With the 2009 football season getting closer and closer every day, the clock is starting to tick on filling out the rest of the 2010 football schedule. Most of the schedule has already been filled, but there are still two mystery opponents that remain unannounced to this point. Many ND fans have been hopeful that at least one of these final two games would be an exciting home and home series with a big name opponent. Perhaps the much-rumored series with Miami would be beginning?? Perhaps a big announcement with Alabama?? Maybe even that Wisconsin series that had people excited for a bit??
Well, the athletic department has apparently found those two opponents for 2010. These schools are historic powers with long traditions and huge fanbases. When you think of college football, you think of both these schools. Television networks worship at the knee of these fine universities and salivate over the ratings bonanzas that follow them. According to the latest rumors, here are your final two opponents for the 2010 schedule:
TCU Horned Frogs
Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
Whoa!! The suits over at the Dome are really thinking big with those two blockbuster games. Who needs an epic showdown with Alabama that would shatter television records when TCU is available?!? Why go out and follow the lead of USC and play "Anytime, Anywhere" when you can just buy these half-baked home games for a million bucks late in the year with no return game?? I can't wait to get my Tulsa tickets for November 20, 2010 when it's going to be 20 degrees and rainy in South Bend. Imagine how excited NBC must be!!
Here's how the 2010 football schedule could be shaping up:
S18 @ Michigan St.
O02 @ Boston College
O23 @ Navy (Meadowlands)
N6 Army (Yankee Stadium)
N27 @ Southern Cal
Let's break this thing down now that we can finally get a look at it. There are three true road games in 2010. THREE. We actually go almost two full months between visits to an opposing team's campus (October 2 at BC to November 27 at USC). We're playing three usual suspects (MSU, BC, USC) in traditional road games and Navy on the "road" at the Meadowlands. The days of interesting road trips to places like Lincoln and Knoxville and Baton Rouge and even Chapel Hill or College Station appear to be a distant memory. The "unique" road trips these days for ND fans are glorified exhibitions at pro stadiums against teams like Army and Navy. Hey, if you want to go to NYC to watch ND play Army, that's cool with me. I'd just rather go to Tuscaloosa or Austin personally. I don't know. That's just me.
If we're going to only play 3 road games, why not go one step further and just play zero road games?? Why not just play 12 home games?? We might as well take this Harlem Globetrotters act all the way and "generate revenue" for all 12 games. We could just play 8 one-off home games, 2 "road" games at pro stadiums where we split the revenue, a neutral site home game, and a "road" game against Navy.
In "even" years, it appears that the 3 road games model will be the plan going forward. I'm pretty sure we're the only school in the country doing that. Apparently, the goal of our independent status these days is to play as many home games as possible. Call me crazy, but I didn't think that was the purpose of our independence.
Another thing I like to look at when a schedule is finalized is the home schedule. I love going up to South Bend for home games, and nothing gets me more charged up than a big time game at Notre Dame Stadium. It's my favorite venue in all of sports, so let's take a peek at those 2010 home opponents to find out the big games that fans can attend:
Where do I buy my season tickets?!? Check out that list of historical powers right there. HEAVYWEIGHTS! You can see mediocre Purdue and Stanford for the thirtieth time, or you can brave the cold to see games against legendary programs like TCU and Tulsa. Great to see Tulsa willing to put aside their chase for the Conference USA title to come up to South Bend for a week at the end of the year. When CBS is showing Florida-Georgia and ABC has Penn State-Ohio State, I'm sure NBC will be thrilled to show ND-Tulsa up against those games.
Finally, let's take a close look at the games leading up to the USC game at the end of the year. Hopefully the football team will be peaking as we head out to Los Angeles. Ideally, the schedule will have a few interesting challenges leading up to that big rivalry game that will have our squad battle tested by the time USC week rolls around. Maybe a big home game, maybe a road trip to toughen the team up. Let's take a closer look at those five games before the finale at the Colisseum.
O23 @ Navy (NY/NJ)
N6 Army (Yankee Stadium)
Man, talk about battle tested!!! 3 home games against non-BCS schools with 250 pound linemen and a couple service academies!! When I think of USC, the first thing that comes to mind is how similar they are to Army. Nothing like coming down the stretch with 4 "buy games" and a "road" game against Navy. When our kids walk into the LA Coliseum, will we draw upon our experiences in other hostile environments like.........well.......ummm...............Yankee Stadium when we played Army?? When the USC band is playing "Fight On" every other down and the crowd is getting on us and the team is facing adversity, will we demand that the second half be moved to a neutral site?? Or better yet, maybe we could threaten to cancel the game unless USC agrees to a "one off" relationship with all games played in South Bend. Yea, that will show them!
If you didn't know any better, wouldn't you assume that was some CUSA team's actual schedule?? And yet that's our schedule!! The most famous program in college football!! An independent who could play anyone in America! A school that once had a legacy of playing "Anytime, Anywhere" and regularly played 4-5 ranked teams a year. Now, we're dialing it up with the Golden Hurricanes of Tulsa.
What the heck has happened to Notre Dame football?? How did we lose our way so badly?? Doesn't Swarbrick realize how silly this whole thing has become?? It's one thing to make money. It's another thing to completely devalue your brand to the point where it's not even recognizable. Why are we playing 5 consecutive non-BCS schools in a row leading up to our biggest game of the season?? Did I miss the memo that we joined the WAC?? Does anyone think the pollsters are going to be impressed by this stretch?? What other school is playing that many home/"neutral" games in a row against non-BCS schools??
Hasn't Swarbrick been reading all those preseason magazines ripping our schedule this year?? What are they going to say about us next year?? Doesn't Swarbrick find that to be embarrassing?? I sure as heck do. It's one thing to have the 7-4-1 scheduling model as a guide, but to hold to it like it's gospel is creating schedules that don't resemble Notre Dame football at all.
It's becoming more and more obvious that the commitment to that model should have been gradual. You can do the 7-4-1, but do it when you've gotten out of the Stanford and Purdue contracts. Do it when you have a better idea how to use the neutral site game as a tool for a big 1-1-1 series. Until then, keep things the way they were back in the 1980s and 1990s and the early part of this decade. Those schedules were phenomenal. The 7-4-1 is capable of producing good schedules (as we showed on this blog last week) when you have the flexibility to do it properly, but it's not possible to create a good schedule with that model when you have to cram in all these games in a limited number of home and home spots. That's how you end up with a schedule like the 2010 schedule.
I guess Swarbrick can avoid taking blame for this 2010 schedule by saying that his hands were tied and that there was nothing else he could do within the 7-4-1 framework, but it's hard for me to really take comfort in that line of reasoning. Swarbrick has been at ND for over a year now. At the end of the day, he is ultimately responsible for the scheduling product. If he arrived at the Dome with a mandate to shake things up, I think we would have seen a big time announcement coming our way for the 2010 schedule. I think we would have seen a temporary tweak to the 7-4-1 model until we had the room to operate it the right way. When you have a year to work on something big and bold and you come back with Tulsa and TCU, that's a statement to me that the Jack Swarbrick era might not be all that much different from the disastrous Kevin White era. Perhaps he will prove me wrong. Perhaps the 2010 schedule is going to be a blip in the radar and big games are on the horizon. I am not ruling out that possibility, but I would like to see some proof of that before singing his praises. Until then, all this talk about Miami and Wisconsin and Alabama is just talk. The 2010 schedule stinks, and he missed his opportunity to fix it.
And before someone posts in the comments section with the completely absurd "hey, you big meanie! You're an ELITIST! Utah and TCU are top 10 teams!" nonsense, just stop. Stop, stop, stop. These schools are non-BCS schools. There's a reason they aren't in a position to demand a return home game. We're paying them to come here for a game. I don't care what they're ranked, and I don't care that they would have beaten us last year. The fact that TCU has been decent doesn't make me any more interested in playing them. They're a Mountain West team. If they were truly a marquee opponent, we'd be going down to Abilene in 2011 to give them a home game. I don't have a problem with playing a couple "one off" home games, but we already have Army, Utah, and Navy on the schedule. I realize TCU is one of the better "buy games" we could find, but we should have been looking to play a home and home series instead. Heck, it doesn't even have to be a home and home with a "heavyweight." Give me a home and home with Arkansas or South Carolina. We play them at home in 2010 and on the road in 2011. If I have the choice between a "buy game" and a traditional home and home, give me the home and home all day long.
And for god sakes, Tulsa! It's one thing to schedule TCU, but to tack on Tulsa as well?? Come on! There's gotta be something better we could have done for a November game. Would I have a problem with opening the season against Tulsa?? No, I could live with that. In fact, I think we should open with a Tulsa/Nevada/San Diego State type team every year. But on November 20 when we already have all those other duds on the schedule in October and November???
I know "buy games" are here to stay for the forseeable future, but we need to use some common sense with these games. Use them early in the year when everyone else is playing those types of games. I don't think we should be playing any more than one "buy game" in November. Right now, we have three in November. That doesn't fly with me. The number one goal for this administration should be finding a solution for better November games. If it can't be done, then we probably should be looking around at a conference arrangement.
When Heisler and Swarbrick and company look back on their legacies at Notre Dame, I wonder if they will come to regret what has happened to the ND brand. We're talking ourselves into the idea that scheduling all these "buy games" is good for the program, but I think someday we'll look back and say "We scheduled Tulsa?? We played 5 non-BCS schools in a row down the stretch and none on the road?? What the heck were we thinking??"