Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Pressure Drop | by Mike

One of the annually recurring memes in the college football universe is the notion that one day other universities will rise up and engage in a concerted boycott of Notre Dame unless Notre Dame descends from the lofty heights of independence and joins a conference. While the futility of such attempts to pressure Notre Dame into relinquishing its identity should be obvious, the stories never go away. Drew Sharp's take is a typical effort from the Big Ten crowd:

If the Big Ten wants to put a chokehold on Notre Dame, then it needs to tell Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue to quit playing the Irish. Boycott Notre Dame.

The argument that the Irish can find comparable opponents with a quick phone call loses credence in the changing climate of the national championship chase. A lot of top teams wouldn't want to risk a loss by playing Notre Dame. The Irish would find themselves dumbing down their schedule.
Sharp goes on to concede that Purdue and MSU need Notre Dame on their schedule to ensure a nationally televised game each year, but then goes on to conclude:
But there is a statute of limitations for gratitude. MSU and Purdue should understand that the interests of Big Ten football are best served with Notre Dame as its 12th team.
Despite Sharp's conclusory assertions, there is little empirical evidence to support the claim that Notre Dame would find it difficult to replace Purdue and MSU with opponents of comparable - or greater - visibility. For while fans of other teams often swear up and down that they don't care about Notre Dame, the market and the actions of other schools' athletic directors belie such contentions. In a column previewing Notre Dame's opener with Georgia Tech, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Terence Moore chronicles Notre Dame's ability to fill athletic department coffers when the Irish come to town.
Not coincidentally, those in charge of such things at the University of Texas stirred up their already wired faithful even more for The Notre Dame Game in 1996. They made that the afternoon in which they dedicated what was Memorial Stadium to former Longhorns coach Darrell Royal.

We’re talking Darrell Royal, as in Texas’ Knute Rockne.

Elsewhere, three of the past four times Notre Dame visited Tennessee it was either a record crowd at Neyland Stadium or No. 2 on the list. Notre Dame’s only trip to Clemson, in 1977, produced the largest gathering ever in Death Valley at the time when Gamecocks weren’t involved. That same year, Notre Dame played Ole Miss in Jackson, drawing the largest crowd to witness a sporting event in Mississippi when the Crimson Tide wasn’t involved.

Earlier this decade, The Notre Dame Game set attendance highs for the legendary stadiums at Nebraska and Texas A&M. Not only that, Florida State has faced more than a few dynamic foes at home through the decades. Still, nothing stuffed the Seminoles’ place more at the time than The Notre Dame Game four years ago.

So if you’re among those Tech honchos, searching for only your sixth sellout since the ridiculous expansion of Bobby Dodd Stadium to 55,000 seats in 2002, I guess this makes sense: You continue a craze that has become rampant in sports called variable pricing, and you make The Notre Dame Game cost $12 more than any other home game on the Yellow Jackets’ schedule. That’s $50 compared to $38 for Miami, Virginia, Maryland and Duke and $28 for Samford and Troy. In fact, the only way you can see The Notre Dame Game is to purchase a Tech season ticket or hope that individual seats remain later this summer. If so, you would have to pay that $50 for The Notre Dame Game and buy tickets to two other games.
The technique of making tickets to the Notre Dame game only available as part of a multi-game package is a tactic traveling Irish fans have become familiar with over the years. Other schools that have employed the device include Boston College, Purdue, and Pittsburgh. Which explains why so many Irish fans recently have gotten unwanted voicemails from the Wannstache reminding them to renew their season tickets.

The windfall Notre Dame is able to deliver to road opponents guarantees that Notre Dame will never lack for quality opponents, thereby ensuring the bootlessness of schemes to coerce Notre Dame into conference affiliation via boycott. When it comes to exciting opponents, the question for Notre Dame isn't availabilty. Unfortunately, the question has become the current athletic director's willingness to pursue such opponents.