Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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10 AUGUST 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME Yes, The Time Is Now By Tyler Horka Let's first ask ourselves, what exactly is the value of independence as a col- lege football program in 2022? It certainly isn't a monetary number. Those have been laid out numerous times this summer. The Big Ten could be in line to pay member institutions upward of $80 million after the arrival of Pac-12 defectors USC and UCLA. The SEC is going to be in the same ballpark with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma. Notre Dame currently makes $15 million from NBC and $10 million as a partial member of the ACC. Yes, Notre Dame is reportedly asking for $75 million for a future TV rights deal. But is the network really going to agree to that? Seems far-fetched. If it does, I'll admit — my argument ends there. If Notre Dame can make roughly the same amount of money as a super conference member without being in a super conference, it's a no-brainer. It's just hard to fathom one network increasing its payout to one school by 400 percent in the penny-pinching media era we currently live in. The Big Ten and SEC will be able to make drastic increases in revenue distribution because of the additions of USC and UCLA and Texas and Okla- homa, respectively. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is still Notre Dame. Is it the biggest brand in college football? Probably so. But is it a brand worthy of the requested 400 percent increase? Probably not. Go where the money is, Notre Dame. There has never been a better time. No, Its Leverage And Brand Are Too Strong By Todd D. Burlage Reaction was swift last month from the Notre Dame faithful when USC and UCLA announced they would be leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten in 2024. Many believed that these two relocations and the dawning era of super conferences worth billions of dollars made this the realignment domino that finally detaches Notre Dame from its independence. But as ESPN television personality Lee Corso famously says, "Not so fast, my friend." Instead of making any knee-jerk reac- tions, Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick wisely took a wait-and-see ap- proach, with an expectation of protecting 130-plus years of calling its own shots. Television money is the root of any consideration for Notre Dame to join a conference. The university brings in about $15 million a year from its exclu- sive broadcast contract with NBC while the Big Ten through its network deal is promising member schools $80 million or more when a new television contract begins in 2024. The revenue gap will be huge, but for a very short time. Notre Dame's contract with NBC is up in 2025. And some early reports suggest Notre Dame is asking for $75 million for a new deal, meaning the Fighting Irish brand will be financially fine. And that's all that really matters. The day may sometime come that Notre Dame joins a conference. But by doing nothing during this recent wave of conference realignment, Swarbrick indicated that day isn't here now, and isn't coming anytime soon. Point ✦ Counterpoint: WILL NOTRE DAME JOIN A CONFERENCE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS? Missy Conboy let out a laugh when she talked about a job with the Notre Dame athletics depart- ment she expected to spend only a couple years at that she's still showing up for 35 years later. Conboy, a senior deputy athletics director, started her career at Notre Dame in 1987 as the university's lone compliance officer. She has since become a well-respected, high-rank- ing administrator and an influential voice within the Notre Dame athlet- ics department. A native of Buffalo, N.Y. — though, a self-described "military brat" — Conboy graduated from Notre Dame in 1982. She was an English major, an Irish basketball player and a team captain as a senior. Conboy is a married mother of three daughters, all of whom graduated from Notre Dame. Much has changed in the 40 years since Conboy graduated. Academically, Notre Dame didn't go coeducational until 1972, so women made up only 23 percent of the student body when she enrolled in 1978. And women's basketball schol- arships didn't even exist until her junior year. As recognition of the inclusive impact that Title IX made at Notre Dame when it was adopted in 1972, the Notre Dame Monogram Club will cel- ebrate in the fall the Fighting Irish female athletes who broke historical ground by awarding honor- ary monograms to the first 250 women to ever play sports at Notre Dame from 1972-77. This pioneering group of women will be welcomed back to campus and honored the weekend of Oct. 21-23 during the UNLV football game. Blue & Gold Illustrated caught up with Conboy to talk about her experiences as a student and an administrator, as well as this im- portant celebration of 50 years of women in Notre Dame athletics. BGI: How has campus life for a fe- male student-athlete changed? Conboy: "In many ways, my road to becoming a student-athlete at Notre Dame was quite different that it is today. We were the guinea pigs for coeducation — me less so than the women who came in 1972 — but it was still very small numbers of female students when I started. "Just the primacy of the experience for me was probably very different than what young women experience today, and that is good." BGI: Does anything in particular stand out in terms of the evolution of women's sports on campus? Conboy: "During my first two seasons, our women's programs competed at the AIAW Divi- sion III level, before transitioning to NCAA Divi- sion I athletics for my junior and senior years. "Needless to say, it was a major transition, and signaled the much larger commitment to wom- en's athletics to come. It was incredible to be part of that transition." BGI: That's a big jump, how difficult was that? Conboy: "Our first year in Division I was a big wake-up call. We had only two scholarship play- ers that year, and one of them was injured, so we essentially had a Division III team competing at the Division I level. "We still own the record — which is likely quite safe — for the most lopsided loss in ND women's basketball history. We played No. 2-ranked South Carolina at home and the score was 124-48." BGI: What do you remember most fondly about your time attending Notre Dame? Conboy: "Perhaps my best memories stem from the time spent with incredible teammates, who took full advantage of everything Notre Dame had to offer. They all came to Notre Dame for the educa- tion, but we also felt fortunate for the opportunity to begin building the women's sports program." BGI: Why is it important to recognize these pio- neers of Notre Dame women's athletics? Conboy: "Without the commitment, dedication and passion of these determined women — all op- erating in a historically male environment — Notre Dame would not have the success we enjoy today." — Todd D. Burlage FIVE QUESTIONS WITH … MISSY CONBOY, SENIOR DEPUTY ATHLETICS DIRECTOR — SPORT OPERATIONS/ACC LIAISON CONBOY

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