The Notre Dame Fighting Irish made a return to national prominence in 2012 when they played their way to a perfect regular season and a spot in the BCS National Championship game. While the Irish are hoping for a return trip in 2013, they may be counting on it more than they know because if Notre Dame doesn’t qualify for the BCS, there is a chance that Brian Kelly and his team will be left out of the bowl season altogether.
There are currently 35 bowls with room for 70 teams to go bowling following the 2013 season. If all ten conferences fulfill their bowl tie-ins and get enough teams eligible for the post-season, every spot will be filled, leaving Notre Dame without a place to go this winter. As an independent, the Irish don’t have any automatic tie-ins to fall back on if they don’t qualify for the BCS.
Their path is pretty clear. The BCS was established with a clear pathway for the Irish to make one of the big bowls as an automatic qualifier. If Notre Dame wins at least nine games and finishes in the top 14 of the final BCS poll, they will earn an automatic big to the BCS. If they don’t, then they will have to hope that one of the other conferences fails to fill out their bowl allotments.
With a program that is a national brand like Notre Dame, you can imagine that any bowl would jump at the chance to have them and their well-traveled fan base be a part of their festivities. If there is no room for them, however, because of the success of the teams with conference tie-ins, it would be a huge tragedy for the bowl landscape and a major indictment of Notre Dame’s insistence on staying independent all these years.