Choose independence, Irish.
As summer draws near, the only thing heating up has been the collegiate conference expansion talks as rumors continue that a seismic shift in athletic conference alignment is about to take place.
Notre Dame has long been an independent football program. Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has indicated the Irish strongly value their status as an independent, only considering alignment if their hand was forced.
Apparently, the winds of change are getting pretty forceful.
Stand firm, Jack, on Notre Dame's independence.
In fact, embrace it. Announce now that Notre Dame will remain independent, and that Notre Dame will join a football conference under no circumstances.
Don't wait for the conference changes to be announced. Hints or innuendos to the contrary from the ND administration are making me sick.
Fear exists at Notre Dame that the changes will be so substantial that the football program won't be able to support the other sports, and that the Irish will be on the outside looking in when the movement stops.
Notre Dame should be more confident in its brand. It's lived with it for so long that sometimes the administration needs a wakeup call as to how powerful it is.
Notre Dame has stood unique among college football programs. The national appeal of its brand has allowed the Irish a special place in the athletic landscape (NBC contract!).
It's made the Gipper, Knute and Rudy nationally recognized names.
Recent program woes may have caused the administration to lose sight of this. College football will find a place for Notre Dame, unless it colludes against them.
So tell the NCAA now: Notre Dame will remain independent. Period.
To consider a regional conference like the Big Ten, which will result in a regional schedule, is a mistake. It may lead to more money in the short term, but it is selling short the brand.
Notre Dame plays Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State every year without being in the Big Ten. Why be forced to play Minnesota, Northwestern, etc. where no significant rivalries exist? Granted, other schools may have less ability to schedule Notre Dame under a new framework, but there will still be quality games to be had and continued rivalries.
Next year Notre Dame will play in Boston, Los Angeles, the Meadowlands and the first football game in Yankee Stadium. Will this happen in the Big Ten?
Instead, focus on restoring the brand. Work diligently to remain relevant in the new framework of college football.
The new coach will hopefully lead to better results in the win-loss column.
What about off the field? Notre Dame needs better management of the football program. Former athletic director Kevin White resigning over a year ago was a good start.
The television contract needs work. Certainly poor play will bring poor ratings. However, the length of the commercials and the lack of quality from the booth announcers have hurt the entertainment value. Better ratings will come with a better broadcast.
Find basketball and Olympic sports a place in the new college landscape. I think the Big East can be salvaged. If not, these sports should find a home without sacrificing the independence of the football program.
Brian Irwin, a 1994 Notre Dame graduate, lives in Altoona.