There is a long and proud tradition of independents in college football for over 100 years. As late as the early 90’s there was a large handful of college football powers that did just fine without a conference affiliation. Many of those teams like the Penn State Nittany Lions, Florida State Seminoles, Boston College Eagles, Miami-Florida Hurricanes, and of course the Notre Dame Fighting Irish managed just fine on their own and scheduled one another.
The Irish did so well, that they dropped its membership in the College Football Association, and signed its initial contract with NBC for the 1991 season. A deal that pissed off everyone in the country and had them all shouting about “Notre Dame’s greed.”
Of course... they quickly quieted down once those that were independent went running wildly to a conference. Within those conferences, they were able to start to create media rights with other networks — and schools were getting PAID like never before.
The great list of independents dwindled down dramatically.
As we approach the 4th of July, say a special prayer for those that gave up their independence. President Whitmore is weeping.` pic.twitter.com/LRBJHSy0Zg— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) June 25, 2019
The list of independents other than Notre Dame now stands at five:
However... that list will increase by one (as long as the rest stay put) in a year. The Connecticut Huskies are leaving the American Athletic Conference for the Big East, but football will become an independent. This move by UConn is solely based upon its basketball program, and in essence, they are kind of/sort of giving up as school trying to play with the “big boys” in college football.
UConn is about to face a great challenge as 2019 will be their last in the AAC. That’s 8 open slots just one year from now. As we are all well aware of, most programs are pretty well scheduled out for the next 4 or more years.
It was this challenge that made me think about Notre Dame and what role they might — or should play in promoting independence in football for other programs. Does it benefit Notre Dame?
Quite frankly, it does benefit Notre Dame IF we were talking about Florida State or Miami returning to the fold. There is almost no benefit for the Irish to regularly schedule any of the other independents. That’s not to say that scheduling them would be a mistake though. Jack Swarbrick recently stated that the Irish would honor their deal with BYU, and details will be released soon.
BYU isn’t UConn or UMass or Liberty. That is certainly a school that Notre Dame should schedule with more regularity for a variety of different reasons — but none of them have to do with fostering a more comfortable independence.
Should Notre Dame do more? Nah... that time has come and gone, and the Irish stand clearly above it all. Perhaps there will come a day when a return to freedom sparks a fire for some of those former schools, but that day is still many, many years away.