Let’s talk Independence. You don’t have to look far on message boards or in sports articles to see advice to Notre Dame to “join a conference”—usually without clear reasons and occasionally with disparaging comments about Irish football.
Notre Dame football has yet to sacrifice its independence or many of its longtime rivalries—something many Americans still respect. This independence has greater risk and more challenges in assuming duties conferences handle, but also has greater rewards and more freedom.
The achievement is a national university football program whose every game is televised, rivalries from coast to coast, and a national fan base.
The financial benefits of membership in a large conference, however, include a chance at a BCS bowl, a collection of secondary bowls for three-quarters of its teams, an eight-game conference schedule, share in a lucrative conference championship, and a division of all the bowl monies, plus a television package through the conference.
Major conferences generate a degree of market control, some pricing power, and a collective identity. Fans debate which conferences have the better teams, the best defenses, or the harder schedules.
Conferences encompass some great traditional geographic rivalries—Ohio State-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma, Alabama-Auburn, USC-UCLA—and the tension that goes with finding out who will be the conference champion.