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Bad Idea Time: Move Notre Dame to the SEC

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Let’s walk through many reasons this is a bad — and therefore good — idea.

USA Today. Banner Society illustration.

Should Notre Dame join a conference? Should Notre Dame have to join a conference? These are arguments that will never leave us. These days, the debate leads to whether the Irish should join the ACC, and in the past, it usually focused on the Big Ten.

However, we have a more extreme proposal.

Unlike previous bad ideas about making every punt cost the kicking team one point, playing Northwestern-Rutgers more frequently, having strength coaches fight, moving all of bowl season to Week 0, or making an undefeated record the only requirement for Playoff eligibility, this plan to make Notre Dame a member of the SEC is not even remotely a good idea. We’re laying it out simply to see how many problems it might cause.

By continuing, you acknowledge we all agree this is a terrible idea. We good? OK.

Here are all the areas of contention created by moving Notre Dame to the SEC.

Enraging the ACC and Big Ten

Notre Dame’s an ACC member in everything but football (and men’s hockey), with an agreement to play five ACC games every year through 2037. And if the Irish ever give up football independence, they are contractually obligated to join the ACC.

Of course, this is the same sport in which:

  • TCU announced it was joining the Big East and then bailed for the Big 12 before the move,
  • Manny Diaz took the Miami job 18 days after taking the Temple job,
  • and non-conference games get announced 13 years in advance and then canceled.

So let’s not assume Notre Dame has to do what some contract says. That’s what money is for, silly.

Now, yes, the ACC’s going to be annoyed once we make this move. So will the Big Ten, considering they offered the Irish a spot not that long ago and got turned down. The ACC has the most meaningful relationship with Notre Dame, and the Big Ten is arguably the best cultural fit.

Frankly, the ability to infuriate all these neighbors at once is the only aspect that makes you think the SEC has actually considered it.

Weather arguments

“I bet they couldn’t handle playing a tough team up North in November!” is the Midwest’s favorite way to suggest SEC teams are overrated. But that hypothesis doesn’t get tested, mostly because the SEC is too cowardly to demand a Pinstripe Bowl bid.

With Notre Dame in the SEC, this beloved argument risks dilution. What if South Carolina goes to South Bend and wins in a snowstorm? Wisconsin and Minnesota fans will then get granular, arguing 14 degrees isn’t actually cold. They’ve worn shorts in worse.

Academics arguments

This is the other traditional Midwestern case against the SEC.

The question of how Notre Dame’s standards impact its ability to recruit has been kicking around for decades now. The soapbox works when you’re mostly associating with well-regarded institutions like Stanford, Michigan, Duke, USC, Purdue, and the service academies.

It gets awkward once you’re sharing paychecks and a Hoover, Alabama ballroom with the schools you insist don’t have any meaningful standards.

So would Notre Dame lower its standards in order to compete in the SEC?

Would the SEC raise academic requirem— sorry.

Would Fighting Irish fans just compromise, adopting the SEC protocol of declaring Auburn the dumb school? I mean, everyone else is doing important research!

New rivalries

As an independent, Notre Dame has the latitude to keep three annual rivalries (USC, Stanford, and Navy) and several they-happen-a-lot rivalries (Michigan, Army, Boston College, Purdue, and so on).

Not all can be maintained once we put Notre Dame in the SEC, so some hard choic— wow, you’re just done with Michigan State forever? Happily? I mean, sure, if you say so. Be prepared to see them in the Outback Bowl, though.

Notre Dame will be getting some new rivals. For example:

  • Vanderbilt’s an easy match. We’ll call that the Quiz Bowl. The traveling trophy is a bronzed grad school acceptance letter from Cornell.
  • LSU works, and let’s often play it in New Orleans. It’ll have some terrible official name like “The Golden Evening” but be known as “Dome and Domer.”
  • Georgia’s always happy to add another rival, so they can disrespect all of their other rivals by saying they’re only the Dawgs’ fifth-most-hated enemy. Plus, the Jeweled Shillelagh looks like an old five wood.
  • We’ll have to come up with something for Notre Dame vs. Kentucky, because those two programs have never heard of each other.

Remixed history

It’s one thing when the Big Ten Network runs a retrospective of 2002 Maryland basketball. This is going to be something much, much funnier and stupider.

  • Joe Montana? One of the greatest SEC quarterbacks of all time.
  • The 2012 BCS Championship? A battle between two warriors waving the SEC’s banner.
  • Lou Holtz? SEC journeyman.
  • Charlie Weis? SEC journeyman.
  • Brian VanGorder? Extreme SEC journeyman.
  • Manti Te’o? SEC legend who gets a season of The Bachelor.
  • The Sistine Chapel? Ole Miss fans are now allowed to bring booze in.
  • Rudy? That’s about an SEC player taking down a cowardly former SEC team. (Years later, he’s charged by the other SEC, proving Rudy is the most SEC student-athlete of all time.)

Infinitely worse Playoff arguments

In October 2014, the debut College Football Playoff committee rankings included three SEC teams in the top four. Since then, non-SEC fans annually dread the idea of the league getting two bids.

Now let’s add Notre Dame to the mix, and suddenly SEC media types are stumping for three conference spots. I mean, if a 12-win Notre Dame got in as an independent, why wouldn’t 11-win Notre Dame make it, having mostly survived the rigors of the SEC?

Notre Dame also benefits from the fluid branding of SEC supremacy. If Notre Dame uses a ground-and-pound offense, that’s SEC tough. If Notre Dame’s spreading the ball around, that’s SEC speed. Both are better than other forms of toughness and speed, because the SEC says so. If independence wisdom says Notre Dame plays too many close games, then SEC wisdom says Notre Dame just knows how to win.

Complicated broadcasting relationships

Does Disney, which owns the SEC Network, buy Notre Dame partner NBC from Comcast? Does CBS use bro country as its intro music for Missouri-Notre Dame? How long does it take Paul Finebaum to start arguing Brian Kelly could beat up Jim Harbaugh? Who has broadcast rights for the Shamrock Series game when the Irish welcome Mississippi State to Fenway Park?

Cultural exchanges

Notre Dame is the kind of place where there’s legitimate debate over whether to put the logo at midfield. Meanwhile, the SEC’s debate involves how state firearm legislation might get in the way of selling beer at the stadium.

That probably sums things up.

Next, you have to find Notre Dame’s better fit in one of the existing divisions.

  • Maybe you go with the SEC East, since they have Vanderbilt (Secular Nashville Notre Dame). Athens, like the Fighting Irish, has a naming tie to Europe and people who want to talk about the ‘80s. But now you’ve got to explain Sir Big Spur not being a Passion play thing and how the only khakis Florida fans own are from the summer they worked at Best Buy.
  • Or you could put the Irish in what’s usually the superior football division, out of respect for Notre Dame’s historical strength. Now Arkansas fans are setting up deer stands in South Bend, the LSU band is playing “Neck” in a quiet Notre Dame Stadium, and you’re sending Catholics to attend the First Church of Dog-God in College Station.

Lmao Notre Dame’s schedule

While the Irish play a perfectly alright and in fact sometimes excellent schedule each year, let’s try putting them in the SEC West, giving them a couple tough SEC East opponents, and hanging on to their most important rivalries, just to show what they’d be getting themselves into.

Let’s pick a totally random year. How about 2011? Notre Dame would’ve played:

  • #1 Alabama
  • #2 LSU
  • #5 Arkansas
  • #6 USC
  • #7 Stanford
  • #9 South Carolina
  • #11 Michigan State
  • #19 Georgia
  • Chick-fil-A Bowl champ Auburn
  • Music City Bowl champ Mississippi State
  • The ever-obnoxious Navy
  • An Ole Miss that was bad, but was at least cheating

Ok, maybe SEC Notre Dame should make the Playoff at 9-3.

Oh right, other sports exist

Adding Notre Dame’s women’s basketball national titles would break the SEC’s tie with the Big East for the most women’s tourney championships. And if we’re talking about the SEC, then women’s basketball is the only kind of basketball we ever need to discuss.

Otherwise, Notre Dame will probably need to drop lacrosse and instead take up equestrian, which should become a strength for wealthy private-schoolers near farm land. The Irish hockey program can also start a rivalry with Alabama-Huntsville’s.

Universally increased insufferability, somehow

Let us assume two different possibilities.

  1. Notre Dame wins an SEC title in its first few years. They then simultaneously insist this wasn’t that hard and demand you respect their incredible accomplishment. They point out they’ve pulled off what realigned programs like Nebraska, Colorado, Louisville, and Missouri have not. When the Irish lose to Clemson by 20 in a Playoff game, Notre Dame fans just blame the loss on their grueling SEC schedule. (SEC fans ignore all this and just gloat about having all four Playoff spots, hoping you’ll accept their view that Clemson is also in the SEC.)
  2. Or they won’t win the conference for a long time, in which case SEC fans discover it’s possible to become even louder. You added Utah or Pitt or Rutgers? WE ADDED NOTRE DAME IT JUST MEANS MORE DANGIT. MOST OF US PLAY ‘EM EVERY YEAR BECAUSE THE SEC SCHEDULE IS THE REAL PLAYOFF IF YOU ASK ME. (Also, Notre Dame now gets to lose Fiesta Bowls despite having 7-5 records.)

Shit, SEC fans puffed up the conference when Ole Miss was good for a month. They can annoy you about Notre Dame in their sleep.