Notre Dame football: Hey, Coach ND brand helps game

South Bend Tribune

Seems like “The Ol’ Ball Coach” just appointed himself the conscience

of college football.

South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier must have had a boring summer. Way too much time on his hands.

Why not draw up a few plays to figure out a way to beat Alabama, rather than pondering how Notre Dame fits into the game’s big picture?

Instead, the other day, Spurrier had the podium and plenty of opinions — a potentially dangerous combination.

One of his rants was about Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s place among the rest of the conference commissioners in the hierarchy of the BCS. Spurrier said all 14 Southeastern Conference head football coaches thought Notre Dame should join the Atlantic Coast Conference in football and fall in lockstep with everyone else.

In an ESPN interview Thursday, Irish head coach Brian Kelly suggested Spurrier “take a number.” He’s not the only person poised to offer Notre Dame some advice.

C’mon Coach, wake up and smell the Shamrocks. In this day of the almighty dollar, it’s all about the brand.

Nothing, nowhere, no how, comes close to Notre Dame when it comes to branding a product.

Sometimes it feels a little awkward, even creepy, when Swarbrick or others of that echelon talk about Notre Dame in fiscal terms — bypassing the human element. But that’s just the way big-time business ... uh ... (substitute the word “athletics”) is nowadays.

Bottom line: Notre Dame sells.

The ACC got a $52 million bump ($3 million per school) when it renegotiated its television package once Notre Dame’s association was official.

Wherever Notre Dame takes its traveling football show, the circus follows. Last year’s visit to Oklahoma was a madhouse of epic proportions. The party stretched more than a mile radius in all directions of Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Now that was a fiesta.

TV ratings? NBC hasn’t been complaining.

Last year’s run to the BCS Championship Game was a storybook “made for television” opportunity — right up until Eddie Lacy took his first crack at the Irish defensive line. There comes a time when reality TV can get painful to watch.

The fairy tale ended right about the time Lacy stepped on Manti Te’o’s head on his way to a big gain.

Spurrier’s complaint was hardly news. Notre Dame’s preferred seat at the table of power has been cussed and discussed for time measured in decades.

Until Notre Dame loses its place among the big kahunas, independence is guaranteed. The Irish star power will keep that spot reserved.

They have a clear path to the BCS Championship game, as was proven last year. That’s all Notre Dame ever asked. If that governing body limited competition to conference champions, the landscape would change. The impending playoffs shouldn’t limit the opportunity.

Notre Dame’s involvement in the ACC’s non-BCS second-tier bowl lineup has made its autonomy even that much sweeter.

What made this brash statement significant is that it came from a guy — and purportedly a group - — that really should know better. Those SEC coaches who feel wronged and personally offended should understand the fuel for their game.

It’s green — as in money.

The common theme last season was that a Notre Dame team that wins is good for the game in general. People watch to see the Irish keep winning, or to see them knocked off their perch. Whatever the reason, people are watching.

Why did Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson make such a stink when Notre Dame threatened to buy its way off the Sun Devils’ home schedule in 2014? The Irish needed to make room for one of their five ACC commitments. Patterson could have taken a nice, hefty buyout and found himself an easy victory somewhere. But he knew what Notre Dame in Tempe would mean to his program.

There’s no flat-sum settlement amount that will replace the bells and whistles of a Notre Dame appearance.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Irish brand is good for the game.

Time to let it go, Coach.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier took a jab at Notre Dame  during the SEC football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday, July 16, 2013.