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#pounditSunday, September 24, 2023

Report: Notre Dame could join conference if 1 key condition is not met

Marcus Freeman looking ahead

Oct 2, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman enters Notre Dame Stadium before the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With conference realignment once again creating upheaval across college football, speculation has grown that Notre Dame could finally be forced to end its independent status and formally join a league. That possibility is on the table if one major condition is not met in television rights negotiations.

Notre Dame is seeking at least $75 million annually in media rights from television partner NBC if it is to remain independent, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. This would be a significant increase in price, as the school’s current deal with the network averages $15 million per year. That deal runs through 2025, though negotiations for an extension are already underway.

Due to the spike in price, NBC is looking into buying “shoulder programming” from a Power Five conference in order to become a bigger player in the college football media market. The Big Ten and Big 12 have both emerged as candidates for NBC.

The figure Notre Dame is throwing out there is hardly arbitrary. Estimates suggest that Big Ten schools could earn between $80 million and $100 million in media rights on the conference’s next television deal. If Notre Dame cannot get a similar figure, they will essentially be left with the choice to abandon independence and join a conference or risk being left in the dust financially.

Reports suggest at least one conference has made clear that it would love to have Notre Dame if they were to end their independent status. Whether that happens or not ultimately seems to depend on how much NBC might be willing to put forward to keep Fighting Irish games on its network.


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