Purdue Not Big Enough "Brand" For Notre Dame

According to our pal Seth Davis, one of the primary reasons Notre Dame and Purdue have not scheduled a hoops matchup in more than 40 years is because Purdue isn't as much of a "national brand" as Notre Dame.

Yes, he's talking about Notre Dame basketball.

You know Notre Dame basketball. All those Final Four appearances, national championships, NBA players, Big East titles, etc. Oh, and don't forget their 11,000 person capacity arena. Big time.

Some tidbits from the story:

Nobody seems to know exactly why the series stopped, but it never resumed in the 1970's because Notre Dame, which did not belong to any conference, was intent on playing more of a national schedule under Digger Phelps. In declining to play Purdue, Phelps further salted the wounds of Boilermaker fans by cracking that "there is no road from South Bend to West Lafayette."

Yes, we knew Digger was a douche and was simply afraid to play Purdue. Noted. "More of a national schedule..." Give me a break.

"I'd love for that to happen," Purdue coach Matt Painter told me. "I think it would be great for the fans, it would be great for the state of Indiana. We've tried to get it going here in the last five years, but they've been full with their schedule."

"I'd love to play against them. I think it would be fun to have maybe a neutral site game in Lucas Oil [Stadium]," Rob Hummel said. "You always love to play against competitive teams, and obviously Notre Dame is a great program."

Also, they didn't add, "We'd love to rub Scott Martin's nose in it."

I found Notre Dame coach Mike Brey to be far more lukewarm to the notion. "I think my mind is more open to it than any of the previous coaches who have been here," Brey said. "But you know what? Everybody in the Big Ten wants to play us. I get asked about it by the media every year because one of their coaches says they want to play Notre Dame. My answer to them is, we're in the Big East. When we get in the Big Ten, we'll take care of all you guys."

Imagine that. A Notre Dame coach with his nose in the air. Shocking, I tell you! But after all, we're not really rivals, right coach?

Also, everyone in the Big Ten wants to play you? Really? I find that hard to believe.

From Notre Dame's standpoint, there are three barriers to resuming a series with Purdue. First, the Irish now play in the Big East, which requires them to play 18 conference games. That eats up a huge chunk of the schedule, and since it's such a tough league it would be foolish to add too many difficult games outside the conference.

Ah, finally some truth. Nobody wants tough games outside of a tough conference like the world-renowned Big East! You know, like Purdue in the Big Ten. The Big Ten is so soft, Purdue has no problem scheduling games against Wake Forest from the ACC, Alabama on the road, and -- oh, lookey here! -- West Virginia from the Big East!

Second, Notre Dame still has a strong national brand. Unlike Painter, who gets most of his players from in-state, Brey needs to recruit players from other parts of the country.

Well, let's step back a second. Brey doesn't do this because his team's "brand" is so "national." He does this because he couldn't possibly recruit in-state the way Purdue or Indiana do. It's simply not possible, so let's not even PRETEND he could.

So he fills his nonconference schedule with teams like UCLA, Maryland and Alabama to increase his program's footprint nationwide.

And also because any chance at recruiting kids would take a serious hit if you got pistol-whipped on a regular basis by a bigger, better, more successful program just two hours away. Just saying.

So, anyway, the point is, those of you who were hoping -- like we have for years -- that Purdue and Notre Dame might play on the hardwood someday soon will probably continue to be disappointed.

Because, you know, Mike Brey is more big time than that.

How Bad Do They Want It?

11 November 2009: The Handsome 1.5

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