One of the longest lasting teams in college football is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame football also shares one of the most unique stats in the entire association: it is one of three organizations that is run independently, without being a part of a conference. Many people, wonder why Notre Dame stays independent. Here are 3 reasons why the Fighting Irish are not joining any conference.
1. No Distribution of Money
When an organization signs a contract with a college conference to work together in orchestrating a schedule, fees, and other rules, part of the conference rules involve a distribution of money. According to the Sports Business Research Network, Notre Dame is college footballs’ 5th highest revenue collecting team at $80,558,922 after 2014.
For a team that is turning over the fifth largest revenue without other bindings to a conference, Notre Dame has no reason to want to join a conference so they can disburse some of their earnings.
2. Television Contract
Major conferences have television contracts with big providers so that the teams in their conference can have nationwide exposure and make themselves more noticeable. Notre Dame does not have this problem because of one provider alone – NBC. NBC and Notre Dame football have been working together since 1991. In 2013, the two organizations created another contract that is said to last through 2025. ESPN writes about the specifics of the new contract, worth roughly $15 million a year, “NBC will have global media rights on all platforms to a minimum of seven Notre Dame home football games each year, with most airing on the main NBC network. It also allows for games to be carried on the NBC Sports Network cable channel.” With one of the greatest television providers on their team, Notre Dame has no reason to look for a conference for TV time. They are provided with as much exposure as anyone and don’t have to share their NBC revenue. Notre Dame has also claimed that their NBC contract revenue goes straight to a good cause: “Notre Dame plans to continue using revenues from the contract to fund the school's financial-aid endowment for the general student body, not including athletes. The school said that since 1991, about 6,300 undergraduates have received nearly $80 million in aid from revenue generated through the NBC contract” (ESPN.com)
3. Strong Scheduling
Another major reason for being apart of a conference is the reliability of a “conference game schedule.” Notre Dame has found a way around this reason as well. Because of the hype around Notre Dame football and all of the money it draws to its games, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) have a contract with Notre Dame that allows all of its other sports to participate in ACC play. But football is forced to schedule 5 ACC regular season games each season. Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) of Yahoo Sports writes, “As such, Notre Dame is a pseudo ACC member, getting the benefit of playing lots of games in the talent-rich Southeast while maintaining scheduling flexibility that allows it to continue to schedule nationally.” This deal also allows for the Fighting Irish to play their two California state rivalry games each year against USC and Stanford. John Tamny (@JohnTamny), a columnist for Forbes, described the USC rivalry as “the long-term significance of an intersectional rivalry that is easily college football’s greatest.”
Having the highest winning percentage in college football history, Notre Dame has no trouble resting at the top of college football ranks. The organization is one of the most unique in the entire association, claiming themselves as an independent team, and we should expect to see no changes for the future.