Former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn discusses conference realignment

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UCLA and USC shocked the college athletic world Thursday by joining the Big 10. That makes sense on many levels, but it also opens up the possibility of meaningful change in college sports.

It certainly looks like Notre Dame will have to weigh its options as the Irish could hold the keys to reshaping college athletics in the future.

Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn joined CBS headquarters and felt the Fighting Irish were in a good position, as it is a coveted institution both academically and athletically.

“I think you can both argue that they’d be the most wanted free agent if you want — if you want to call them that because they’re independent,” Quinn told CBS. “Or potentially, they could be watching the landscape change before their eyes and they have to decide if they want to stay independent.”

Money is at the center of the discussion, as football generates money for television and there is a nice amount of change available if Notre Dame were to join a conference. Notre Dame currently plays five ACC games in football and has conference ties to the ACC and Big 10 in hockey.

The trick is the rights grant the ACC has with ESPN, which doesn’t end until 2036, so if Clemson or Miami wanted to leave, it’s pretty expensive. Notre Dame also has his contract with NBC, which is ending much earlier, so it doesn’t appear to be a potential issue at this time.

“The ACC had to beg ESPN to take them and basically get the rights granted for this long period of time,” Quinn said. “That’s not the deal for Notre Dame because they have their deal for their home games with NBC Sports and that deal is coming sooner. There’s probably the ability for Notre Dame, if they want to, to opt out. of his deal with NBC Sports potentially early – not sure if that’s a fact, I’m speculating here, or expect it to happen in I Think 2025.

If Notre Dame were to step down, the salary would be much larger and benefit the university more than the current deal with NBC.

“If that’s the case, you’re now looking at other partners, potentially FOX, or whoever else would bid on you,” Quinn explained. “You also have the potential to say why not just join a conference instead of trying to work out that east coast to west coast schedule like we’ve been doing for a long time as an independent. We already have the inventory to make it into the Big 10 and by the way, we’re making over $70 million a year from this TV rights deal, which would eclipse what they’re currently making between their ACC cut and what they get from NBC Sports.

Both the Big 10 and the SEC would like Notre Dame, so that’s a good position to be in ultimately when it comes to options, but the other piece of the puzzle is that Notre Dame needs to figure out if it can compete with win championships if he doesn’t join a superconference.

“I’m sure they’re calling Notre Dame, but I’m sure Notre Dame is sitting there listening to wonder if this is going to turn into two superconferences and if so are we going to be at the outside to watch,” Quinn said. “Maybe it’s time to start thinking about joining a conference. Geographically speaking and given their history with planning, it probably makes more sense to join a conference like the Big 10.

“The ACC, SEC geographically makes sense for these two to work together. Here’s the reality. There’s such a disconnect between what the SEC does and what the Big 10 will do compared to the PAC12, ACC and Big 12. There it is just what it is.

Another interesting aspect is that Oregon and Washington are looking closely at the power of Notre Dame while the Big 10 and the SEC seem to be waiting to see what Jack Swarbrick and company decide.

“Money is really what all these schools and brands are really after,” Quinn said. “The question is, which ones do the SEC and the Big 10 want? If they really wanted Oregon and Washington, they would have asked them first. It wouldn’t just be USC and UCLA, but USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington.

“It really becomes now what the rest of some of these schools in PAC12, ACC when you talk about what Florida State and Miami want to do. I don’t see there’s room for a third super conference. I think it’s going to end up being two super conferences very similar to how we see the NFL with the NFC and the AFC. Then they’ll play a playoff for a Super Bowl and, in this case, a playoff for a national championship in the future.”

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