Conference changes shake NCAA

Phil Consuegra

Over the past several months, the NCAA has been shaken up by conference moving, typically the latest ones by Miami and Virginia Tech out of the Big East and into the ACC, leaving the Big East powerless during football season. But the Big East struck back, creating quite possibly the best basketball conference this nation has ever seen. By stripping Conference USA of all of its powers, the Big East gained teams such as, Louisville and Marquette, to compliment teams like UConn, Syracuse, Notre Dame and our beloved Villanova. Now the Big East is set to dominate the winter season.But the main chatter around the sports world is about – you guessed it – who else but Notre Dame? In the last few weeks, Notre Dame has publicly mulled over joining a conference, especially the ACC. It looks to me like the ACC has decided to grow to 20 teams by the end of the year.First of all, Notre Dame, like Boston College, has no business joining the ACC. Two northern schools, one of which is not even on the Atlantic Coast – just don’t belong with the likes of southern schools like Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, and N.C. State. Geographically, it just doesn’t work out. If Notre Dame joins any football conference, it should be the Big East, giving it a shot at a BCS berth and strengthening the football season for the conference.But if it wants to continue the tradition of playing top teams like Michigan, USC and Florida State, it needs to remain independent. There’s not enough room in the schedule for them. For tradition’s sake, conference play will be blasphemous to alumni and fans everywhere. It would be a hindrance to the usual schedule. For many years, Notre Dame plays who it wants to play on its terms, and they’re not about to change that.But at the same time, it can benefit from being in a conference. Want to know the real reason Notre Dame is 4-6 right now? I’ll tell you. It’s because it doesn’t play what I like to call “warm-up teams” in the first two weeks of the season. Yes, while teams like Georgia, Florida State and Ohio State are all playing teams like Montana, South Dakota State and UTEP, Notre Dame starts off it season with No. 8 Washington State, No. 3 Michigan and Michigan State. By being in a conference, the team would be in a position to schedule warm-up games every season, increasing the chances of a winning season.If Notre Dame wants a shot at a national championship, it should join a conference. If they want to keep with tradition, they should stay independent and play powerhouses every week.Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a Notre Dame fan. I love to see them do well, but in this case, Notre Dame needs to do what is best for the team. They can wait and see what Tyrone Willingham does in say, three seasons, or just jump right into it. I’d wait, as Ty showed last season that he can play with the big boys. This year, with half his line gone, the offense has been ineffective. Brady Quinn will mature as a great quarterback, and the line will mature and be one of the best in the country. The defense is decent, and they should grow too, even with Vontez Duff leaving.In college football today, so many conferences are strong. The ACC, with the addition of Virginia Tech and Miami, has arisen as a football power. The SEC, with Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee, has always been brutal. The Big Ten is just too good for its own good. Its teams beat each other and bring themselves down in the rankings. The Big 12 constantly has the top teams, like Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. If one was to put Notre Dame in one of these conferences, they could become the whipping boy of the conference.All in all, if I were the athletic director of Notre Dame, I’d keep things the way they are and see how things work out with Ty. Yes, that magical season seems like it was many years ago, but he still could have something up his sleeve.Notre Dame just needs to stop trying to take the headlines by keeping up with the conference moves and just play some ball.