Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM PRESEASON 2023 5 T he more things change in the over- all college football landscape, the more they stay the same for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish's staying power speaks to the strength of their brand. The Big Ten will soon be the Big 18 — or whatever the heck you want to call the collegiate conference that will have more teams than any conference in the four major American sports — with the addi- tions of Oregon and Washington tacked onto the already solidified 2024 arrival of USC and UCLA. Reports from a slew of credible college football reporters on Aug. 4 signaled the Huskies' and Ducks' departures from the Pac-12 as being done deals, and by the end of the day the Big Ten made the news official. The Southeastern Conference, mean- while, is a year away from adding two of the most successful programs the sport has ever seen in Texas and Oklahoma to a league that already boasts the likes of Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Florida. Money, publicity and everything else that comes with a conference stockpil- ing all-time greats will abound. And then there's Notre Dame, inde- pendent as always. Under Armour wasn't afraid of Notre Dame's independence when it agreed to a new 10-year apparel contract, made official on the same day the Oregon and Washington news finalized. Ya- hoo Sports' Ross Dellenger indicated it could be the most lucrative apparel agreement in the country. NBC probably isn't going to shy away from the Irish either. The media outlet is expected to significantly increase its pay- out to the school to retain broadcasting rights for every home game in South Bend. No strong-arming from NBC, which recently acquired rights to broadcast Big Ten games starting this fall. NBC could have told Notre Dame, "We'd love to continue putting your games on our channel as we have since 1991 … if you join the Big Ten." It would have probably saved NBC some money. But that's the thing; when it's an exclusive relationship with Notre Dame, it's money well spent. The executives there are happy to fork over the Irish's asking price, whatever that may be. What other school would they do that for? Heck, they're sharing Big Ten media rights with CBS and FOX. They're not sharing Notre Dame with anybody. There might not be another program in the country that could survive the tide the way Notre Dame has. Not even the Crimson Tide, winner of six of the last 14 national championships. What is Ala- bama without the SEC? There is a reason Bama fans beat their chests along with supporters of the other schools in the conference to the tune of "It just means more," the SEC's polarizing slogan. The SEC has helped prop up Alabama in the same way Alabama has helped prop up the SEC. It's a mutualistic relationship. In the chaos of covering the Oregon and Washington news, ESPN reporter Pete Thamel rounded the blue and gold bases. At 11:51 a.m. ET on Aug. 3, he released a three-part thread on Twitter about the state of affairs within the Big Ten. It de- tailed a meeting between the presidents of member institutions to discuss the value of bringing in the Ducks and Huskies. His very next tweet later that evening? "Sources: Any potential changes in the Big Ten are not expected to impact Notre Dame's view on independence." Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick said it best in an exclusive interview with Blue & Gold Illustrated in late June. "It's great. Everybody is talking about us." They are indeed. As they always have, and as they always will. When the Texas and Oklahoma news broke two summers ago, people won- dered if Notre Dame would follow them South to create the most powerful super conference there ever was. When USC and UCLA made the decision to head to the Midwest to saddle up with the Big Ten a year ago, cases were made aplenty for Notre Dame to follow suit. It makes sense geographically! It makes sense ac- ademically! It makes sense monetarily! Yeah, OK, but Notre Dame isn't go- ing anywhere. Swarbrick might as well have had sunglasses on and a Mai Tai in his hand when he told Blue & Gold Illustrated that Notre Dame is perfectly content right where it is. "I haven't given two seconds of thought to it because I've just been rev- eling in it," Swarbrick said. Notre Dame will remain one of the country's finest academic institu- tions without being in a conference for football. Remember, every other Notre Dame sport except for hockey is a mem- ber of the Atlantic Coast Conference, home of other renowned academic schools like Duke and Virginia. The hockey team competes in the Big Ten. Notre Dame is going to get its money, too, from Under Armour and, most likely, NBC. Swarbrick wore the facial expressions to suggest money won't be an issue when Blue & Gold Illustrated sat down with him earlier this summer. The bottom line is that when college football zigs, Notre Dame zags. Not to be different or to needlessly uphold a tradition of independence that's been the status quo for more than 100 years. Because, quite simply, it can. Like no- body else. ✦ GOLDEN GAMUT TYLER HORKA Tyler Horka has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2021. He can be reached at Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick has remained calm in the face of much upheaval in the college football landscape of late. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Despite Conference Chaos, Irish Stay Steadfast

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