Notre Dame Gives Thumbs Down to Big Ten

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Notre Dame will stand alone in football, as it has for more than a century.

The university rejected an invitation to join the Big Ten on Friday, intent on preserving its unique national identity and fearing the move would hurt football recruiting.

University trustees followed the recommendation of President Edward Malloy and nine senior university officials and voted unanimously against the Big Ten’s overture.


The storied football program, independent for 111 years, features a coast-to-coast schedule and impassioned alumni across the country.

“Notre Dame has a distinct identity that is the product of more than a century and a half of institutional independence,” Malloy said.

Football Coach Bob Davie said the decision was bigger than football.

“It involved a reinforcement of the heritage and culture of the institution--not only looking back into the past, but also projecting where Notre Dame expects to be in the future,” he said.

Malloy presented the Big Ten proposal in October to the 55-member board and said the issue had drawn the most interest of any during his term as president. The school’s alumni association reported 99.5% of its members opposed changing Notre Dame’s “brand name.”

Although the move was opposed by students, alumni and the athletic department, it had some support in academic circles.

The Big Ten affiliation would have made the South Bend, Ind., school a member of the Committee on Intercollegiate Cooperation, a consortium of all 11 Big Ten schools and one-time conference member the University of Chicago.

In October, the school’s Faculty Senate voted 25-4 in favor of joining the CIC, but made no mention of the Big Ten.

“It wasn’t a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination,” said Rev. William Beauchamp, the school’s executive vice president.

By joining the Big Ten, Athletic Director Mike Wadsworth said the Irish would have received between $1 million and $4 million less in income in 2007--the first year they would have played a full Big Ten schedule.

But Wadsworth said that loss would have been “inconsequential” in a budget projected to be $500 million in 2007.

Wadsworth said the move would have hurt football recruiting.

“We talk so much internally about recruiting and the nature of our admissions requirements and being a smaller school,” Wadsworth added. “One of the things we always had as an advantage is the selling of the national program, that and television exposure.”

The Big Ten is expected to woo other schools--with Syracuse or Missouri reportedly the likely candidates--to give the conference 12 members.