With talk of a potential division one split once again heating up and becoming a more realistic possibility, the domino effect that would play out in college football could put the past few years of realignment to shame. If the big power conferences went off to play under their own set of rules, programs not wanting to be left behind would scramble to make sales pitches looking to entry in to any of the conferences willing to add one more member or two, or more.
So, where would Notre Dame fit in to that mix?
You can bet your next paycheck there would be little standing in the way of Notre Dame finding a way to be a part of the new structure and super division in college football. The Irish have long been owners of a seat at the big boy table regardless of conference non-affiliation. Notre Dame has figured out a way to get special access to the BCS bowls without conference affiliation, if they manage to meet a certain set of requirements available only to them, and Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick remains one of the power names in collegiate athletics. More importantly, Notre Dame brings money with them wherever they go.
Notre Dame’s place in college sports took on a different look recently by abandoning the Big East and hooking up with the ACC for a unique membership that allows for football independence while providing conference affiliation for just about every other sport. Part of the agreement between the ACC and Notre Dame arranges for a handful of guaranteed games between the Irish and ACC opponents on a rotating basis, as well as ways for Notre Dame to get in on the ACC’s bowl tie-ins. The ACC would surely be a part of the upper tier in any division split, along with the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, so the question would be what that would mean for Notre Dame’s status.
Could this division one split be the final hurdle standing in the way of Notre Dame and full-conference membership? It is far too early to tell, but that could become a realistic possibility depending on how the new structure is set up moving forward. This is all hypothetical at this point, of course, but if the power conferences split and formed their own division, it may be realistic to expect they work out a way to form their own postseason and split potential revenue between the conferences. Would they want to be splitting a share with Notre Dame, or would the ACC want to be sharing their share with the Irish? Put yourself in the shoes of the conferences. Would you want to do it?
Regardless of what would happen with Notre Dame, there would be plenty of schools looking to make a push for an invite to a power conference. For starters, would the American be included in any power shift? After losing Louisville (ACC in 2014) and Rutgers (Big Ten in 2014), the conference may lack the appeal to be in the same room as the top conferences. That could lead to AAC programs like Cincinnati or UCF trying to work their way in to another conference willing to take them on board. Perhaps even Houston. Remember, television markets are key ingredients in any realignment move. The power conferences likely have all of them accounted for at this point, but adding a little extra is rarely frowned upon.
Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.
Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.
But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.
“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”
The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.
The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.
According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.
Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”
Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.
If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.
Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.
Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.
“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”
Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).
Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.
Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.
“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.
“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”
Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.
“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”
Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.
Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.
From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:
Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much. Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.
Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.
For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.
And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.