Major conference realignment is unfolding throughout college football, leading many to wonder if Notre Dame will drop its independent status to join an established powerhouse.
While the waves have recently quieted, Paul Finebaum still believes the Fighting Irish are working on a big move.
During his weekly McElroy and Cubelic In The Morning appearance (h/t On3 Sports), the ESPN analyst called negotiations “high stakes poker games being played in the dark of night by stealth operators.” As a result, he doesn’t think anyone speaking on behalf of the schools or conferences will publicly offer information of interest.
Referencing a report of Notre Dame seeking a $75 million yearly media rights contract with NBC to remain independent, Finebaum said receiving that asking price still won’t alleviate all of their problems.
“The media thinks it has it right about Notre Dame that they’re set and sitting pretty. Notre Dame, I think, is going to find out that there’s only so far they can milk NBC,” Finebaum said. “What if they get the reported $75 million from NBC? So what? They’re still an independent, and they’re still not going to win a national championship as an independent.”
While Notre Dame missed the College Football Playoff cut last season, the program earned a spot in the four-team tournament in 2018 and 2020.
Finebaum nevertheless believes Notre Dame will eventually “bite the bullet” and align with a conference, but it could be a lengthy process. Nobody outside of Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick truly knows when that day will come.
Notre Dame is currently earning $22 million annually on a backloaded contract with NBC, which expires in 2025. The network would reportedly have to offer substantially more for the Fighting Irish to resist joining a conference with a big media deal in place.