Commentary: Nothing 'fowl' about ND slate

AL LESAR South Bend Tribune
ND Insider

Not too long ago, skeptics/cynics surmised that the Notre Dame football team would have to join a conference to avoid scheduling problems.

Really?

O ye of little faith.

Over the last month, two major programs — Michigan and Arizona State — that wouldn't have any trouble at all filling out their 12 games, reacted like jilted lovers when Notre Dame opted out of future playing opportunities in order to fulfill the terms of its Atlantic Coast Conference commitment (five opponents each season).

Earlier this week, Michigan coach Brady Hoke taunted the Irish by saying at a U-M alumni rah-rah event that Notre Dame was "chickening out" of its series with the Wolverines.

Talk about out of character. Michigan is an ultra-conservative, close-to-the-vest,

buttoned-down program that wouldn't allow anyone from the janitor to the head coach to either confirm or deny that the sun came up this morning on the oft chance an opponent could use that information for a competitive advantage.

Let alone bulletin board material.

Kinko's was probably flooded with administrative assistants from Notre Dame enlarging and copying those choice words to be placed prominently on players' lockers starting Sept. 1, the day after the Irish beat Temple and start preparing for the Wolverines.

This wasn't a Ball State coach firing a shot over the bow of the frigate from Indiana State. This was Michigan taking a ill-conceived shot Notre Dame.

Hoke was caught crying fowl. The cluck of the Irish?

Bad decision.

Still, gotta love the college football Hot Stove League. It's fun to hear football jabs in May. Then there's Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson.

Even though it has been documented that Notre Dame has called and told the Sun Devils the game planned for Tempe in 2014 will be canceled so the Irish can put Florida State on the schedule, Patterson won't take "see ya later" for an answer.

As of this past Tuesday, Patterson was still lobbying on ArizonaSports.com.

"We're continuing to have conversations with (Notre Dame) and I'm hopeful we'll be able to reach an accommodation that works for both schools that winds up having Notre Dame play here," he said.

He didn't say when, though.

Guaranteed national television exposure, a guaranteed sellout, and an instant dose of enthusiasm for a fan base are the primary by-products of bringing the circus that is Notre Dame to town.

For now, three opponents on the Irish schedule are sacred — Southern Cal, Stanford, and Navy. Stanford's even iffy after 2019. That means there are four spots to fill each year. Not a lot of wiggle room, especially when six home games and an off-site home game have to be factored in.

College football is big business. There's a reason the ACC accepted Notre Dame with open arms even with football as a faux-member. Each team playing the Irish once every three years was plenty to sweeten the pot and overlook any concerns.

All the other Irish sports (except hockey) now have a stable home and the Notre Dame football team has viable bowl options when the BCS doesn't come into play. Sounds like the best of both worlds for everyone.

Independence suits the Irish. Last year's run to Miami proved Notre Dame still has a path to the national championship. The field is level. Playing five ACC teams a year and a leaving a couple irked exes in the lurch can be a small price to pay to retain control.

Notre Dame is still the master of its domain.

Nothing "chicken" about that.