Conference realignment has completely changed the college sports landscape, especially football. And, Notre Dame’s days as a football independent could be coming to an end, according to a prediction from The Athletic .
Independence in football has been a trademark of Notre Dame since the beginning. The school actually tried to join the Big Ten repeatedly in the mid-20th century, only to be rebuffed for their Catholic affiliation.
And, despite all the crazy realignment in college sports that started in earnest in the 1980s when other traditional independents started to join conferences and reached a crescendo in July, Notre Dame has stayed steadfast in their decision to play an independent schedule.
There have been some benefits, no doubt. Notre Dame has been able to develop rivalries with schools from different conferences like USC, Stanford, Navy, Michigan, and Michigan State, to name a few. Their schedule is always interesting, even if they are now contractually obligated to play five ACC teams a year, with most of their other sports competing in that conference.
But, with the Big Ten and Big 12 going to 16 teams, and the SEC going to 14, there is a chance where they simply run out of teams to play. The Big Ten and Big 12 already play a nine-game conference schedule, and could see that number go up to 10. The SEC only plays an eight-game conference schedule, but ESPN is surely going to lobby them to go to nine soon.
10 conference games would mean that Big Ten and Big 12 teams would need to play two home non conference games to get to seven home games. Most schools want seven home games for the added ticket revenue. Notre Dame loves scheduling home-and-homes and neutral site games, but they would get less of those.
Manny Navarro of The Athletic made predictions for every top 25 team, and for Notre Dame, it involved a move to the Big Ten.
Once Florida State finds a loophole to get out of the final 13 years of the ACC’s grant of rights agreement — and the folks in Tallahassee swear they will — a second Power 5 league exodus that affects play beginning with the 2025 season will commence. Eventually, the Big Ten, to keep the Irish from joining the SEC, will give into Notre Dame’s demands and allow Stanford and Cal a seat at the Big Ten table — only after the league expands to 26 teams and goes from playing nine conference games to 11 will Notre Dame join the rebranded conference known simply as B1G.
As a Big Ten alumnus, Notre Dame belongs in the league. It’s right in the middle of the geographic footprint of the league, and it has traditional rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State, USC and Purdue. Plus, it has played a ton of games against Ohio State, Penn State, and Indiana. The academics fit in, too, and they already play in the league in hockey to form the nation’s best conference in that sport.
Notre Dame opens the season in Week 0 against Navy in Dublin, Ireland.