The Big Ten is just announced a major change to its schedule for the upcoming season, canceling all non-conference games for teams for the upcoming fall season. If that starts a national trend, it could be bad news for Notre Dame, the biggest independent program in the country.
This decision will affect one game for the Fighting Irish this year. The team was set to face Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in the first leg of a neutral site home-and-home. That appears to be out the window now.
Losing one game isn’t a huge issue for the Fighting Irish. It is something that most programs are should be preparing for. As an independent program, if other conference’s choose to do the same, it could be a major problem. The ACC is reportedly considering a similar move; Notre Dame has a scheduling agreement with the league that may be protected, but that only covers six of games this year: Wake Forest (in Charlotte), at Pitt, vs. Duke, vs. Clemson, Georgia Tech (at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta), vs. Louisville. Commissioner John Swofford said that Notre Dame will “likely be in the mix” in the event that the league goes conference-only. It is unclear if that means an expanded slate for the Irish this fall.
Navy, Arkansas, Western Michigan, Stanford, and USC comprise the rest of the schedule. With the Big Ten taking this big step, it isn’t a huge jump to imagine that the AAC, MAC, Pac-12, and SEC could do the same. If that happens, it could be hard for Notre Dame to have a real season. As you can imagine, many anti-Notre Dame fans are having fun with this possibility.
Notre Dame when everyone plays conference schedules pic.twitter.com/4Ji8wpN5qC
— Ishmael Johnson; Donate grassroot, not nationally (@IshmaelRJohnson) July 9, 2020
Notre Dame trying to find someone to play during conference games: pic.twitter.com/gxrHb5ZZFL
— Kane Fossell (@Devy_Kane) July 9, 2020
It seems unlikely that one season could force Notre Dame into joining a conference full-time. The ACC would probably jump at the opportunity to bring the football program into the fold.
NOTRE DAME FINNA SAY THEY IN THE ACC LIKE MANTI T'EO SAID HE HAD A GIRLFRIEND
— bbs (@BurritoBrosShit) July 9, 2020
Notre Dame to the ACC if every conference goes league game only pic.twitter.com/76QN0NC5M6
— Pregame Empire (@PregameEmpire) July 9, 2020
ACC football teams when Notre Dame tries to sneak in “conference only” scheduling talks pic.twitter.com/fmjaUP59Ku
— SportsChannel8 Weeks of No Sports (at least) (@SportsChannel8) July 9, 2020
Of course, Notre Dame isn’t the only program that could be in trouble. Army, BYU, Liberty, New Mexico State, UMass, and as of this year, UConn are all FBS Independents for football. These schools may need to scramble to make agreements with each other to fill out some semblance of a schedule. Notre Dame is probably in a better position than those schools thanks to the ACC agreement.
Semi-Realistic worst case scenario for BYU Football:
1) All leagues follow Big Ten’s lead and do conference only
2) Notre Dame gets lumped in with ACC
3) Non-Notre Dame independents don’t have the resources to support an independent-only schedule
4) BYU has no 2020 season
— Robby McCombs (@rtmccombs) July 9, 2020
Things are moving very quickly, so don’t be surprised if we hear from other conferences in the next day. Notre Dame