The "money whoring" decision isn't good business. In many ways, this behavior is representative of the "mortgage the future for a short term benefit today" thinking exhibited by modern day failures who plague some of our most proud governmental and business institutions.
The decisions made by Notre Dame's administration are very similar to those made by leaders of some of America's most epic failures such as GM, Ford, AA, AIG, Lehman Brothers, etc. If you analyze these firms you'll notice a common theme; these institutions all chose highly risky short term profits over long term excellence, and were subsequently bailed out in the best case scenario and allowed to fade into nothing in the worst case scenario.
Each of the above failed when the market the firm exploited in the short term suddenly collapsed. The firm fell with the market because the success of the firm was completely attached to the unsustainable growth of that market. Further, the market the firm seeked to exploit was extremely risky and a sudden shift in consumer sentiment would bring everything to a screeching halt. ND is not sheltered from such a blow up.
Imagine what would happen, and can potentially happen, if in 2012 we failed to fill out our schedule or we got to such a bad negotiating position that we had to 'default' on a more storied opponent such as USC or Michigan. This sounds unthinkable today but at this exact moment there are 3 holes on the 2012 schedule. Today, we couldn't 'buy' anyone better than WMU to play us in 2010. How much will a blow up cost us down the line as we go further down the 7-4-1 rabbit hole? $1 million? $5 million? $25 million? What happens as our ratings continue to drop? Do we change to 7-3-2 to satisfy conditions of an agreement with NBC? Do we lose the NBC contract all together and suffer as a fan base?
I'm sure there's some doubt about these risks but consider these scenarios:
- What if an opponent can't afford to travel to our game with the proper equipment and referees? How would that look in the headlines, "Western Michigan unable to field team with proper safety equipment, Notre Dame asked to provide another $200,000 to make sure game is played as scheduled."
- What is 2012 arrives and we are the "Terrel Pryor" of the football world and unable to reach a negotiated agreement with 12 opponents until far into the calendar year? We were unusually late in declaring our schedule this year with just one spot to fill - what will happen when we have three?
- What would you do if our leaders used our weak position and these open positions to force us into the Big 10 or Big East. With this many holes in our schedule this is certainly possible
- Disgusted with our scheduling practices the pollsters do everything in their power to keep a 12-0 ND team out of a BCS championship
These risks are unacceptable.
In the long run, the firms that win out the most are those that keep their eyes on the horizon while all the other players scramble to make the most SUVs, or originate the most mortgage paper until the music stops and the rush for a seat begins. Only those firms who have a long term view survive and go on to continually dominate their space because they never play the game, or at the very least they get out the second they realize they're playing a game no one can win.
Sure, I'll give it to JW - on paper and in the short term it seems like a good idea to maximize revenue with a 7-4-1 schedule and occasionally he'll have to add a WMU to make the schedule work with a 'one and done' opponent. The reality, however, is that the key to maximizing revenue is to never play a 7-4-1 schedule because it inherently leads to diluted schedules that preclude any possibility of a BCS championship.
The key to long term revenue growth and brand awareness for ND is to win CHAMPIONSHIPS while leading from the front on 'scholar athlete' issues such as education, faith, scheduling, and conference affiliation. None of us, save for Sprack, became a fan prior to ND being a dominant force in sports. We all came to love ND for a reason - that the men of our lady could lead from the front and win it all, while playing the right way. Those days are gone and even if we win it all, we certainly will have many skeletons in our closets.
Sure, it was good to be at Lehman when the market was hot and bonuses were 7 to 9 figures large. Sure, I'll hug my buddies and cry if / when we win an NC under 7-4-1. Still, the risk of blowing up will always be at the back of my mind. The headline risk, the BCS risk, the conference risk... while we sleep and cheer, they'll be waiting.
In all likelihood the music won't stop next year, nor will it likely conclude in 2012, but there are only so many tracks on this record and when it's over we'll hear just a scratch before the shouting and screaming begins.
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