Two things to cover this week:
1. Notre Dame joins the ACC
In a genuine “I bet you didn’t see this one coming” move, Notre Dame announced its intention to join the ACC as soon as it can, which will likely involve engineering an exit faster than the 27 month exit period from the Big East, similar to Pittsburgh, UConn, and West Virginia.
However, something analysts, even Notre Dame alumni, are noticing is the strings attached to Notre Dame getting a better conference for their non-football programs; Notre Dame’s football team, which has “historic independence” is now bound to play five ACC teams every season upon Notre Dame’s entrance; as such, they are independent in name only.
However, this is a great sign for the BCS and the approaching playoff bracket; if Notre Dame football appears to be moving towards a full on conference affiliation, it will mean that Notre Dame will be forced to lose its seat at the BCS table. Even if the Fighting Irish remain semi-independent (which is now a viable option for BYU with the Big 12), the fact that they accepted this is a sign that the conference instability is starting to crack even the most hardened program in college sports.
The irony is that if Notre Dame football had joined the Big East, the Big East, not the ACC or Big 10, would be the big dog; now they may have sealed the Big East’s fate. The Big East, in its utter desperation, has spread to the west coast; it has fought departing programs tooth and nail; it forced out a commissioner; and for what? Nothing. Just like the Southwest Conference of a generation ago, the Big East will be dead in five years.
Finally, I want to do something I never do; say something nice about Notre Dame. I don’t like their arrogance when it comes to football, but I commend them shifting conferences, and not just because the Big East is a sinking ship. The move will do wonders for their other sports, which are almost never mentioned because of how arrogant Notre Dame is about its football, but the athletic department thought that going to a conference with depth. For their other sports, in particular basketball and lacrosse, this could bring them so much more, and maybe, just maybe, get Notre Dame some attention that doesn’t involve firing their football coach.
2. Jim Calhoun Retires
I have two angles here. The first is that he is a legendary coach leaving the game to play the game of life after basketball. The second is that he is a rat leaving a sinking ship.
The fact is that both apply, but unlike Pete Carroll, Jim Calhoun gets the benefit of the doubt (or at least more of it) since he isn’t leaving one job and hopping onto another; he is retiring due to continued health reasons. The other stuff, the suspension, the postseason ban, are all doubtless in the back of his mind, but before you can worry about the problems of the game, you need to be worrying about your own ability to be there.
Yes, he screwed up and caused the programs problems. The fans of UConn don’t need to forgive him because they never blamed him for any of that in the first place. For all the problems, he won them three titles. He built that program from the ground up into a perennial national championship contender.
For 26 years he was an inspiring figure for many young men, a great deal of them becoming stars in the NBA.
Happy trails coach. Enjoy your retirement.