Saturday, July 21, 2007

Where the Wind Comes Sweepin' Down the Plain | by Jay

Kevin White, amidst denying the possibility of ever playing the Crimson Tide, confirmed a long-rumored Oklahoma game (and dropped a couple other scheduling bombs) while at a meeting yesterday in Alabama. Relevant text for your perusal:

Tradition-rich schools have little wiggle room in schedules to work in meetings, White says

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban said last week that he would like to see Notre Dame on the Crimson Tide's schedule. But Fighting Irish Athletics Director Kevin White said that's not likely in the near future.

White, in Daphne Friday to speak at the United States Sports Academy graduation ceremony, said the chances of Alabama and Notre Dame playing a home-and-home series are not good.

"College football scheduling is complicated, as everyone knows," said White, who is now in his eighth year with the Fighting Irish. "We're (scheduled) for about 10 or 12 years as most institutions are.

"There just isn't much wiggle room. If you look at the long-standing relationships we've had, we've got USC, now Stanford and Navy. We're going to play at least three Big 10 schools which are Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue with Penn State on for just two years.

"And then we signed an agreement with the Big East that we will go home-and-home with three Big East teams, so there isn't a lot of room left."

White said the Fighting Irish will take a short break from their Big 10 rivals in the future, replacing Michigan with Oklahoma for a two-year period, then facing Arizona State instead of Michigan State for two years.

Notre Dame will play Washington State in San Antonio in 2009 and will play in Orlando, Fla., in 2011 and 2014 against yet-to-be-named opponents.

"We decided four years ago we were going to play seven games at Notre Dame field, four road games and one game at a neutral site," said White. "What motivated us to do that was to become thoughtful about how we could become the best independent we could be.

"We wanted to start thinking about not trying to behave like a member of a conference. (We wanted to) really try to behave like a true independent and try to go back to the Knute Rockne days where the expression 'barnstorming' was used.

"We could have certainly played eight games at South Bend, but we believe playing at an off site will provide great opportunities for fans to see our team play when they may be otherwise challenged to travel or obtain tickets for games in South Bend."

So, for the time being, another Alabama-Notre Dame matchup doesn't look promising.

"We love Alabama," said White. "We've got a relationship with Alabama that goes way back. There's great affection for what they do and how they do it. They've got a storied program, there's no question about that, but we can't play everybody."
Bombs, in order of kiloton yield:

No room for Bama. We knew this already, but it still sucks.

Reaction: It sucks. There's no reason a truly independent Notre Dame shouldn't be able to work Alabama into the schedule.

Swapping Michigan for Oklahoma for two years. Mike-nd's future schedules site (as reliable as any projection, I suppose) has the Sooners pencilled in for '13 and '15. I don't know how that squares with a "two-year break" -- would we still play Michigan in between? The Detroit Free Press also picked up on this item, intimating that taking a break might be the remedy for Michigan's desire to alternate home dates between OSU and ND. (There's also a snarky note about KW possibly "stealing" the neutral-site idea from Michigan AD Bill Martin. Ah, yes...Michigan. The source of all football knowledge and wisdom.)

Reaction: Excellent! Although I don't see why we couldn't play both Michigan and Oklahoma in the same year; we add a big name team, but then we subtract one? The "No Heavyweights" mandate would seem to be in full effect. Still, great to see a home and home with Oklahoma confirmed.

Swapping Michigan State for Arizona State. This is more of a surprise. The ASU game possibility had been floating around for a while, but I don't think anyone knew it would come at the expense of dropping the Spartans. We had a break in the MSU series in the mid-90s, so it's not unprecedented. Mike-nd has us playing ASU in '13 and '14 (and even has dates: 10/5 in '13 and 10/25 in '14). My guess is we'll play at Tempe in '13, since Southern Cal is a home game that year, and we'd be looking for another west coast swing.

Reaction: Nice. I went to the game at ASU in '98 and had a blast; the Sun Devils are a decent enough Pac 10 opponent and the destination is great. Dropping the Spartans is a surprise, and there's a possibility that we'll play neither Michigan nor Michigan State in the same year. Has that ever happened before? (Ed. note-- Mike says yes, in '95 and '96). As with the OU-UM swap, however, I'm disappointed we didn't just add ASU and keep MSU as well. We'll have to see how the rest of the schedule shapes up, but the add-one-drop-one mentality seems to be a symptom of the 8-4 model, and demonstrates how adding compelling home-and-homes (without dropping others) is unworkable under the scheme.

Stanford is, to Kevin White's mind, a "long-standing relationship", on par with Southern Cal and Navy. Say what? Does this mean we're stuck with Stanford for time immemorial?

Reaction: Holy hell. Say it ain't so. I don't mind playing the Trees every once in a while, but to say they're part of the Irish heritage as much as Southern Cal and Navy really doesn't make any sense. There are important historical reasons why we have those two teams carved in stone for all future schedules; placing Stanford in a triumvirate with them betrays a real lack of understanding. If this is really how KW thinks of Stanford, be on the lookout for an upcoming announcement of a continuation of the series (mike-nd's future schedule only has Stanford until 2010).

• "We could have certainly played eight games at South Bend..." There it is, in black and White.

Reaction: Don't anybody call it a's 8 home games, with one that happens to be offsite. We will still control the gate and the television rights, which should preclude us hosting any big names, or "heavyweights", at those venues. Hence, Baylor in Dallas, Navy in Dublin, TBD in Orlando, and Wazzu in San Antonio.

So much for Rockne-style "barnstorming". Kevin White has uttered the phrase many a time over the past couple of years, but he still doesn't understand the concept. Furthermore, with every invocation, he's bastardizing the spirit of what the Ramblers were all about. When the original Ramblers went on the road, they set out to play the best programs of the day: Texas, Yale, Princeton, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Southern Cal, and most famously, Army. Those road trips against the marquee teams put Notre Dame on the map, and wove the Irish into the tapestry of college football forever. Kevin White's "barnstorming" label is a mockery of that tradition. Talk about neutral sites all you want, but please, leave Rock's name out of this.