- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Barely a day goes by when I don't get at least one email or comment from saying the Big East should issue an ultimatum to Notre Dame, telling the Irish to join the league in football or get out of the conference all together.
Which is like me telling a supermodel, either marry me or I'll stop hiding in the bushes outside your house. It's a completely ludicrous idea.
Still, we know that the Irish and their special relationship with the league get under the skin of a lot of Big East fans. So this next statement won't be popular, but it's true: Notre Dame has been good for Big East football the past five years.
Think about it. Before the 2005 season, the league faced an uncertain future. Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech had bolted for the ACC. Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati joined, but no one knew how strong the conference would be, or if it could even stick together. Through all this, the Big East had to negotiate new bowl agreements with almost no leverage. League officials were able to land the Gator/Sun bowl deal by offering those games the chance to take Notre Dame twice in a four-year span.
Had the Irish not been included in the arrangement, who knows what kind of deal the Big East would have gotten. It probably wouldn't have had the Gator at all, and maybe not even the Sun. The entire lineup would be far, far worse.
The Gator and Sun bowl people were salivating at having the Irish bring their national fan base to Jacksonville and El Paso. But Notre Dame was either too good (making the BCS in 2006) or too bad (losing record in 2007, 6-6 regular seasons in 2008 and 2009) to ever be available to those games. Thus, the Big East got the benefit of the Irish appeal without ever having to sacrifice anything in the process.
Notre Dame was also kind enough to lose to Pitt (twice), UConn and Syracuse in the last two years, providing big wins for all three of those programs.
Going forward, the Irish look headed for some possible rebuilding under whatever new head coach they hire. They can only take the Champs Sports Bowl from a Big East team once in the next four years.
So instead of complaining about the Golden Domers all the time, Big East fans should thank them for their contributions to the league the past five seasons.