It was exactly 15 months ago today that I first wrote about the football series between UConn and Notre Dame. The title of the article was “How Far Should UConn Go to Play in the House that Rockne Built?” And that very same issue persists today – with no games to be played in Connecticut, is UConn giving up too much to play the Fighting Irish?
In the aftermath of April’s NFL Draft, in which 4 UConn players were chosen in the first 2 rounds, there is some sentiment that UConn football has arrived. UConn doesn’t need Notre Dame for recruiting, exposure or anything else. If Rutgers tells Notre Dame that it won’t play “home games” in the Meadowlands, so should UConn. Notre Dame football is simply trading on its mystique, not performance, so why would UConn bend over backwards to accommodate the Fighting Irish?
This sentiment is simply mistaken. Although I’d love to see Notre Dame play at the Rent, the series makes perfect sense for UConn. Although the perception may be that UConn is weak for accommodating Notre Dame’s demands, the perception is irrelevant. What’s important is the reality. The reality is that UConn will receive unmatched exposure and benefits from the series. Here are 2 reasons that UConn needs to sign the Notre Dame deal:
Unbeatable Mystique, Beatable Football Team
It has been suggested that UConn would be better off playing Top 25 teams than a fading Notre Dame team. I disagree. UConn gains little by playing Top 25 teams and getting trounced. But Notre Dame carries the mystique of a Top 25 team, an unmatched TV deal with NBC, and best of all – is completely beatable. I’ll take a UConn win on national TV to boost recruiting rather than having USC crush the Huskies.
Also, the reality is that Notre Dame from a football standpoint is on par with, or an upgrade over, UConn’s 2008 non-conference opponents: Hofstra, Temple, Virginia, Baylor and North Carolina. From a recruiting and exposure perspective these teams are no match for Notre Dame.
Playing Under the Golden Dome
Notre Dame’s mystique is bigger than its recent on-field success. But why is that so important? The fact that we’re talking about UConn football right now, proves that the Notre Dame series will advance the UConn football program. In fact, I’ve never heard so much talk about UConn football in an off-season. The first topic of conversation when Huskies’ football comes up is inevitably - are you going to South Bend in November?
Like it or not, Notre Dame is viewed differently by the public and possesses unique leverage in scheduling opponents. When asked to describe the mystique of Notre Dame, Lou Holtz once replied:
If you were there, no explanation is necessary. If you weren’t, no explanation is satisfactory.