An old nemesis, Notre Dame can bring B1G football fans together this fall
Notre Dame has long frustrated Big Ten fans, as it repeatedly spurned the conference’s advances despite being located in the heart of B1G country. The Fighting Irish love their independence and national brand. They’ve never seen the need to join a conference for football.
So, how should Big Ten fans feel about Notre Dame now that it will be one of the lone FBS schools in the Midwest playing football this fall? It’s a question fans will have to start asking themselves, because Notre Dame will be all over your TV as it plays in the ACC. It might be tempting, especially for those Indiana and Purdue fans who are suddenly without a team. Plus, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick thinks it’s possible that the Irish might get additional media attention in area markets such as Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit and Cleveland, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Should B1G fans temporarily hop on the Fighting Irish bandwagon? The answer to that is an unequivocal ‘no’ for a variety of reasons.
In fact, every Big Ten’s favorite team should be whomever Notre Dame is playing. Notre Dame can bring Big Ten fans together this fall and serve as a uniting force — as the villain, of course.
Sports are simply better with a villain. It gives a normal game some stakes. And since there is so much bad blood to ever consider rooting for Notre Dame, that makes the Fighting Irish the perfect anti-hero of what could be a difficult fall without football in the Midwest.
From a national standpoint, people love to root against Notre Dame because of its insistence on sustaining its football independence. But the pandemic effectively forced it to temporarily join the ACC. That’s why it will be fun for all fans to root against the Irish, who have said that they can play a tougher schedule without a conference. Wouldn’t it be fun if Notre Dame, after all those years of refusing to conform, finished in the middle of the pack in the ACC? That would be a bit of vindication for fans of all teams.
What makes Notre Dame the perfect villain specifically for Big Ten fans?
For one, Notre Dame has shown the Big Ten no love despite residing smack dab in the middle of its geographic footprint. It declined offers to join the Big Ten twice in the late 1990s and seems destined forever to be like that girl that the Big Ten would love to date but will never really get to. And yet the Big Ten would date Notre Dame in a heartbeat for obvious reasons, like putting Big Ten Network in homes across the country thanks to Notre Dame’s national fan base.
Notre Dame has joined the Big East and most recently the ACC in non-football sports. I get why it likes being independent, as it already has its own network that exclusively broadcasts its games, and it has a national brand — playing games on both coasts — that isn’t tied to the Midwest.
But still, the ACC? What does Notre Dame have in common with any of those schools? The Big Ten should rightly be offended.
Notre Dame is already a villain for Michigan fans after it decided in 2012 to halt their series after 2014, which famously prompted then-Michigan coach Brady Hoke to say that Notre Dame was “chickening out.” Though they played a home-and-home in 2018 and 2019, all that is on the schedule for now is another home-and-home in 2033 and 2034. Oh, great!
Besides, think of the recruiting ramifications. Notre Dame goes after some of the same blue-chip recruits that Ohio State and Michigan pursue, so it’s certainly not in their interest for the Irish to have a good season. The Big Ten as a whole should be rooting for utter chaos, with the upper-echelon programs like Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, LSU and Notre Dame stumble.
That’s why adopting a middle-tier SEC team is a much better idea for the B1G. Root for a team like Kentucky or South Carolina to thwart the national title hopes of Florida and Georgia. Root for a team like Texas A&M or Ole Miss to knock Alabama and LSU off their perch. Or if you must, root for Clemson to beat the piss out of the Fighting Irish. Cheering for the rest of the ACC in general makes the most sense.
Resist the urge, B1G, to pull for a team that continually snuffs its nose at you and thinks it is better than you.