Why the B.C.S. Subsidy to Notre Dame Needs to End

Over at The Blue-Gray Sky (a weblog, I should hasten to add, that I like and respect; as I have noted previously, "I hate Notre Dame conceptually, but I don't dislike any particular person affiliated with Notre Dame individually"), Jay made reference to Matt Hayes (always a bad idea when attempting to make a cogent point) while characterizing Notre Dame's B.C.S. deal as "poorly negotiated." (Try diagramming that opening sentence, by the way.)

Writes Hayes, from the midst of an apparent phonetic match for his cognomen:

As it is now, Notre Dame gets $4.5 million in years it goes to a BCS bowl (compared with $17 million for each BCS conference champion) and $1.3 million when it doesn't.

Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that this arrangement represents an improvement upon the Fighting Irish's old deal because they are guaranteed money even in years in which they don't play in a B.C.S. bowl (although, actually, Notre Dame didn't so much play in B.C.S. games in the last two years, although they quite undeservedly appeared in B.C.S. games) and focus first on the fact that Hayes's parenthetical statement is flatly false.
Maddie Hayes knew more about college football than Matt Hayes.

Using 2002 dollar figures, The Michigan Daily explained the reality succinctly:

Each BCS game team receives about $13 million, which is split among conference members. Notre Dame, as an independent, would have kept all the money.

The payout to a B.C.S. conference champion is divided among the members of the league. Hayes is simply wrong; the top teams from the major conferences do not bring home $17 million . . . rather, they take home a share of that money, which is doled out to the rest of the league, as well.

The $17 million payout for the S.E.C. champion's B.C.S. bowl appearance averages out approximately to $1.4 million per member institution. If, say, Vanderbilt doesn't go to a B.C.S. bowl game (probably a safe assumption), the Commodores still get about $1.4 million for belonging to the same conference as (and, typically, having to face during the regular season) a team that received such a postseason berth.

Bobby Johnson, by the way, has as many bowl wins as Charlie Weis.

If Notre Dame doesn't go to a B.C.S. bowl game, the Fighting Irish get virtually the same amount of money ($1.3 million) for . . . well, say, now, there's an interesting question, isn't it?

Florida State, Miami, and Penn State---all of which remained major football independents in 1990---didn't get paid for bowl games they didn't attend while they were on their own. No matter how bleary-eyed a fellow may happen to get over the Gipper and Rudy, surely no serious person would argue that Notre Dame has been a more relevant program nationally in the last 15 years than those in Coral Gables, Happy Valley, and Tallahassee . . . yet those teams had to join conferences to get payouts for bowl games in which they did not appear.

Deserving programs like Boise State, Texas Christian, and Utah, which enjoy less storied histories than Notre Dame's but which have fielded more consistently accomplished teams in the last decade, are given no margin for error in their quests for major bowl berths, but the Fighting Irish receive a special dispensation on account of their Q-rating, enabling them to get preferential treatment in twice-beaten seasons while undefeated squads from the West are the odd men out in a game of musical chairs. (Actually, that's a bad analogy . . . at least musical chairs doesn't reward the slower contestant!)

Perhaps the Mountain West and the W.A.C. leave something to be desired as conferences . . . but at least the teams that play in them have conferences. Just as Texas election law permitted Lyndon Johnson in 1960 and Lloyd Bentsen in 1988 to run simultaneously for the vice presidency and for the U.S. Senate, the rules regulating bowl selections allow Notre Dame to get special treatment as an independent while granting them the protection of a Big East affiliation.

Typically, other independents don't get quite as much favorable treatment as the Fighting Irish.

Nonsense like this is why I hate Notre Dame enough to make me root for Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets play the Fighting Irish. Indeed, it is why everyone hates the Golden Domers. They are college football royalty in precisely the same sense that the Windsors are British royalty . . . because, generations ago, their forebears did something of consequence and they are living off of the name recognition this gained them without doing anything themselves to deserve their exalted status.

Paying Notre Dame for not attending a B.C.S. bowl game is as ludicrous and unconscionable as paying farmers for not growing crops. When either produces a product that is worthy of being purchased, they deserve to get paid; until then, they need to receive what they have earned. In the case of the Fighting Irish, it's been a while since that amounted to much.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was designed to reform welfare. It is high time a similar initiative was adopted in college football. Notre Dame has been on the dole for too long without pulling its own weight, much less Charlie Weis's.

The current B.C.S. deal wasn't poorly negotiated by the Fighting Irish, who shouldn't be paid more than their superior opponents for bowl berths they received but did not earn and who most certainly shouldn't be paid at all for bowl bids they didn't even get. In this respect, the current B.C.S. deal was poorly negotiated by everyone else in college football except Notre Dame.

Warning: John Houseman reference ahead.

The gravy train needs to end. If Notre Dame wants to make money, the Golden Domers need to get it the old-fashioned way . . . by earning it.

Yes, they have a great tradition. So do Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma, Southern California, and a whole host of other teams, all of which have to operate by the same rules as Vanderbilt, Indiana, Baylor, and Stanford.

Having had Ara Parseghian as a head coach no more entitles Notre Dame to special treatment than having had Ara Parseghian as a head coach entitles Miami (Ohio) to special treatment; having had Lou Holtz as a head coach no more entitles Notre Dame to special treatment than having had Lou Holtz as a head coach entitles South Carolina to special treatment. The Golden Domers can put on all the tacky green jerseys they want, but it won't change the fact that Notre Dame is just another team that's 0-1 against Georgia, no different from Boise State, Brigham Young, Central Florida, East Carolina, Michigan State, Oregon, or Southern Methodist.

Regardless of what the Fighting Irish were doing in the 1930s, they're a college football team like everyone else. They need to get paid like everyone else.

Go 'Dawgs!

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