Also, why is it necessary that Notre Dame "stand up" to the Big Ten? Could you elaborate on that please? And IMO if Notre Dame has a few more 3-9 seasons they might start to rethink if indy FB is the right way to go.
Well, it is simple negotiating. If ND joins the B10 for all sports, then the B10 broke ND. If ND goes in the toilet, heads roll in South Bend. That is not going to happen when ND can do as well financially as an Indy.
IMO, the B10 should be getting ND on board as a non-football member. That is doable. Both party's get to celebrate their "win" while enjoying the rewards of the partnership.
ND now recruits only athletes who match their University academic pre-requisites. It is a long way from Lou Holtz's day. ND would be just another B10 school --- just like Penn State has become. The appeal that ND has for the B10 is that they are not just another school. Why snuff that out?
Also, what rankings are you using for academic strength of institutions (1st tier, 2nd tier, 3rd tier, etc...)? Is it US News and World Report?
I use US News for a "quick and dirty". They do not seperate Tier 1 & 2, but there are roughly 130 individually ranked schools before tier 3, I think it is fair to say Tier 2 starts halfway through that list.
I do recognize that US News rankings are somewhat inadequate to accurately guage universities in the Big 10 (at the top of the academic food chain) as those schools REALLY focus on being research institutions. Looking at endowments and research dollar rankings gives a clearer picture at the top, but the US News list is still IMO fairly accurate for most schools for a good quick and dirty.