Navy to Join the Big East: The Push Towards Notre Dame Joining a Conference is Growing

Submitted by hart20 on January 25th, 2012 at 2:08 AM

Navy, after 130 years of football independence, will be joining the Big East as a football only school starting in 2015.

Some of you might not think much of this news; it's the Big East and Navy, not exactly known for being football powerhouses. But I find this quote telling, 

 

Navy has been playing football since 1879 without conference affiliation, but academy officials said they believe independence will be too difficult to maintain as other powerful leagues grow. Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said scheduling games late in the season, landing desirable television deals and securing bowl bids will become a problem for Navy.

“Opportunities to exist as independents into the future are clearly in jeopardy,” he said.

Link: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=ap-bigeast-navy

 

(Note: if you don't want to read anything about ND then don't read anymore. The rest of this thread is me talking about the effect of this and other events on ND's slow roll towards a conference)

 

Can you think of another notable independent school? Perhaps one about 3 hours away from Ann Arbor? One that has been stuck in a state of perpetual ineptitude for about the past 20 years? If you thought of Notre Dame, well, you were correct.

I think the push for ND to joing a conference is getting louder and louder by the proverbial hour. ND's schedule breaks down like this: They play 3 Big Ten teams (Michigan, MSU, Purdue), 2 Pac-12 teams (Stanford and USC), Navy, and Pitt every year. Looking at their 2012 schedule, they fill the rest of their schedule with 3 more teams from the ACC (Miami, Wake Forest, and Boston College), Oklahoma, which is just a home-and-away, and then some middling team from a terrible conference, next year it's BYU.  

With the B1G and Pac-12 entering into their agreement, the Pac-12 will play 9 conference games, on top of the B1G games, and while the B1G will only play 8 conference games, Delany wanted to go to 9 conference games before this agreement went into place and presumably he still wants to go to 9 conference games eventually. With Pitt going to the ACC, and the ACC going to a 9 game schedule, 4 of the teams on ND's schedule will soon be crunched for the space to schedule ND. With the Big East intent on becoming a super conference of incompetence, they'll likely be going to a 9 game schedule as well. It wouldn't be a stretch for the B1G, the ACC, and Stanford to drop ND from the schedule. I figure USC and Navy are two pretty "important" rivalries that will get preserved.

You think NBC will continue to shell out money for ND to play Idaho St. and Alabama Tech? NBC's already moved some of their games to Versus. With the money the BTN is making the B1G schools, I think the Big Ten is going to start to look pretty appealing to ND sooner, rather than later.  

Comments

Nick Sparks

January 25th, 2012 at 7:45 AM ^

ND isn't Navy. I mean in terms of the quality of football they've played over the last 20 years, then yes, they're Navy - but the sad truth is thet they're still one of the most popular brands in college football.

Because of this money, and as other posters have mentioned, ND won't have a problem scheduling games or making the MNC if they ever have a one loss season.

I think the real last straw will be the fact that the number of hardened Catholics in this country is aging. As the demographic that provides the majority of the ratings for ND fades like their VHS copies of Rudy and the only ads that will run during their games are Ovaltine and Geritol, they'll finally accept the reality that passed them by thirty years prior.

Then we'll see if any conference still wants to take in that beaten old dog.

Brimley

January 25th, 2012 at 8:49 AM ^

First things first--excellent avatar.

Your analysis for the most part is dead on in my view, except that I think ND's issue isn't so much an aging fanbase as it is becoming a regional one.  ND still has a lot of young fans in Illinois and Indiana, but I see its national reach declining over time.  Missing the opportunity to join the Big 10 when the idea was first floated was a massive mistake, and appears to have been done in a bridge-burning way.

BlueDragon

January 25th, 2012 at 2:30 AM ^

I see them making tracks for the Big 12 when the situation gets dire. The Big 12 only requires that its members put up with the hegemony and unequal revenue sharing of Texas. The Big 12 would be a solid option for the revenue sports of ND given the advantages the B12 enjoys in the current media environment.

The determinant is the value of the independent label in an age when all schools have access to the mass media pipeline as long as they win enough games. Filling up schedules with quality opponents will become tougher from year to year as the empowered conferences move closer to a true playoff system with the necessity of winning one's own conference or division to move up the postseason food chain.

hart20

January 25th, 2012 at 5:09 AM ^

either the B1G, ACC, or, with the longshot, the Big East. The Big 12 doesn't fit in with the culture of Notre Dame at all. It's not a good academic fit or a a good geographic fit. Notre Dame would fit in with the culture of the Big Ten the best, but if they joined the Big Ten, their chances of ever winning a National Championship or going to a BCS game would be non-existent. I think that has been the biggest hold up for Notre Dame's AD. The ACC would fit in culturally, but not geographically and would provide a pretty easy schedule and road to a BCS game. I think the Big East has an outside shot because so many of ND's sports already compete in the Big East but then again Big East football is very weak and it would be seen as just a way to cop out of playing anyone tough. Going to the ACC would also be seen as a cop out, which makes me think that the Big Ten has to be the answer. Throw in the history of the Big Ten with Notre Dame and I think it has to happen eventually.

Felix.M.Blue

January 25th, 2012 at 2:41 AM ^

I can't see them getting along with Texas. I think they would bolt to the ACC.

I wanted them in the B10 when psu joined now I don't, I don't want to see the B10 expand any further.

Amaizeinblue

January 25th, 2012 at 2:49 AM ^

I'm happy that Navy/Army game at the end of the year is being protected. I always enjoy watching that game, it's one (outside of Michigan's) I look forward to every year, it's always entertaining.

Geary_maize

January 25th, 2012 at 4:03 AM ^

Independence to Notre Dame is like the Winged Helmets to Michigan - they ain't gonna give it up until the fat ladies are about to sing. And the fat ladies here are a respectable regular season schedule, a conference for their olympic sports, and a chance at a national championship.

For the first one, even with Navy joining the BE, and the B1G/Pac12 games, Michigan, MSU, USC, Stanford etc etc will still continue to schedule Notre Dame. The money's still too big, the exposures still too great, and most years you're going to avoid the cream of the crop of the other conference anyway.

For olympic sports, even with pretty much every respectable school leaving the BE, looks like ND is completely willing to sacrifice their other sports to mediocrity for football. This is actually what surprises me the most.

Finally, Notre Dame currently still has as good a chance to make it to the title game as anyone else, or close enough. Until this changes, IMHO Notre Dame is staying independent.

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If the do join, however, it'll be the B1G, no doubt about that at all, no matter what their fans and alumni say.

julesh

January 25th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

Independence to Notre Dame is like the Winged Helmets to Michigan - they ain't gonna give it up until the fat ladies are about to sing.

I don't think that's a very good analogy. There are no external forces that could make Michigan change the Winged Helmet. There are tons of external forces that will affect whether ND stays independent or not.

dennisblundon

January 25th, 2012 at 6:58 AM ^

ND looks in the mirror and still see itself as a hot chick in her early 20's but in reality they are in their late 40's and 30 pounds over weight. TIme to drop the diva attitude before your next TV contract is with Oprah's Oxygen channel. You have not been relevant since Tony Rice was your QB, let that sink in for a bit or not. The BIG10 needs to sit them down and say final offer, never again after today will this conference be an option. That is in fact if we do want them, which lets face it we do. My point is there is no need to roll out the carpet any more, simply write your offer on a napkin Saban style, then be home in time for mid day news.

GunnersApe

January 25th, 2012 at 7:15 AM ^

Twelve team leagues seem like the right fit for future playoffs. I can't see how 14 teams in the SEC/ACC will work out so their off the board, so it's Big East or XII for ND IMHO. To that I say to ND, "Bye".

Volverine

January 25th, 2012 at 7:35 AM ^

"Scheduling games late in the season, landing desirable television deals and securing bowl bids will become a problem for Navy."

 

Notre Dame won't have those issues. They obviously have a lucrative NBC TV deal, are a big enough name to go to bowls--heck there's even a "Notre Dame exception" in the BCS formula. 

As for "late in the season" games, next season they'll play Miami (YTM), Stanford, BYU, and Oklahoma in October, and Pitt, BC, Wake Forest, and USC in November. They don't seem to be scrambling to find bad teams to play to fill their schedule. Also, anyone who knows the ND-SC rivalry knows that the LA game is always in November. 

bigpapa.KG

January 25th, 2012 at 7:46 AM ^

I can't use the words I would like to use to describe how I feel about ND. I never want to see ND in the B1G. Also there is no reason to go to 14 team conferences with the BCS limiting two teams per conference. I'd love to see ND get shut out of all this conference realignment and screw their pitiful football program.

For what it's worth. ND has no balls and would join tr ACC over the B1G because they would be a middle of the pack team every year in the B1G but would compete right away in the ACC. But hey, what ever keeps them out of tr B1G is fine with me.

Mr Miggle

January 25th, 2012 at 7:52 AM ^

They have a nice TV contract, and its not in jeopardy. They have no problems with scheduling and they never will, at least for the semi-foreseeable future. ND is the biggest or second biggest game of the season for most of their opponents. Very few, if any of their regular opponents will want to give that up, and there will be no shortage of suitable replacements available. Your characterization of BYU is pretty funny. They've had a better program than ND for the last 20 years, last 10 years, last 5 years, etc. They're independent now, too.

You're right about the BTN money looking good. But ND has shown they're willing to make some sacrifices to stay independent in football and I don't see anything happening to make them change.

  

lunchboxthegoat

January 25th, 2012 at 7:56 AM ^

Can I just say: Notre Dame and all their lulz in the past 10 years would be a perfect marriage with the Big East and their failboat or the ACC which I have said several times on this board and other hast he official theme song of "yakety sax." Throw another mediocre, overhyped program in the ACC and watch the hilarity ensure. It would be funnier than Whitney AND the new Chelsea Handler show. 

phork

January 25th, 2012 at 8:22 AM ^

Navy is not forcing anyones hand.  If ND is forced to join a conference it will probably be the ACC.  There are a handful of programs that can maintain independence and ND is one of them.

stetgor

January 25th, 2012 at 8:27 AM ^

I understand the previous comments about ND and their adherence to their independence.  I also understand all the comments about the draw of playing ND.  In regards to the draw of playing ND, I hate that team, but love beating them.  I suspect as long as that feeling persists for many, ND's independence will be intact.  Having said that, I'm not saying this is going to change, but it very well might in time. With conference growth and associations such as what has developed between the B1G and PAC, the potential increased required commitments to those agreements may simply create a shortage of spots to fit someone like ND in for some.  Honestly, it makes me smile to think ND's hand will be forced, but I still lke the idea of beating them!      

Schembo

January 25th, 2012 at 8:46 AM ^

Notre Dame has an automatic birth in the BCS if they finish in the top 8.  They don't move anywhere unless that arrangement changes.  Their TV contract with NBC lessens the need to move to a conference.

ijohnb

January 25th, 2012 at 9:11 AM ^

Miami, BYU, SC, Stanford, 3 big ten teams, including Michigan and Michigan State.  Frankly, it does not look like the Irish are having any scheduling difficulties.  There are three certains in life: 1. Notre Dame will be an independent, 2. Any type of Stromboli with any kind of toppings is extremely delicious, 3. Notre Dame will not be any good.

They are not going anywhere, figuratively, literally, or ..... figuratively. 

Moonlight Graham

January 25th, 2012 at 8:52 AM ^

Since the NCAA has absolutely no control over football conference shenanigans and they all seem to do whatever they please, with the only "rules" being survival of the fittest, ND has and could continue to write its own rules. They and NBC could write up a "TV contract alliance" with their own pseudo-conference. They choose the 11 teams they want to play each year, give them some sort of partnership in the TV deal, call those 11 teams their "national schedule alliance" and live on as an independent. 

The "alliance" would be UM, MSU, Purdue from the B1G, USC and Stanford from the Pac 12, Boston College and Pitt from the ACC, and then they form an agreement with the Big East to play a rotation of 2 home/2 away games with the Big East that always includes Navy withe "away" Navy year being playes somewhere neutral like Yankee Stadium or Ireland (like 2012). If anyone in any of these conferences has a complaint about not being part of this special ND deal, they can bolt to the SEC or B12 I guess. 

Far fetched but again, there are no rules so ND and the powerful conferences can just make stuff up as they go along. 

Maize_in_Spartyland

January 25th, 2012 at 9:24 AM ^

To some extent, you have a point. ND's schedules are mostly filled out up through 2016 (with dates included).

The problem is, with the Big Ten/PAC-12 alliance, another non-conference game is swallowed up by 24 more teams, 5 of which Notre Dame play on a regular basis (Purdue, MSU, Michigan, USC, and Stanford).

The issue isn't whether ND can call its own shots. The issue is whether teams are willing to give up a home game at least every other year to play ND.

I'm a firm believer that most major conferences will expand to 9 conference games in the near future; that's already underway in the PAC-12 and Big 12. Discussions have taken place about the same in the Big Ten, ACC, and SEC.

Unless the NCAA moves to a 13 game regular season schedule (without a Hawaii exemption), ND is going to have a tougher time filling out a schedule, at least with their "rivals" and/or legitimate teams.

Elmer

January 25th, 2012 at 9:00 AM ^

The Big10 and Pac12 control ND's fate.  If they decided to get ugly and drop ND all together, then Michigan, MSU, Purdue, USC and Stanford drop off the schedule.  That's their two biggest rivals and almost half the schedule.  Navy was their only armed service game worth anything in the recent past.  The would be toast as an independant.

Maize_in_Spartyland

January 25th, 2012 at 9:18 AM ^

hart20, great work, as always.

With that said, I take issue with Navy not exactly being known as a football powerhouse. In the early 2000s and late 1990s, the Middies weren't great, to be sure. Their program is getting better, but the program once was a powerhouse.

Navy won the 1926 National Championship, an undefeated season. They have also appeared in the Rose, Sugar and Fiesta bowls. Not bad for a program that has to fight an uphill battle against other non-service academies.

Also, who can forget the Army/Navy game? Regardless of whether you are an Army or a Navy fan, or even a football fan, its a great event to watch.

Ron_Lippitt

January 25th, 2012 at 9:22 AM ^

With respect, I don't see how Navy moving to the Big East has any effect on ND or their lucrative tv arrangement with NBC.  So long as the network (and viewership) continue to see them as a premier, brand-improving asset, there will be no changes (this despite them not being relevent in 20 years),  What do they have to gain at THIS point by giving in?  If a conference spot was really on their radar, believe me -- smarter people than us would have made that deal happen already.

In other news, smoke from the B1G "bridge" to ND can be seen from three states away.

phork

January 25th, 2012 at 9:33 AM ^

For ND to join up in a conference the linchpin is Texas.  Once the Big12 dust settles (and it hasn't yet) Texas will be the deciding factor for ND.

As for burning bridges to the BIG, why would ND stake itself to a regional conference instead of joining the ACC or Big12?  Sorry guys, the BIG just isn't as sexy as being a MidWest team in a non-MidWest conference.

cutter

January 25th, 2012 at 9:39 AM ^

People here seem to forget that Notre Dame's recent schedules have also included teams like Tulsa and Western Michigan.  The WMU game was a filler because ND couldn't get a late season opponent to play them.

Here's a few things to keep in mind about Notre Dame's future schedules:

1.  There are no SEC teams on ND's future schedules.  The Irish had a home-and-home wit Tennessee about six years ago, but that's been it.  Because the conference is so competitive, SEC teams that do have open dates late in the season play minor opponents as prep for the major games late in the season.  Notre Dame is not going to creep onto the schedule of any major SEC team in the near future, even though the conference looks like it's going to stick with eight conference games when it goes to 14 teams.

2.  Speaking of conferences with 14 teams, the ACC has provided opponents to Notre Dame, but let's take a look at these programs.  Outside of the relationship with Boston College (which dates back to when BC was part of the Big East and will soon end), ND has played programs like Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest and North Carolina--teams willing to negotiate a one-game deal with the Irish.  Teams that would look for multiple game deals that have major non-conference games against SEC teams (Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson) aren't popping up on the schedule (although ND did open the season with GaTech a few years ago).  The one program that fits that criteria is Miami-FL, which did sign a three-year deal to play Notre Dame.

We don't know what Syracuse and Pittsburgh are going to do and what sort of non-conference scheduling restrictions the ACC is going to impose on its membership.  I suspect they'll continue to allow late season non-conference games, so SU and Pitt might continue to opt to play Notre Dame.  Or they might want to position themselves into a situation where winning the ACC (and that means also winning the conference championship game) is a bigger priority and schedule accordingly. 

3.  The home-and-home with Oklahoma was signed up when Notre Dame thought Michigan was going to withdraw from the series.  When that didn't happen, ND was saddled with playing UM and OU both in the same season.   Also note that the Oklahoma game in South Bend will be played in September, but Notre Dame visits Norman in October.  The Sooners didn't help Notre Dame too much with the late season scheduling.

Speaking of late season scheduling and Big XII teams, Texas has a four game series scheduled with ND with three of the games being played as season openers and one in the second week of the season.  UT is a big name, but it's pretty clear the Longhorns didn't do the Irish any favors with the last season scheduling.

4.  USC and Stanford both have waivers with the Pac 12 to play Notre Dame in the latter two months of the season.  Any other team that opts to go that route will have to get the approval of the eleven other schools in the conference, because the Pac 12 policy is to play the three non-conference games prior to the nine conference games.  There is a grandfathered stipulation in there because Arizona State had a contract with ND to play them prior to the conference expansion.  However, for the ten teams other than USC and Stanford, they'll have to go thru major hoops to play ND late in the season.  Of course, now that the Big Ten and Pac 12 have signed their scheduling agreement, I suspect there's even less incentive for a Pac 12 program to also schedule Notre Dame as one of their three non-conference games.

5.  We have no strong idea of what the Big East is planning to do other than getting at least twelve teams and probably play nine conference games.  Will that open up late season dates for any of the BE programs to play ND in October and November?  It's a wait and see mode, but just like the ACC, non-conference scheduling may be effected by a conference championship game, how the new post-season for college football takes shape, etc.

6.  As long as the Big Ten takes three to four dates in the early third of the season from Notre Dame, it means ND is going to have some level of difficulty playing major BCS programs (see SEC discussion above).  It's not impossible, but it means the number of willing partners are actually fewer in number (outside of Brigham Young, who is an independent program for now). 

Overall, the scheduling dynamics are changing, and Notre Dame is going to face some challenges.  The Big Ten-Pac 12 relationship will remove a lot of programs from those conferences out of likely consideration, even for games in the month of September.  The SEC is out and the Big XII hasn't shown a lot of flexibility to date regarding late season games outside of one game with Oklahoma.  That means for the most part, Notre Dame's late season partners will come from the newly reconstituted Big East (which may lose a few more members to the Big XII in short order) and perhaps nine or so teams from the ACC that have open dates (and those will be fewer if they go to a nine-game conference schedule) plus programs from the MWC (Air Force, SDSU) and maybe C-USA.

Now I largely agree with the people who are writing that late season scheduling issues aren't going to be the reason why Notre Dame eventually joins a conference.  Money won't really be an issue, although the other conferences (including the Big Ten) are beginning to eclipse ND in terms of televison and bowl revenue, as long as NBC is willing to bankroll them to a degree (although playing lackluster games against good to middling opponents and not being part of the national discussion by mid-October doesn't help the ratings).

What will move Notre Dame to a conference will be something systemic in the organization of college football, i.e., super conferences and the structure of the post-season.  If four or five 16- to 20-team conferences are set up in college football, then it'll be very diffcult for Notre Dame to operate as an independent in that environment.  They'll be squeezed out of the better bowl games (in their last three bowl games--Champs, Sun and Hawaii--they took the place of a team from another conference that didn't have enough bowl eligible programs) and they'll have to compete against teams that have more complete resumes due to conference championship games for getting into the national championship (assuming, of course, that there's some sort of special "ND Rule" for the post season).

One other thing to keep in mind about money for these conferences is that the television revenue deals are long-term with fixed amounts of payments during that period.  If, for example, Virginia was to play Notre Dame on its schedule, UVa would still get the same amount of money from the ACC contract that it would have if William & Mary was in ND's place instead.  Virginia might make some more revenue on charging a premium for the ticket if ND went down to Charlottesville to play the Cavaliers and the stadium attendance would probably be higher than most of their non-conference games.  But people who automatically think playing Notre Dame in your home stadium is an automatic windfall might be mistaken.  Like Michigan, I'm sure ND plays its opponents top dollar to play in its stadium, but that means Notre Dame is part of the norm, and not the exception.

 

 

 

 

superstringer

January 25th, 2012 at 10:10 AM ^

I am going on the record as predicting ND to the ACC.  Here's why I see it:

1.  ND is a better cultural fit there.  A relatively modest-sized liberal arts / religious school, which is historically (and in terms of competitiveness of kids getting in) more similar to BC, Miami (YTM), Wake, Duke, etc. than to OSU, MSU, etc.  Natural (existing) rivalry with BC, for obv. reasons.  Renews rivalry with Miami (YTM) and Pitt in football.  It actually makes a ton of sense for ND.  (Whether it makes cents is beyond my ken.)

2.  Better chance for its football to actually, you know, win.

3.  And here's the tea leaves.  UConn has been begging to get into the ACC, not unlike Mizzou was into the B1G.  Why the stiff-arm from the ACC?  I know where were rumors that BC wasn't going to allow it.  But I think that's only half of it.  I think the ACC wants ND, and would add ND and Rutgers (thus getting NY market, and, avoiding PO'ing BC) -- hence doesn't want to bring in UConn.

So this is just a matter of time, I think, until ND goes the ACC route.

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

January 25th, 2012 at 10:51 AM ^

BC not wanting UConn is part of it.  The other part, I think, is that UConn brings nothing but hoops to the table, and they have very deep-seated academic problems in their hoops program to the point where their eligibility to compete in the tournament is in serious jeopardy.  Until they fix their APR, which will take years thanks to years of neglect of their graduation rate, I think they'll continue getting the Heisman from the ACC.

The other thing is that Cuse and Pitt were always much more attractive than UConn or Rutgers, and 15 teams is weird, and I don't think the ACC wants to go to 16 teams without Notre Dame or else they'd have done so by now.

WolverineHistorian

January 25th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

The contract Notre Dame has with NBC still baffles me. 

3 wins and 31 losses against top 10 teams since 1994.  Think about that stat.  They have done NOTHING to deserve still having that contract yet there isn't even a thought of dropping it.  I guess that speaks to how powerful their name still is despite the last 2 decades. 

I still can't imgaine those guys ever joining a conference.  Regardless, I am done wanting them in the Big Ten anyway.  They had their chance, then they had their chance, then they had their chance a couple more times.  Screw them. 

cutter

January 25th, 2012 at 11:44 AM ^

NBC Sports extended its contract with Notre Dame to 2015 back in June 2008.  Although the actual terms of the contract weren't announced (the previous contract paid $9M per year), it's been rumored that NBC pays ND upwards of $12M to $15M per year.

When you read the link from 2008 (see http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3452161), then NBC Sports head Dick Ebersol said that "if the vast majority of the years has Notre Dame competitive in that top 10 or for that top 10 through the majority of the season, then we'll be very happy."  Well, starting with the 2008 season, here's Notre Dame's record and final ranking:

2008: 7-6

2009: 6-6

2010: 8-5

2011: 8-5

Total:  29-22

Except for the very beginning of the 2011 season, I don't think there's been any discussion about ND being in the Top 10 of college football since that contract extension was signed.  I guess they have four more seasons to go in order to get there and to make NBC happy--or maybe not.  The last contract extension was signed two year prior to the end of the last contract.  If all the parties involved stay on the same schedule, the next contract extension gets signed in the summer of 2013.

That said, the ratings for Notre Dame games have been nothing to write home about either.  The article talks about the seasons prior to 2008, but the pattern remains the same.  Once ND loses its second game of the season, the ratings really begin to tank--that's been the pattern in recent years.  It gets compounded by the latter part of the season not having a lot of very compelling opponents outside of USC.  Look at last season--once the Michigan and Michigan State games were over, ND's schedule was at Pittsburgh, at Purdue, Air Force, USC, Navy, at Wake Forest, Maryland (in Washington, DC), Boston College, and at Stanford.  The USC and Stanford games were the only compelling ones out of the nine on the list and both of them ended up as 14 point losses.  The rest of that lineup was very pedestrian.

Here's a link to Notre Dame's future schedules:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish_football_future_schedule

When you look at 2012 and 2013, it looks markedly better because of the home-and-home with Oklahoma.  2014 thru 2016 also looks somewhat better because Texas and Miami-FL are there.  But those teams are also accompanied by the usual suspects (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Air Force) plus Temple and Rice.  Note that UConn may go away and another program will be put in place.  It's not bad, but the problem is still in the latter months.  Outside of USC, there's no real name progams in the latter part of the season that has had much recent success.  Miami has name recognition, but has been underwhelming--the same can be said of BYU.

I'm like you--I don't think Notre Dame is going to join a conference until their hands are forced and they feel they have to because of the way the post-season or the conferences themselves are structured.  Their future schedules are okay, and if programs like Miami and BYU turn themselves around and Stanford maintains its current level of success, they could actually be pretty interesting.  But if Notre Dame isn't competitive, it's not going to matter who they play because the fans don't watch when they lose.