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FOOTBALL: Athletic officials evaluate schedule

Pat Leonard | Thursday, February 24, 2005

Next season’s Notre Dame football schedule is all but set in stone. Though the Irish cannot make drastic scheduling changes for the near future, program officials are planning to add one home game per season and play a possible “neutral-site” game should the NCAA vote in April to extend the college football season to 12 games.Regardless of the NCAA’s decision, the Irish athletic department wants to add an extra game at Notre Dame Stadium. “We’re trying to get to the point where we would be able to play seven home games routinely in South Bend,” Senior Associate Athletic Director John Heisler said. “I think if you look at some of the other major Division-I programs, whether it’s Ohio State or Oklahoma, they may not be doing it every year, but they’re certainly trying to do it on a fairly regular basis.”Pending the result of April’s meeting, the Irish also would like to investigate the possibility of playing one game each season at a neutral venue that would give the team and the University more exposure, Heisler said.Heisler, athletic director Kevin White and others will be working until April to prepare a researched proposal on plans for structuring Notre Dame’s schedules to seven home games, four road games and one “neutral-site” game should the NCAA approve the increase to annual 12-game seasons, Heisler said.The legislation, which will be sponsored by the Big East and Big Twelve conferences, would take effect beginning in 2006. Due to Notre Dame’s scheduling in the near future and the necessary work to accomplish such a task, the “neutral” game would not fit into the mix until at least around 2009, Heisler said.Until the legislation is reviewed, Notre Dame athletic officials will look into playing the “neutral” game in the Southeast or Southwest regions of the country, areas in which the school and team receive less exposure. “The prospect of these neutral site games – if you call them that – were appealing for a couple of reasons,” Heisler said. “One, we’d be able to go to some places in the country that weren’t routinely being seen by our football program, which could be a positive in terms of recruiting.”Also, just the number of alumni and fans in some of these areas where Notre Dame doesn’t go every season, or even every few seasons, would have a chance to see the team.”Heisler mentioned the states of Texas and Florida as possible locations where the Irish could find a suitable venue for the game. Notre Dame athletic officials present a general plan at this point because they must do significant amount of work to determine the feasibility of their desires.”[We haven’t really done] that much,” Heisler said. “At this point, we really need to create more of a business model for ourselves. We want to make sure that we’re clear in terms of how we can set these up and what the expectations would be.”Notre Dame most likely would want to control the television rights – meaning the game would go to NBC – and the “bulk” of the ticket sales should the game happen, Heisler said.”Our feeling right now is we would expect these [games] to not be that much different than a home game,” Heisler said, “except we’d be playing it somewhere else.”