Sunday, July 22, 2007

One More Time | by Jay

We gonna celebrate...scheduling. As if we didn't have enough chatter about the schedule, Eric Hansen has a related story in the SBT that goes one louder.

The worry is that the 7-4-1 philosophy will dilute strength of schedule, making ND's road to the BCS too straight and flat to be taken seriously by the poll voters and computer microchips.

"I am on the (BCS) committee, so I do think I have a sense of what is required," White said. "I would not be arrogant enough to say, though, I know how good everybody's going to be in the next iteration. You just don't know. Nobody thought Rutgers would be where they are. It's an inexact science."

And a ticklish one too, from a mathematics standpoint in the 7-4-1 configuration. In the old six-home/five-away or six-home/six-away pattern, virtually all the games were home-and-home. With 7-4-1, Notre Dame will have four opponents each year that are home-only series, one of those being the off-site game.

So those opponents aren't likely to be the Floridas, Texases and Tennessees of the college football world, mind you.
I don't think the complaint is primarily about a diluted strength of schedule for the BCS computers, although that will probably be a byproduct. The main issue is simply that our schedules are about to get a whole lot less interesting, with room for only two "big name" teams per year, and a severe restriction on other compelling home-and-homes. We're going to have fewer and fewer opportunities to play the "brand names" of college football.

Take the '07 schedule, which is excellent (we've got home and homes against Georgia Tech, Penn State, Boston College, and UCLA, to go with Southern Cal and Michigan). Now, replace Georgia Tech with Pitt, Penn State and BC with Rutgers and UConn, and drop UCLA entirely in favor of two one-offs with Duke and Army. That's the future.

A little more from White via Hansen:
"I think the most satisfying thing about the 7-4-1 policy is that I think it takes us out of the constant conversation about joining a conference," White told The Tribune Friday via cell phone from Alabama. "We've made a strong statement that we're committed to being an independent, and we're going to behave like the best independent we can be."


There is a lot White could say publicly about the schedule but doesn't, for the simple fact it dilutes his negotiating position. But what he can say is his vision was not created in a vacuum. The scheduling concept has the stamp of approval from the presidential level to the trustees and all the way down the food chain.

He just has to sell it to the fans now.

"This isn't something that was done on a Friday afternoon over martinis," Heisler said. "A lot of people were involved. A lot of time, thought and study went into it. That doesn't make it perfect, because scheduling never is. But it's a process we're proud of, and it's a way to celebrate our independence."
Whenever White cites "greater independence" in selling this plan, I always feel like I've come in halfway through the movie and missed some key plot points. Was something challenging our independence, and I missed it? Was the other, unspoken option on the table joining a conference, and the 8-4 model somehow rescues us from that fate?

If so, what are the factors pushing us towards joining a conference? Are they financial pressures? As Father Niewland speculates over on NDN, it seems White believes that eight home games are necessary to keep ND independent. Does White believe that football independence versus conference membership will be decided by a cash flow analysis? Is that how the "stamp of approval" from Jenkins and the BOT was garnered, by presenting only two options, one of which was joining a conference (like, say, the Big 10)? As the good Father says, and I'm sure most of you agree, football independence for Notre Dame is a non-negotiable item. Certainly there are more ways to peel the onion than a false dichotomoy such as this.