Notre Dame and BC: the future
Do we have a future with the Irish? I've been asked question by a few different people this week and with our current series with Notre Dame nearing an end and no future games with the Irish yet on the books, it is a legitimate concern. Gene has made a few statements acknowledging talks with Notre Dame. He usually adds some caveat that although we would like to play Notre Dame, we don't "need" them. That's not true. I haven't heard much from the Notre Dame administration but if you ask any Irish fan, he or she will be quick to tell you how little they need us. That is also not true. The reason I think the series will pick up in the near future is that both programs need each other. Let me explain.
Notre Dame's scheduling issues
There are so many unwritten rules and competing priorities surrounding Notre Dame football that it is hard to keep track. But know this, the most important things to them are their independence and their revenue. In order to maintain their independence and revenue stream they need to schedule a variety of solid opponents. Independence complicates scheduling though. Let's take a stab at an Irish schedule and its limitations that will force them back to the table with BC:
-- 3 Big Ten Games (Michigan, Michigan St, Purdue). Those three are probably not moving but complicate things by the Big 10's refusal to move them to later in the season. Notre Dame needs to play someone in October and November every year.
-- Navy, USC and Stanford. These three are not going anywhere and have definite places on the calendar.
-- 3 mandated Big East games. This helps with Notre Dame's scheduling a bit since they can dictate the who and where with many of the Big East teams. What complicates things though is NBC (the major revenue stream) wants quality opponents and good TV ratings. Some Big East teams can deliver that. Some cannot.
That leaves three slots to fill every year. Notre Dame won't play a DIAA team out of pride. They won't add another Big East team for fear of being too dependent upon the Big East and losing leverage. Although they played Nevada this year and San Diego State last year, Notre Dame will not load up on mid majors. Even with those limitations, there are still dozens of teams the Irish could play. But the challenge is that fewer are willing to play them these days. There is very little incentive for a tough non-conference schedule. That more than anything will limit the Irish's potential partners and keep BC in the conversation.
The other factor that will keep BC relevant is Notre Dame and NBC's need for neutral site games. The school and the network are starting neutral site games so that NBC can pick up an extra game that is technically not a Notre Dame home game. Even fewer schools are willing to do this. Also ESPN and most conference deals don't allow for neutral games to be shown on a rival network if the game is played within the conference's territory. For example, Notre Dame is playing Washington State later this month in San Antonio. The Pac 10 and ESPN would not allow WSU to play that same game in Seattle or LA or any other Pac 10 territory. Would BC play Notre Dame in Yankee Stadium or the Meadowlands? Not every year but certainly once or twice. Would the ACC and ESPN allow it? Technically the New York City area is not part of the ACC's TV territory so there is not much they could do to stop it.
So all that background is a long way of saying, Notre Dame will need a school like BC that is willing to play them on their terms. I am not suggesting that BC would or should agree to a series that doesn't include some games in Chestnut Hill, but it wouldn't surprise me to see a series that went like this South Bend-Chestnut Hill-Yankee Stadium-South Bend-Chestnut Hill-Yankee Stadium.
Why would BC agree to something like that? The answer would be pretty obvious to those who sat in Alumni Stadium for the NC State game.
BC still needs Notre Dame to generate fan interest
I hated typing that sentence but it is true. We are not selling out conference games. While some of it is certainly about the economy and some of it is about the tumultuous offseason, like it or not there is still a large portion of our fan base that is passive and really only cares about Notre Dame. If you are reading this blog now, you are more than likely a die hard, passionate BC fan. Now think of some of your BC friends who have casual interest in BC. Could they tell you who Montel Harris is? Could they name our current head coach or even our last one? Now if you offered those same friends BC-Notre Dame tickets would they be back to Boston in a minute? Will they be watching this weekend? It's sad, but true. We have thousands of great fans. We just don't have enough. That is not going to change overnight. Until we change the culture we need to schedule wisely and generate interest. So for now we still need Notre Dame.
What do I expect?
What I've just laid out is pretty accurate, yet neither side will be this candid. What predict will happen is that BC and Notre Dame will probably schedule a 1-1-1 series in the near future to start in 2014 or 2015. Both sides will build another break into the schedule and then add another 1-1-1. That will probably go on until the college football landscape changes or either party has a better alternative.