Skip to main content

Notre Dame Football: Should the Fighting Irish Join the Big Ten With USC and UCLA?

Notre Dame flag

College football realignment and expansion is back in the news once again. And as expected with any major changes among conferences, Notre Dame is at the center of those conversations. With USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten, the future of the Fighting Irish as a FBS Independent is a source of debate. The Big Ten is certainly more attractive as a coast-to-coast league to Notre Dame in terms of expansion, but is it enough to make a difference or change anything?

Should the Fighting Irish ditch FBS Independence to become the 17th member of the Big Ten? Or is FBS Independence still the right call for Notre Dame? Athlon's editors and writers debate a hot topic in college football:

Notre Dame Football: Should the Fighting Irish Join the Big Ten With USC and UCLA?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Have the additions of USC and UCLA improved the Big Ten's odds of landing Notre Dame? Most likely. But was it enough? Probably not. From a financial standpoint, the Fighting Irish could certainly make more money in the Big Ten and would give the conference another powerful brand to go with Ohio State, Michigan, USC and UCLA. The overall landscape of college football is rapidly consolidating around the Big Ten and SEC. However, as long as the Fighting Irish have access to the CFB Playoff, can schedule games it wants, and aren't limited by a Big Ten versus SEC-only postseason, then it's hard to see this program giving up FBS Independence right now. If college football does shift to superconferences in the next few years, then Notre Dame would have no choice but to join the Big Ten, ACC or SEC. Will they or should they is question looming here. If I was in charge in South Bend, I think the financial incentive, consolidation around the Power 2 (Big Ten and SEC), and the additions of USC and UCLA would tilt me into the yes category. However, I would be surprised if the Fighting Irish gives up FBS Independence right now. 

Related: College Football Realignment and Expansion News and Rumors

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
If Notre Dame were to finally give up its football independence, I hope the Fighting Irish go to the ACC, not the Big Ten. They are already part of the ACC in several other sports, so why not just take that final step? Also, Notre Dame's recent scheduling partnership with the ACC has already laid the groundwork for some potential new rivalries (Clemson, for ex.) so this would just make those matchups count even more. From the ACC's standpoint, adding Notre Dame would only increase the conference's own credibility and national weight, and at least give it a shot at keeping up the Big Ten and SEC in this latest game of musical chairs. If the ACC wants to stay in the "superconference" conversation, adding Notre Dame to the ranks is pretty much a necessity. Besides, as plenty of these moves have already shown, tradition has already pretty much been thrown out the window, so we may as well shake things up even more.

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
With the arms race between the SEC and Big Ten, it seems like a matter of time before Notre Dame will have to join a conference. The school has always been a better cultural (and geographic, for what that's worth anymore) fit with the Big Ten than the ACC, but that may be a tricky change considering all non-football (and hockey) sports are tied to the ACC through 2036. Still, with so much money on the line, there would figure to be a way out of the conference if the school is sufficiently motivated. What might motivate Notre Dame to make the plunge, besides money? A playoff expansion that benefits conference champions certainly would. It’s unclear if or when that might happen, but Notre Dame still likely would be better off tied into a mega-conference, especially if existing mega-conferences start making it more difficult to schedule non-conference opponents.

Podcast: The latest in CFB realignment and expansion. What's going on with the Pac-12, Big 12, ACC? Why North Carolina and Virginia are key states to watch?

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
The more changes that happen to the college football landscape, the less ideal Notre Dame’s football independence remains. At some point in this evolution of the sport, it will make little fiscal sense for Notre Dame to willingly pass on the kind of revenue schools in the Big Ten or SEC are pulling in. From a national branding perspective, the Big Ten would make more sense now as the conference stretches from coast to coast and covers the nation’s top media markets. Notre Dame could come to regret missing out on this opportunity, especially if it loses the flexibility of scheduling games against traditional rivals found in the new-look Big Ten like USC and Michigan.

J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
I’ve long been a supporter of Notre Dame’s football independence, but the newest round of realignment changes that. With USC joining the Big Ten, that means the conference is now home to three of Notre Dame’s biggest rivals: USC, Michigan, and Michigan State.

The money Notre Dame could make for both itself and the Big Ten by joining the nation’s oldest conference is probably reason alone for the move.

From a football fan standpoint, the move would mean potential games every year with Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

There are more Notre Dame alums living in Big Ten country than in the ACC footprint, meaning more convenient opportunities for Irish faithful to catch their team on the road.

As a traditionalist, I don’t love it. Logistically, financially, and academically, however, Notre Dame to the Big Ten makes sense in the ever-changing landscape of college football.

Chip Minnich (@ChipMinnich)
Yes, Notre Dame should join The Big Ten with USC and UCLA. While Notre Dame has long treasured its status as the most dominant independent program in the nation, the recent moves of USC and UCLA to The Big Ten seem to portend a new era of superconferences, with it and the SEC as the two dominant powers that will be dictating the inevitable expansion of the College Football Playoff. While Notre Dame has ties with the ACC, the ACC's long-term future is cloudy at best, leaving Notre Dame to ponder the importance of long-term stability.

The Notre Dame/USC rivalry is among the nation's longest-running. If Notre Dame were to join the Big Ten, the game versus USC would now become a conference rivalry, while also allowing the Fighting Irish to reestablish old Big Ten rivalries such as Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue that are logical from a geographical perspective.

Lastly, the financial aspects related to the television deals for these programs cannot be overlooked. The Big Ten is yet to announce its new television contract, and the projected figures for the Big Ten's members loom significantly higher than what Notre Dame is presently earning from their NBC contract, as well as what Notre Dame could possibly earn as a conference member of the ACC.

Add it all up, and the Big Ten is the most logical destination for the Fighting Irish. Will an announcement be made about Notre Dame's future prior to this upcoming season? Doubtful, but the shocking news of USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten came out of nowhere, so it will not be surprising if Notre Dame is announced as the conference's newest member.

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
Reluctantly, I say yes. I have long supported Notre Dame’s quest to stay independent, but USC and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten changed the equation.

The Big Ten is now a coast-to-coast entity and Notre Dame's appeal will be less regionalized in the new-look league. The stability of the conference, combined with the instability of the ACC, gives the Irish some certainty going forward. Many of Notre Dame's Olympic sports don’t fit in the SEC, so that is not an option.

For those reasons, along with the extra tens of millions it would add to their athletic budget, Notre Dame should join the Big Ten.

Gabe Salgado (@GabeSalgado82)
While I don't see Notre Dame joining the Big Ten, especially since they've spurned the conference in the past, joining the league would be beneficial, especially where football is concerned. Not only would membership keep the Irish's rivalry with USC intact, but it also would now become a conference game. They'd also renew past rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue. They'd get to play Northwestern more often, as the last three meetings between the Wildcats and Fighting Irish (2018, 2014, 1995) have been entertaining to say the least.

Notre Dame will also have multiple Top 25 matchups each year as a Big Ten member. And they'd increase their chances of reaching the College Football Playoff (if it doesn't go away at some point) by way of the Big Ten Championship Game. Not to mention that the conference would love to have the Irish's NBC TV deal in the fold. It's been reported that NBC is looking to add to its current college football coverage in the near future.

Aaron Tallent (@AaronTallent)
Yes. With the move to create super conferences, Notre Dame not playing a conference championship game gives them a disadvantage for making the College Football Playoff each season.

Cover 2 Podcast: The latest in CFB realignment and expansion. What's going on with the Pac-12, Big 12, ACC? Why North Carolina and Virginia are key states to watch?