ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Dayne Crist #10 talk during warmups prior to playing the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish -- the self-proclaimed "best looking girl at the high school dance" -- is still the most coveted expansion target out there. The debate continues to rage whether the Irish will end up in a conference, and whether that conference is the Big Ten or the ACC.
In a letter to the editor of the Notre Dame student newspaper The Observer, at least one Notre Dame senior feels that the Irish should end up in the ACC, not the Big Ten.
"It's much more exciting as a Notre Dame fan to envision an ACC schedule. Michigan and Michigan State are iconic, and Wisconsin's enticing, but I would rather get dragged naked over a cactus then get forced to watch low-energy games against mediocre state school programs (see Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, etc.). On the contrary, we could stoke the fire against perennial powers Miami, Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech, while keeping in touch with familiar foes Pitt and BC. FSU? The U? We'd forget Sparty and Purdue real quick and never look back."
The student goes on to tout the conference's academic superiority over the other BCS AQ conferences.
"Let's not forget that behind this whole circus are actual universities where real people go to get authentic degrees. If Notre Dame wants to associate with universities that share a similar commitment to academics, the move needs to be to the ACC. U.S. News rankings show that as it stands, the new ACC has seven top 40 universities. The new Big 10 only has two. Where it matters - in the classroom - that's like Tyson fighting an infant."
So long as Notre Dame remains an independent, I don't believe that the ACC will move to 16 teams, ending any possibility that the Irish could eventually end up in the ACC. It's certainly interesting that the conference didn't move to 16 schools on Sunday, taking a breather to signal to Notre Dame that there's a seat at the table for the Irish.
Y! Sports Dan Wetzel believes that Notre Dame should take a long, hard look at the ACC too, citing geographic and demographic reasons why the ACC may be a more suitable long-term home than the Big Ten.
Then there's the academic argument, one in which at least one ND senior believes the ACC is a better conference academically than the Big Ten. The two conferences are certainly close, but the question remains whether academic standing actually plays a role in all this conference realignment. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at this very question in an article published Wednesday. LSU president John Lombardi thinks the academic argument is simply a rationalization made by conference commissioners and programs:
"Once an athletic conference is expanded by the addition of athletically effective institutions with strong television markets, then the members talk about the relative wonderfulness of their members' academic profiles."
With due respect, I'm not sure Lombardi speaks for the rest of these BCS AQ conferences when you consider the WSJ determined that the SEC ranked fifth academically among BCS AQ conference, behind only the Big 12. Either way, academics clearly will play some role in any realignment that includes Notre Dame. In other words, the Irish aren't going to go running off to the Big 12 or the SEC any time soon, and if the Irish are backed into a corner and forced to choose a conference, the two likely candidates now are the Big Ten or the ACC.
So what do you think? Does Notre Dame actually fit better in the ACC over the Big Ten? Will the Irish ever give up its football independence and join one of these superconferences? Do academics matter in the conference expansion arms race?