Local bar brings South Bend to Notre Dame grads

Scott Kitun/The Medillian

Notre Dame enters this Saturday’s rivalry game against University of Southern California ranked number 1 for the first time in the BCS era.

This game marks a reversal of fortune for both teams. Southern Cal, now unranked, began this season ranked number 1 in the preseason polls, while Notre Dame remained unranked.

Here at The Temple Bar, an official Notre Dame Chicago bar, located at 3001 N. Ashland Avenue, Irish fans are lined up out the door, clad from head-to-toe in blue and gold.

“The USC game is always the biggest of the year for us, but given that a win here puts us into the title game, makes this the biggest game of my life.” Logan Square resident, Tim Madden said.

The Irish and Trojans have played 82 times dating back to 1926. The Irish currently lead the overall matchup with 43 victories in the rivalry. However, the Irish have managed just one win, in 2010, against the USC Trojans over the past ten meetings.

Headlined by their Heisman Trophy candidate linebacker, Manti T’eo, the Irish are competing against a Southern Cal team that is currently unranked and playing without their star quarterback Matt Barkley, who is out with an injury.

Prior to kickoff, Irish fans huddled around the TV monitors singing the school song and cheering on the players as they entered the field.

The Temple Bar manager, George Zak described his experience at the bar as “the tale of two bars”. Temple is typically a low key Irish pub, but football Saturday, it turns into a real college bar.

“Its like this every weekend. These fans are rabid. You would swear we are at the game live the way these guys are screaming.” Zak said.

“I think we are always a little worried when we go against teams like USC,” Notre Dame graduate and Bucktown resident, Chase Riddle said.

“It’s like we aren’t entirely confident, until the defense gets a stop or we throw some point on the board.”

With a score of 16 – 10 at the half, Irish fans are really beginning to get into the game here at Temple.

This is the last game of the season for Notre Dame and their faithful understand that a win here today will most likely result in the Irish maintaining their number 1 BCS ranking, which would ensure that they play in the Discover BCS National Championship in Miami, Fla. on January 7.

“Trust me. We all know what this means, we all hear the overrated chants and this would be a loud response by the Irish. Undefeated and number 1, baby.” Madden said.

After a second half push by the Trojans, quieting some of the Irish fans at Temple, the Irish finally began to pull away in the fourth quarter with a barrage of field goals.

“I always get a little nervous in the second half. It’s like we can’t just lock the door. We always leave it a little bit open.” Riddle said.

After waiting 19 years, the Notre Dame fans couldn’t wait another minute. Shots began to pour and sounds of “Victory March”, the school’s fight song, rang out with minutes still on the game clock.

While Notre Dame will have to wait until BCS Selection Sunday on December 2 to punch their official ticket to Miami, today’s 22 – 13 win over USC makes Notre Dame a virtual lock for the BCS National Championship.

“Notre Dame is back. We earned it and now we’re number 1.” Riddle said.

Crab cakes and football

Hold your criticism Big Ten fans. This week when Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced the addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the conference, there was an immediate backlash across the Twitter universe.

The general sentiment being that while conferences such as the SEC are adding championship caliber teams like Texas A&M to their conference roster, the Big Ten doesn’t seem to be adding much with their recent additions.

The fact is, most Big Ten fans were hoping for a Notre Dame-like team, if any, was to be added to the conference.

There is no question that the Big Ten Conference is feeling a pinch as the top tier teams are defecting for the SEC. Delany is doing everything he can to avoid falling into the same traps that the Big East Conference did.

That means strategically selecting teams to bolster the conference roster and not just grabbing defectors on the cheap, as the Big East has done.

Delany is very attuned to the conference building process. After having seen the Big East crumble, despite having numerous championship level basketball teams and great mid-level talent across the conference, it wasn’t enough.

To be a competitive college conference in the future, you must have strong football teams with at least two powerhouse teams, like Southern Cal and Oregon or Alabama and Louisiana State.

Undoubtedly, the Big Ten will always hang its collective hat on the University of Michigan, one of the most profitable athletic programs in the country.

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State also contribute a lot to the conference but more is needed if the conference wants to continue to compete for titles and media dollars.

Conference commissioner Delany is not going to admit that the major contributing factor to adding Rutgers is the East Coast media shares. Obviously, football and basketball championships aren’t exactly selling points for Rutgers.

College fans do not want to hear about media shares when it comes to conference expansion. In fact, it is probably the worst part of college sports, the inevitable eclipse of sport and business.

That said, I believe the Big Ten may have acquired the next gem of college sports, in Maryland.

Say what? Maryland? Yes. Maryland.

Maryland developed NCAA championship credibility in basketball under coach Gary Williams and as the Wedding Crashers movie-line goes, “Crab cakes and football. That’s what Maryland does.”

Over the next decade, I believe that we will be talking about Maryland football as a perennial power.

How? Think Oregon. Oregon since the mid 1990’s has become a true football powerhouse in addition to five Pac 8/10/12 Conference titles in basketball.

Ever since Oregon alumnus and Nike founder, Phil Knight, established Nike as the premier sports brand and began to funnel millions of dollars into Oregon athletics with the Knight Labs, Oregon has been a recruiters dream.

Between the state-of-the-art facilities and Nike’s brand identity, Oregon has been able to recruit blue chip talent that has translated into record success.

When I see Maryland, I see a budding Oregon. Maryland is the alma mater of Under Armour founder, Kevin Plank.

According to Forbes as of August 2012, Under Armour is a $10 billion corporation. They actually have gained on Nike in the North American market over the past four years.

Now, comparatively, Nike is a $50 billion corporation. However, Nike earns two-thirds of its revenue overseas, whereas Under Armour earns 95-percent of its revenue in the United States and Canada.

This might not matter to sports fans, but to those in the know, this is a huge deal. Market analysts at Market Watch, are predicting that if Under Armour can increase its global market-share by just 15-percent, you could be looking at an honest competition for Nike.

For the Big Ten, this means big games and big money. There is no secret that Nike and Oregon capitalize on the brand’s recognition when it comes to recruiting.

Under Armour is rapidly becoming the biggest equipment brand in college athletics and professional football. Under Armour has spent millions of dollars establishing athletic camps around North America, including hosting the premier high school football preseason camps.

Under Armour founder Kevin Plank currently sits on the Board of Trustees at the University of Maryland and has already committed millions of dollars to their business and athletic funds.

Between the improved facilities and brand identity, Under Armour is setting Maryland up for similar success to that of Oregon.

And, if things play out the way many market analysts predict, I think the future of the Big Ten Conference rests on Michigan and Maryland.