Miller: Notre Dame should not play on the Pac-12 Network
Jake Miller | Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Notre Dame has never played on a secondary linear network. However, Notre Dame did play Virginia Tech on the ACC Network in 2021. This has been corrected. The Observer regrets this error.
On Monday, Notre Dame football fans across the world were shocked by a mid-day news drop: The Irish’s regular-season finale will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. In college football, the rights to the game go to whoever has the rights to the home team. Currently, the Pac-12’s rights are held by Disney (ESPN/ABC), Fox (Fox/FS1) and the Pac-12 Network. Disney and Fox pick the games they want first. Two of the remaining games, typically the worst of the week, end up on the Pac-12 Network.
Ironically, Notre Dame’s matchup against Stanford will mark the last football game ever on the network — at least in its current form. Changes are coming to the Pac-12. All of its teams — except Oregon State and Washington State — have found homes in new leagues.
For Notre Dame fans, the broadcast presents a challenge. Eastward of the West Coast, many standard cable packages don’t include the network. Ardent fans desiring to watch the game may be forced to go to a bar or buy Fubo. (For those interested, Fubo does offer a one-week free trial.)
Typically, TV executives love Notre Dame. ESPN, CBS and FOX will often broadcast any Notre Dame away game, even when the opponent is terrible. When Notre Dame visited Stanford in 2021, the game was on Fox during primetime. The game was also meaningless. In 2022, Notre Dame averaged 3.3 million viewers per game, sixth-most in the nation. However, this year, the executives are looking elsewhere.
Obviously, Notre Dame fans are upset. We want to watch our team. Yet, this Irish team may be the worst since 2016. And not only is it a bad team, the offense is boring to watch! The offense is horrendously bad. In their last three games, the Irish have averaged just 217 passing yards per game. The wide receiver corps is young and conservative. Sam Hartman, the player with the most general appeal, may not even play in the game. And let’s be honest, from a talent development standpoint, he probably shouldn’t!
Regardless, we can blame the executives all we want. If the Irish were a team with a shot to make a New Year’s Six bowl, the game would be easily accessible to all. When Notre Dame makes its games hard to watch, it typically does so by choice — as with its annual game on Peacock. This time, Notre Dame didn’t choose inconvenience; inconvenience chose Notre Dame. Other than a 2021 matchup with Virginia Tech on the ACC Network, my research indicates the Irish have never played an away game on a secondary linear network, such as CBS Sports Network, FS1 (or even VERSUS) or Pac-12 Network. That changes next week.
Notre Dame is one of the elite programs in college football. Many argue Notre Dame is America’s team. America’s team needs national exposure when playing another Power Five team. This really can’t happen again, and hopefully, it serves as a wake-up call to Marcus Freeman. The team may have just lost a few dedicated supporters.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.