Notre Dame will ride their PAST glory for all the millage they can muster. As time goes by, even if Notre Dame has a few successful seasons in the meantime, their prominence and distinction will continue to level off in comparison to their prime peers in current 1A throughout the country.
Notre Dame's BE set up with bb, and their special BCS criteria from being a negotiating party in the setup, is an artificial means of maintaining their separation and image of loftiness.
During the dated and not necessarily recent past, other bigtime schools that knew what independence was like, i. e. Florida State, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Miami, VPI, and Penn State, and much of what is now BE fb, had to face the decision to join a conference. The reasons are obvious: SCHEDULING ALL-SPORTS, REVENUE, AND PROMINENCE. I doubt any that have joined a conference, would want to go back to being independent. Temple's BE fb exit, for example, was forced and now they are talking to the MAC.
In the case of Notre Dame, scheduling has not been an issue from the standpoint of finding good teams who will play them. They have their prominent regulars, and the stability of their scheduling is more solid that many schools firmly in conferences. Notre Dame's scheduling issue is how to "soften" their competition without looking as if they are compromising on name prestige (they will play BYU and Navy; but certainly not Fresno State and LA-Monroe).
Revenue for Notre Dame has been facilitated with their enthusiastic and extensive following. That is deserving and admired. On the other hand, BCS payouts (knowing that there was a recent modification initiative for independents), an individual NBC contract, the bowls lust for Notre Dame, are enabling dimensions that help keep Notre Dame coffers full and then some. If Notre Dame had any serious financing issue in maintaining their athletic programs, they would seriously be chatting with an all-sports conference fast.
Notre Dame will have the most difficult challenge in holding onto its prominence. Staying independent, by choice, is one psychological attempt. However, the landscape of college football is forever changing in steady degrees, and with most prime schools exposed to widespread media access, old time tradition is only going to carry a school so far. Notre Dame can load up with superior recruits; but so can Florida State, Texas, USC, Georgia, Iowa, Miami, and a couple of dozen others. The fanatical following, exclusive of Notre Dame's student body and alumni, cannot be so distinuished and stereotyped as it once was (subway fans, 2nd & 3rd generation urban, Irish decendents, Catholics, etc.). Pro football, as much as anything, cut into this. Demographics shift and secularism abounds.
The Big 10 says they are in no hurry to expand to 12 and they are just fine with 11. Maybe they should provide a Sherman statement and say 11, that's it and no Notre Dame. Or, if the concept of adding a choice number 12 is still a pondering element, then declare they are open to "recieving applications" for #12 consideration and call Notre Dame's bluff. The Big 10 would still obtain a fine (perhaps even better) school for the future, and be done with any further expansion concerns.
For Notre Dame, it would nice to say, "it's BE for you, baby", "that is your reward", and "the BE has been so loyal and waited so long" and "Mike T. is still brilliant". Never mind, that 12th Big 10 was landed from the BE.
And as we know, Miami and BC, were not the jilted bride types and left some time ago. Maybe Syracuse will be that Big 10 #12; they kind of got jilted too) by the ACC).