Fox Sports’ Tim Brando believes the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are shortchanging themselves by not becoming a permanent Atlantic Coast Conference member in football.
I think Brando fundamentally does not understand Notre Dame’s values or it how it operates. We have to look no further than his own words.
BRANDO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND NOTRE DAME’S PRIORITIES
Brando’s first argument is that Notre Dame’s five-games-per-year deal with the ACC has “made a mockery of their schedule.”
“When you’re at Alabama and with [coach Nick] Saban, he has a great understanding of what is in front of him every year,” Brando told Sirius XM’s Taylor Zarzour and Greg McElroy this morning. “At Notre Dame, it's in flux constantly, and when they got into the ACC, I think a lot of people thought, ‘Ohh ... Let's see a guarantee of five games with the Atlantic Coast Conference, well that looks like a layup. They ought to be in good shape.’ Well right now, you see what's happening with the cycle that is college football, we could argue certainly that the ACC, and I think with great strength we could argue the ACC, was a better league last year than the SEC. And this year will be competitive with the SEC top to bottom.”
I disagree with Brando’s assessment that the Notre Dame schedule is unforseeable.
First, Notre Dame knows which five games it will play against ACC opponents for the next 20 years. Secondly, Jack Swarbrick — the university’s athletic director — has said repeatedly that the Irish will play the Navy Midshipmen until Navy decides otherwise; and play either the Stanford Cardinal or USC Trojans in order to finish each season on the West Coast.
That’s eight of 12 games that are known every year for the next 20 years. In the SEC, each team plays eight in-conference games.
Brando was on the program because he made “news” by saying that Notre Dame has had informal talks with the ACC to become a permanent member.
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick on rumors of informal talks of football joining the ACC full-time: "Absolutely not true." (1/2)— Matt Murschel (@osmattmurschel) May 16, 2017
“It just made no sense for Notre Dame in this era [to remain independent],” said Brando. “I said it during the BCS era. I’m saying it even more obvious now in the College Football Playoff era, for them not to be a full-time conference member.”
If Notre Dame was to become a full-time member, it would play eight ACC teams. There are 14 schools that are in the ACC for football. Brando is suggesting that Notre Dame purposefully limit their flexibility for three additional games every year by choosing from among nine potential teams. The College Football Playoff committee determines its rankings using four metrics, with strength of schedule being one of them.
Notre Dame’s current schedule: 5 ACC teams, USC, Navy, Stanford and four games against any one of 56 Power 5 teams that could boost strength of schedule.
Brando’s proposed schedule: 8 ACC teams, USC, Navy, Stanford and one game against any one of 56 Power 5 teams.
(Two asides: Brando thinks Notre Dame should stop playing Stanford and Navy, but that contradicts the university’s priorities so I’ve included them. Second: Yes, some Group of 5 teams can help a schedule’s strength more than a Power 5 team can. The point remains the same.)
NOTRE DAME’S RECRUITING ISN’T SUFFERING
“The modern day Internet athlete wants to play for bling. They want to play for conference championships,” said Brando. “There’s only one final Notre Dame can get — and if they don’t get, it’s a season lost. They've only had that one year of relevance, if you think about it, since Holtz left, when they got manhandled by Alabama in the national title game. So, my point is, it's about business and in college athletics is really is, Notre Dame is short changing itself by doing what it's doing to itself.”
In 2008, the Journal of Sports Economics published a recruiting study. Among their findings?
“Recruits are more likely to select schools that have won conference championships (0.67 percent per conference title).”
Notre Dame should not sacrifice its independence to gain just over a half a percent chance of landing a recruit.
Brando also doesn’t seem to be taking notice of recruiting rankings.
Notre Dame landed the 12th best class of 2017, according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly. (Connelly blended Rivals and 247 Sports composite). Looking from it from a five-year perspective, the Irish have brought in the eighth best group between 2013 and 2017.
There’s one statement Brando made that I think is instructive to this argument.
“I'm not a reporter. I'm a commentator,” he told the Sirius XM guys. Brando is no doubt connected and talks to important sources. But he seems to fancy himself more as a “big picture” guy.
Details aren’t important. Well, they are to me.
It’s not just that Brando said twice that Notre Dame plays in California mid-season and that they don’t. It’s that he thinks the Campus Crossroads project was funded “largely off the NBC money.” (It wasn’t.) Or that Notre Dame’s grant of rights to the ACC was a harbinger of full membership. Or that Notre Dame is primarily driven by money -- and that these Big 10 type TV deals are more attractive than their partnership with the Peacock.
So the next time you hear Tim Brando say anything about Notre Dame’s future in football, remember:
- By his own admission, he’s been saying the same thing about Notre Dame joining a conference since the BCS era.
- Notre Dame is still an independent in football and have denied as recently as today that they intend to become a permanent member of the ACC.
- Tim Brando is not a reporter. He’s a commentator.
Here’s the whole transcript:
Taylor Zarzour: I love it. Timmy B., yesterday, let's talk about what you tweeted out, yesterday, as you said, or actually Louisville Sports Live tweeted out that you said to them, Notre Dame conversations have taken place about potentially joining the ACC for football. Before I ask you about the timing of this, I want to read this from the Virginia Daily Press, which I think is really interesting. The conference, the ACC distributed over $373 million to its 15 schools, that's about 55 percent of which came from television right fees. Notre Dame received $6.2 million of that money, less than 1/4 of the $26.2 million the other members get. So they get $20 million less than every other school gets, because, of course they're not a full time football member. They would have been around $24.88 million, had they been a full member. And here's the final part, the Fighting Irish only get $15 million annually from NBC as the writer says, thanks to their super exclusive football package. So, Tim, they're getting less money, but maintaining their independence. Why not join the ACC completely in football?
Tim Brando: Yeah, let me begin Taylor, and, Greg, it's great to be in booth with both of you this morning. Let me begin by saying, here's what happens in the world of, dare I say, fake news. This is what happens in the world of fake news when it comes to being a guest on a radio show. And no disrespect to the people of Louisville, they just took an excerpt from what I said, which was ... and discussions had been underway, I was simply pointing out, what I've always pointed out ... And what I did on Sirius XM for a lot of years when I had my own radio show, it just made no sense for Notre Dame in this era. I said it during the BCS era, I'm saying it even more obvious now in the college football playoff era, for them not to be a full time conference member.
A, it screws up their schedule, even Brian Kelly will tell you that, look at ... How many teams have to go from the diversity of playing, let's say, Stanford at home, in the middle of the season, and then play a spread team like Virginia Tech in Blacksburg the next week, from the ACC, because of what? The guaranteed 5 games that they have to play against ACC competition with this new deal. It just ... It's made a mockery of their schedule, it's very difficult, even when the team is good and they’re coming off a 4-8 campaign right now, so ... They need some stability.
Plus, the modern day Internet athlete wants to play for bling. They want to play for conference championships. There's only one final Notre Dame can get, and if they don't get, that it's a season lost. They've only had that one year of relevance, if you think about it, since Holtz left, when they got manhandled by Alabama in the national title game. So, my point is, it's about business and in college athletics is really is, Notre Dame is short changing itself by doing what it's doing to itself. For all the things that you just mentioned.
But what I said on the air, with a Louisville station was that listen, discussions have been made ... there have been ... When I say discussions, that doesn't mean there's been a formal meeting, or conversation with John Swofford, that doesn't mean that suddenly that ... Jack Swarbrick's on speed dial to Greensboro. But what happens is, you make that statement, an excerpt comes out of it, then they put out their own tweet, and suddenly I'm seeing yesterday all these bloggers from Notre Dame going nuts, "Brando's a hack. He’s a bloviator. He's this, he's that." I was a guest on a show and was giving an opinion, that's been a long standing opinion that you guys, I'm sure heard, as you were driving home from your show, for years on Sirius XM.
Taylor Zarzour: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
Greg McElroy: Oh my God. Twice a day.
Tim Brando: So. There's nothing new ... There's nothing new about this. I'm not a reporter, I'm a commentator. But I do have contacts, and I do ... I was just down in Phoenix, at the Fiesta Bowl summit that they have out there, and I saw a ton of athletic directors and coaches, and listen, I've got ears and I listen. I have great respect for John Swofford, I have great respect for Jack Swarbrick.
But in time they're going to learn I think, Notre Dame, how much they're short changing themselves. And because they signed the grant of rights, this is the other thing too ... Read the tea leaves, ladies and gentlemen, it is a business. They signed the grant of rights, which pledges them to the ACC for quite some time. And where it grants for that, I don't think that you see, Greg, your company ESPN, pledging to start that linear network in Charlotte by 2019. That's going to happen. Oh by the way, ESPNU is already moving up to Bristol, which means they're side by side in a couple of years. The ACC Network in my humble opinion will be right there next to the Finebaum studios. That's what's going to happen.
Taylor Zarzour: Would you think, if Notre Dame were to align with the ACC, which we all think is a very realistic possibility ... Anybody that's followed the story over the last few years, knows that that's a realistic possibility ... Do you think they would still try to maintain the out of conference schedule because that would only increase the difficulty to getting back to a national championship opportunity? And, I know they want to be everywhere, but I'm not sure it's really in the best interest of the ACC.
Tim Brando: It may not, but I'll say this. Notre Dame can make its own decisions with what it wants to do with it's non-conference. I would say, to you Greg, the USC game is probably one they covet most and would likely keep in play. I don't get why they play Stanford, I just don't. I think that's a mistake, and I remember talking to Brian about this. Truly from a coaching standpoint, okay, from a football standpoint. When you have to get your guys ready to go to either Palo Alto or to Los Angeles, and you're in the middle of your season and you just played, let’s say a game at Wake or at ... Vanderbilt I think is on their schedule this year, non conference ... The teams that they are playing, just in terms of style, in trying to build your program and recruit to your program and Greg you can address this as well as any ... When you're at Alabama and with Saban, he has a great understanding of what is in front of him every year. The steps towards achieving a goal of winning a title.
At Notre Dame, it's in flux constantly, and when they got into the ACC, I think a lot of people thought, "Ohh ... Let's see a guarantee of five games with the Atlantic Coast Conference, well that looks like a layup. They ought to be in good shape." Well right now, you see what's happening with the cycle that is college football, we could argue certainly that the ACC, and I think with great strength we could argue the ACC, was a better league last year than the SEC. And this year will be competitive with the SEC top to bottom.
So the idea that certainly we had when they first initiated this deal that those games were going to be lay ups, that's by the boards, you can forget that. And if you keep the Michigan States and the USCs and the Stanfords in your non conference and oh by the way Navy, which is a root canal every time you play that particular service academy, you can lose a lot of talent with those blocks that those guys are throwing in the triple option.
It's just a bad schedule. Coaches don't like getting ready for it ... Brian expressed that to me himself, on my show when I had it at the chateau back in the day.
Taylor Zarzour: I am curious to ask you this though, because I think it's kind of interesting. Timmy, who benefits more from this relationship, does the ACC or does Notre Dame?
Tim Brando: I think initially the ACC did. The football may be really, really good, but they didn't have sell outs in a lot of these places until Notre Dame got put on their schedules. So, at places like North Carolina State, where they played in the rain and ... it was a rainy, rainy show last time they were there ... That was a great big game for them to play, and for schools like that, no one's going to apologize when they put the picture of them beating Notre Dame on the cover of the brochure. No one's going to say, "Oh by the way, that was the 4-8 team." You know they still covet beating the Irish, let's give them their due.
But, listen, I think ultimately it's really great for Notre Dame. I remember talking with Mike Brey, the Notre Dame basketball coach about getting to hang the banner of the 2015 ACC title, and Taylor you can appreciate this being where you've been for the last few years ... The guys at Notre Dame, they put ACC Tournament Champions 2015, and Mike, because of his understanding, having been at Duke with Krzyzewski all those years ... Knowing the history of the ACC Tournament, he said, "No no no no no no no, we need to send that banner back.”
Taylor Zarzour: That's right.
Tim Brando: "And you need to get tournament off that," okay? Because the recognized champions of the ACC are the tournament champions, and so...
Taylor Zarzour: That's right.
Tim Brando: So trust me when I tell you, it's not lost on the brass at Notre Dame —
Taylor Zarzour: I love that.
Tim Brando: — and even Jack Swarbrick, what it means to be an ACC member. And that championship banner in basketball, and the run to the Elite 8, that was made a year ago, and even into this tournament year this past season in Brooklyn ... They went all the way to the finals of the ACC, it's not lost nationally I think on a number of people. Notre Dame basketball right now is flourishing at a level that Notre Dame football always wishes it had.
Greg: Well let me just say this before we go any further, I think that Tim Brando is on to something, and Zarzour formally thinks that the ACC should have formal conversations with Notre Dame about being a complete member based on all the things you've told me. Timmy B., what has stopped that from happening so far. If Notre Dame is not making as much money as they would being in the Atlantic Coast Conference, tell me why this hasn't happened yet.
Tim Brando: Gosh, I think it's probably a generational thing, maybe a humorous, maybe a little bit of arrogance ... They've just ... building a brand new facility and updating the stadium, largely off the NBC money. Listen, the NBC deal, when it happened, was a break through television deal, there'd been nothing like it. But from a business standpoint guys, that's been morphed since. The conferences are making all kinds of money all around Notre Dame, they open with Michigan this year ... Think about the money that Michigan is making, by being a Big 10 member, especially with this new television deal that Jim Delaney just struck. It's double that of Notre Dame.
But a lot of it I think is generational. Guys that are my age or a little bit older ... I know many of them that are golden domers, they have a real problem with losing independence, but like a lot of fans, they won't let go, because of who we are, we're Notre Dame. We're failing to understand the day to day operations in this world of arms races that are taking place in intercollegiate athletics. Even though Notre Dame has updated their stadium and even though Notre Dame still is a team that will always bring national concern to every issue that comes their way, they're not what they once were.
Kids aren't waking up in the mornings in certain parts of the country and saying, "Gee, we want to play there." They're not. Because, gosh, what conference title do you get play for? How many big games post season do you think you're going to get in? Well, against that schedule, it's a much more of an iffy proposition than it once was. I think it's a matter of time ... once the Gen Xs and Gen Ys grab hold of the decision making process and the baby boomers fade away, well my age bracket, I think you'll see a more progressive approach from Notre Dame. I do think Jack Swarbrick though, he's the man that counts. I think the relationship between he and John Swofford is very strong, and I know that even though it's been informal, the conversations have taken place. And it's not lost on people in the sports business that Notre Dame signed that same grant of rights that all the other ACC schools did.