With all the recent chatter of conference realignment popping back up thanks to rumors of the Big 12 expanding from 10 to 12 schools, today's question brings us back to something that has been of great debate during the past several years- if you could select any school to join the Big Ten, who would would it be?
Without any hesitation, I would want to see Notre Dame added. Across the board, they are basically a perfect fit for the Big Ten. They would add tremendous value in both football and basketball, and could become a vital new member of the Big Ten West as the conference aims to increase its competitive balance between divisions. They would obviously add a huge spark to the revenue stream as a national program with great interest from coast-to-coast. Academically, they would be a fantastic fit and add more prestige. Smack dab in the Midwest, they are quite obviously an excellent geographically as well- while I understand the importance of increasing a conference's reach, I hate the fact that it also forces student-athletes to travel far and wide on a regular basis just to add new markets. Their tradition and atmosphere would also be a perfect fit among the conference. Furthermore, Notre Dame with many of the Big Ten members thanks to regular series over the years- Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern just to name a few. Their addition would feel rather seamless considering so many opponents would already be familiar with the Irish.
It would also create many highly-anticipated games throughout the Big Ten schedule- something the conference enjoyed with the addition of Nebraska, only to undue by adding a number of undesirable games with Maryland and Rutgers (I would opt to do yard work over watching a Maryland vs. Purdue or Rutgers vs. Illinois noon game without hesitation). Notre Dame vs. Indiana? I'm watching. Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin? Oh, I'm watching. Notre Dame vs. Ohio State? You better believe I'm watching.
Personally, adding Notre Dame would be my choice for at least one other very obvious reason. I watch the Irish each week for two reasons- their uncanny ability to play to the level of their opponent, which makes for great viewing, and the ability to cheer against them each week. I always had a soft spot for Notre Dame- the tradition, uniforms and ability to watch them week-in-and-out throughout my lifetime made them an easy follow. But that all changed the moment i heard Charlie Weis open his mouth for the first time after being introduced as head coach. His arrogance, blatant disrespect for opponents and persecution complex quickly made Notre Dame my most hated team. Considering that Brian Kelly shares all of the same traits that made Weis so repulsive, my hatred for the program has only grown stronger over the years.
Now, would Notre Dame ever consider joining the Big Ten as a full-time member? While it seems to be a perfect fit, it's doubtful they would give up the benefits they enjoy as a (mostly) independent football program. But who knows- say Notre Dame misses out on the College Football Playoffs for a season or two in lieu of a true conference champion. Maybe, just maybe, Notre Dame will finally decide to join the club.
So what say you, BSD reader? If you had your choice of adding anyone to the Big Ten, who would be your top choice?