Notre Dame, Ind (UHND) — A Monday article in the USA Today reported that Notre Dame will be looking to play a game a year at a neutral site at rotating venues around the country. The games would be like “Mini Bowl Games” according to Kevin White and is one heck of an idea from the Notre Dame athletic department.
The dismissal of Tyrone Willingham after 2 horrible seasons in a row was the first sign that the administration is serious about restoring Notre Dame football back to its previous glory and the “Mini Bowls” idea is another sign pointing to this.
Before I get into some of the benefits, I know some people might be thinking that the schedule is hard enough as is and there is no need to add any difficulty to it. Forget about any increased difficulty to the schedule, as Charlie Weis says the schedule is what it is and they will play it regardless.
From a recruiting standpoint, this is a dynamite move. While Notre Dame does not have a “conference” schedule, they are generally in the same locations every season. They play in the Midwest ( Purdue , Michigan , Michigan State ), Northeast ( Boston College , Navy), and Southern California (USC, Stanford) almost every year.
How often do the Irish make appearances in the Southeast? Or Texas ? Or the Northwest? Notre Dame did play Tennessee in 2004, has made some trips to Texas A&M and Nebraska in recent years, and will make a trip to Washington in 2005, but the Irish still have a lot of set regions they play in.
In recent years Notre Dame has also struggled with recruiting regions like Texas and the Southeast. Texas and Florida are two states that are rich with talent that Notre Dame has not performed well in recently.
Some of the locations mentioned in the article include the Cotton Bowl in Dallas , the Meadowlands in Jersey, Solider Field in Chicago as well as Jacksonville , Florida and New Orleans . All of these sites are in key recruiting regions. Fans have wanted Notre Dame to own Chicago-area recruiting once again for some time. With Charlie Weis’ ties to New Jersey , it is obvious that Jersey will be a key recruiting region for the Irish as well. Furthermore, games in Dallas , Jacksonville , and New Orleans would also put the Notre Dame football team in key recruiting hotbeds.
These games will also give fans around the country more chances to see the Irish. Notre Dame, more than any college, has a national following which makes it hard for people to see their Fighting Irish, that is assuming they can get a hold of tickets.
While these games are to be at neutral sites, Notre Dame is hoping for nothing but neutral sites. Notre Dame fans travel better than any other school and these neutral sites will feature a lot of blue and gold (and green). When the Irish play Navy now at “neutral” sites, the crowd is anything but neutral and that is what Notre Dame is hoping for here.
What gets me most excited about this idea however is that it shows a new attitude from the administration. It shows that the admin believes the Irish will be back because they would not parade sub-par football teams around the country to get embarrassed as the Irish have done over the past few seasons. This is a move that shows an athletic department that wants to show off its football team because it has the confidence that it will show up each week This move shows a confidence in the football team that has been missing.
The bottom line is I love this idea. The potential benefits in recruiting, the increased changes to see the team, and confidence of this move should all be seen as very, very positive. And if for nothing else, we’ll all get to see the Irish 1 more time each year if the idea becomes reality and who can argue with that?