumors started to swirl later in the week that there are discussions between Notre Dame and Wisconsin on a series between 2012 and 2015. Whoa! Now we're talking!

I'd love to add Wisconsin to the schedule someday, especially since it appears that Wisconsin would replace Purdue in those years. This blurb is encouraging.

According to Alvarez, Notre Dame officials are revamping their annual series with Big Ten Conference member and longtime rival Purdue. Instead of facing the Boilermakers every season, Notre Dame would like to face Purdue every other season.

It's about time we start pushing back on Purdue. There is absolutely no reason that we should be using one of our valuable home and home spots on Purdue every year, and it makes it even worse that Purdue insists on playing the game within the first month of the season. Why have we let Purdue dictate the terms on this "rivalry" for all these years?? They're lucky they even get to play us at all. Does Purdue sell out any nonconference games besides ND?? If we told them to take a hike, they'd be drawing 35,000 for Eastern Kentucky or whoever they ended up scheduling. Purdue needs us much more than we need tehm.

I'm really glad that Swarbrick has figured all this out within the first year on the job. This is the kind of thinking and leadership that I want to see out of the ND AD. A smart guy who is always looking for ways to make the product better. That's what the AD is paid to do.

Again, I ask this question. Kevin White was the AD at ND for a decade. How did he not figure this stuff out in all that time when it took Swarbrick less than a year to do the same?? This stuff really isn't all that complicated, and yet White never seemed to have any type of imagination for creating flexibility in the schedule. The guy couldn't wait to load up the schedule with as many boring games and boring "long term partnerships" as possible. Didn't he realize that all those bad contracts would create a bunch of boring schedules someday?? Could Kevin White have possibly wasted his tenure any more than he did?? It was like the lost decade for Notre Dame football. Ugh, I digress.

The 7-4-1 scheduling model gets a lot of heat, but it can actually work if we are very careful about who we use for those home and home spots. The 7-4-1 basically means that you're going to have 8 home and homes ever year and 4 "one off" games where you play teams at home or neutral site and don't promise a return game. If you're only going to have eight true home and homes on a twelve game schedule, you better make sure those home and homes are good ones. Using up one of those spots on Purdue every year is foolish. If we move Purdue to an "occasional" opponent rather than an annual opponent, it immediately opens up their spot for other home and homes like Wisconsin. We could also eventually use it on an SEC team if that worked for our schedule.

I actually think ND could go even farther by insisting that Purdue give us two or even three home games for every road game we play down there. It would be nice to have some decent "one off' games, and Purdue would be a good option if they would agree to it. I don't mind using those spots for a Utah/Nevada type team that is up and coming and just wants to get some exposure, but I also think Purdue would be a great fit if they would agree to it. We could also add some incentive by agreeing to occasionally play them at Ross-Ade Stadium. If I was Swarbrick, I would tell Purdue that we want to open the schedule with Purdue every couple years (4-5 times a decade) with a road game there about once a decade.

Back to Wisconsin though. On my criteria of things that I'm looking for in a home and home opponent, Wisconsin pretty much meets everything I'm looking for.

1) Great Road Venue -- I've never had the privilege to head up Madison for a game weekend, but I've heard some great things about the whole experience. Great town, fun stuff to do, great atmosphere, Camp Randall is fun and unique, etc. Every time I watch a Wisconsin game on tv, it looks like a fun place to be. If I had to make a list of places that I want to go for a game, UW would probably be somewhere in my top five or so. I'd love to see the students "Jump Around" and tailgate and hit up the town in Madison someday. Seems like a potentially great trip, and it's within driving distance. Certainly a better trip than West Lafayette again.

Plus, Wisky is a football school. It's nice to go to places for football games where football is a big deal. Places like Nebraska and Tennessee. I had a great time down at North Carolina last year, but North Carolina fans aren't really football people. It's basketball country down there, and you could feel it in the atmosphere.

2) Good fanbase -- When I think of Wisconsin fans, I think of nice Midwestern folks with big red sweatshirts who love to cook brats and drink American beer. That's my kind of fanbase! I'm picturing some great encounters with a few mustachioed "Behhhhdger" fans over a couple Miller products and some Polish sausage.

3) Good tradition -- Wisconsin isn't Michigan or Ohio State or anything, but they have enough football tradition to make them a quality opponent on any schedule. They might never hit their Barry Alvarez peak again where they're winning three Rose Bowls in a decade, but you pretty much can guarantee at least 7-8 wins out of Wisconsin and some good hardnosed Midwest football. They run the ball, and they hit you. Put it this way. I don't care what their record is in a particular season. If you come out of Camp Randall with a win, it's a big win.

4) Good base of ND fans -- ND fans are pretty much everywhere, but I like the idea of going to new places where there are strong pockets of ND fans who don't get to see ND play in their backyard all that much. I don't know what the percentages are, but it seems like there were a ton of ND people who were from Wisconsin when I was there. Seems like Milwaukee is a big ND town, and I think we would have great representation in a series with Wisconsin. I like the idea of playing games near cities like Milwaukee and Minneapolis and Pittsburgh that have strong ND fanbases that don't necessarily get a chance to go to the Bend all that much for a home game.

That's another reason why Purdue every year makes no sense to me. We already play our home games in the state of Indiana! If you live in Indiana, you can shoot up to South Bend for a home game. No reason to also play road games in state when we already play seven home games in the Bend.

5) Possible great neutral site venue in Lambeau --If this 7-4-1 model lasts, it would be nice to use that neutral site spot to play in some historic venues. Could there possibly be a better neutral site venue than Lambeau Field?? Goosebumps! How great would a 1-1-1 series with Wisconsin be with one game at ND, one game at Wisky, and one game at Lambeau?? That way we'd get 3 games with Wisky instead of two, and we'd be using our neutral site game in one of the best stadiums in all of sports. Just imagine that atmosphere at Lambeau for a college game. I've never been there before. I'd love to take the pilgrimmage up to Green Bay and see the Packers Hall of Fame and all of that. Sounds like a phenomenal road trip.

That's how I'd like to use the Yankee Stadium idea as well. Forget Army. Let's play a 1-1-1 with Miami with the neutral game at Yankee Stadium.

Anyway, Wisconsin brings all those things to the table. It's a no-brainer, especially as a replacement for Purdue. Now we have to wait and see if it gets done.

1 comment:

Brian said...

I don't think it would be possible to play Wisconsin in a neutral site game at Lambeau because it wouldn't be allowed to be on NBC. I thought that the deal is that if you play a neutral site game against a Big 10 team in Big 10 country, then the Big 10 television affiliate (ABC/ESPN/Big 10 Network) has the tv rights to it. The same goes for Big XII, Pac 10, SEC, etc. That's the reason our neutral site games include Wazzu in San Antonio, Army in Orlando, and Baylor in New Orleans. It's the only way that NBC can air them.