College Football Playoff Policy may force Notre Dame to eventually rethink their independent status


Notre Dame’s days of being an independent are coming to end. It may not be next year or 5 years from now, maybe not even in 10 years, but it’s going to happen. I said this nearly a 2 years ago. There is one way Notre Dame will be forced to rethink their independent status. It wasn’t money, it wasn’t geography, and it wasn’t historical rivalries. It was if the College Football Playoff makes conference champion a component of the playoff criteria.

Quietly the College Football Playoff policy was released today, and here’s the key component that could affect Notre Dame from ESPN.

Among the factors that will be used to determine the four best teams are conference championships, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes of common opponents and other relevant factors such as key injuries.

From CollegeFootballPlayoff.com here’s the full protocol. 

When circumstances at the margins indicate that teams are comparable, then the following criteria must be considered:

  • Championships won
  • Strength of schedule
  • Head-to-head competition (if it occurred)
  • Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)

We believe that a committee of experts properly instructed (based on beliefs that the regular season is unique and must be preserved; and that championships won on the field and strength of schedule are important values that must be incorporated into the selection process) has very strong support throughout the college football community.

Hmm… Notre Dame is a team without a conference, and that’s a program without a championship to play in. Yes Notre Dame will always have a good schedule, but I’m sure it’s still an elite one. Last season the Irish played 1 team (Stanford) that was ranked in the top 10 when they played. The year before when Notre Dame when to the national title game, the Irish played just 2 teams ranked in the top 15.

With at least some emphasis being placed on conference championships now, the outcome will work against Notre Dame either way.

If an 11-1 Notre Dame gets into the playoff over an 11-1 Power 5 conference champion, there’s going to plenty of Irish backlash from one or more of the Power 5. Already conference coaches are back and forth about how other conference are deciding their champions.

If an 11-1 Power 5 conference champion gets in over an 11-1 Notre Dame team, you know Irish fans will question if the independence is still worth. For the first time Notre Dame’s name and schedule may not be enough to carry it through.

Jack Swarbrick said this recently… 

“It has nothing to do with football. We’d have a lot easier route to the national championship through a conference and  becoming a conference champion, but that just doesn’t do for the university what we’re committed to do for it. So right now, that’s the balance we strike and it works well for us.”

Swarbrick knows Notre Dame is at a disadvantage. They’ll fight to stay to independent, but it’s only a matter of time. The ACC will be waiting.

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