Being an independent football program, unlike the rest of their athletics departments, gives Notre Dame a special status in College Football. It usually means quite a difficult schedule to plow through, but it also means a lot more money to keep once your reach a bowl game, especially a BCS bowl game.
Here are the numbers: Based on the figures from the 2011-2012 Bowl season, reaching anyone of the BCS bowls (Suger Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Rose Bowl and the BCS National Championship Game) amounts to $6.1 million. Almost everyone in the sport needs to share that revenue with their conference, but not the Irish, who also have their own exclusive deal with NBA for broadcasting their game. Even if they make a “regular” bowl game, like the Champs Sports Bowl last season, the school still makes about $1.8 million, calculated by receiving 1/66th of the net BCS revenue.
What are the chances of reaching that kind of money this season? Looking good so far. They’re #5 in the nation according to the first published BCS standings this season, something that hasn’t happened since 2002. After two 8-5 seasons under Brian Kelly, it’s good for them to be back in the spotlight, with many arguing they deserve a better ranking in the BCS standings.
Why? As always, being independent and prideful makes for a brutal road all the way to finish. After already beating three ranked teams (at Michigan State, Michigan and Stanford) the Irish still have to play a tough BYU team, at #9 Oklahoma and a seasons finisher against #10 USC, a match-up they’ve won only once over the last decade.
The Irish have what is probably the best defense in the nation: Allowing only 8.7 points per game (second in the nation), are in the top 10 in interceptions and the top 35 in sacks. Manti Te’o, the senior linebacker is talked about as a potential Heisman winner, if the Irish keep winning. He also makes for some excellent photos.
And then there’s the effect on the university as a whole; Notre Dame’s athletics department is committed to giving $20 million annually back to the university. The $20 million that Notre Dame’s athletics department gives to the university is used to fund scholarships for non-student-athletes and to cover university operating expenses.
Being back in the national spotlight isn’t bad, but being back in the position to generate a huge amount of money for the school is probably more important for some people.