Notre Dame, Big Ten Would Be Bad Marriage

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike McGraw

When the time came for Notre Dame to make a decision about the Big Ten, I originally planned to write that the move would be logical. Then again, I was in no position to consider how important Notre Dame's football independence was to someone who attended the school.

However, after visiting the campus last week and listening to arguments by Notre Dame people, my thoughts shifted.

Instead, here is a message for the Big Ten: Do whatever is necessary to keep Notre Dame out of the conference. These two fine institutions can and should exist separately.

The Notre Dame Board of Trustees is meeting in London the next two days and is expected to decide Friday whether to pursue further negotiations with the Big Ten and Committee for Institutional Cooperation, an academic consortium of the Big Ten schools and University of Chicago.

The answer is expected to be a resounding no anyway. So the Big Ten might as well do the trustees a favor and tell them to forget the whole thing. Go visit Big Ben instead.

I spoke to one former Notre Dame football player last week. He said he's against the school joining the Big Ten, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if it did happen.

Well, down in South Bend there are people who believe otherwise. They're afraid joining the Big Ten would result in anti-Catholic biology experiments, force-fed government research, the entire student body hailing from the state of Indiana and quite possibly the further deterioration of dorm food quality. (I made up that last item, but the first three are real).

Last Friday, the school held a public forum on the issue, with eight panelists representing the faculty, athletic department, student body and alumni association.

The student senate president stood up and said living in the dorm with people from all over the country was a cherished benefit of attending Notre Dame. Joining the Big Ten, he said, could spoil Notre Dame's reputation as a national university.

He has a good point. I can envision high school seniors from Maine to California learning of Notre Dame's decision to join the Big Ten and tearing up their applications in disgust. "I might as well just go to the local community college," they'd say while angrily tossing the application in the garbage.

The alumni association president said her constituents feel Notre Dame would lose its Catholic character as a member of the Big Ten.

When pressed for specific examples of how that would happen, she didn't have any. "I can't explain my alumni's actions," she said. "I'd have to take a survey. I don't know the answer to that. …