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Should Notre Dame start playing Hawaii in football every year?

The 13th data point only matters if you let it matter.

NCAA Football: Navy at Hawaii Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Jack Swarbrick, the athletic director for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, recently told ESPN:

“We would love the opportunity to play a 13th game to take that issue off the table. Nothing would make us happier.”

This was during a conversation about the college football playoff committee and that “13th data point” that somehow matters — even if it doesn’t. Swarbrick talked about a conversation he had with the NCAA about allowing Notre Dame to play in a 13th game despite the Irish not being in a conference.

It seems that all of that talk leading up to the final release of the rankings from the playoff committee has really struck a chord with Jack Swarbrick. While I’m 99% sure that the rule won’t change — does it even matter?

The only tangible effect the conference championships game have in terms of a 13th data point, is recency bias. Notre Dame’s not going to be able to schedule a game against anyone in a conference (or anyone that matters) to help their cause. It would have to be another Independent school, and the most obvious choice with that would be the BYU Cougars.

Would a win this past season against BYU in a game AFTER the USC win have made any difference? I can’t imagine that it would have. Still, if Notre Dame really wants that 13th game, they could make an argument that points to the Big 12 as an example. The Big 12 got the rule changed so conferences didn’t have to have 12 teams to play in a conference title game (a rule that could have been useful back during the realignment scare 8 years ago).

Notre Dame already has a strong enough argument and schedule each year. A throw-in game just to beef the number up is ridiculous. Would a win against BYU on the weekend of the conference championships have saved Notre Dame this year if they had a loss to Pitt or a loss to Virginia Tech? No. A 12-1 Notre Dame team would have missed out on the playoff.


Fans are quick to point out that if Notre Dame (as with every school) were to play the Hawaii Warriors in Hawaii, the Irish could then play a 13th game per NCAA rules. Okay, but here’s a few things:

  • It would have to be the first game of the year. Did you see the Irish against the USC Trojans in November? Notre Dame was wiped out from all of the travel, and played like crap because of it.
  • The Irish would have to replace games like Ball State or Bowling Green or New Mexico with a decent to good school from a Power 5 conference. OR... stop playing Navy, and replace Navy with a decent to good school from a Power 5 conference. I’m completely on board with the dropping the Navy Midshipmen idea.
  • Ditch the Shamrock Series (another idea I’m totally cool with).

This whole line of thinking is just too ridiculous. Every season is different, but if the Irish are going to make the playoff in most years — they’re simply going to have to be undefeated at the end of the regular season — and I’m fine with that. It’s the price of being Independent in this day and age.