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Will Notre Dame's New Scheduling Strategy Work For TV?

NBC, which has broadcast Notre Dame football games since 1991, extended its contract with the school today through the 2015 season. This despite the disasterous 3-9 season last year in which the network had the lowest rated broadcasts ever.

I know many fans are confused with this decision -- even before they hear word on the financials of the deal. After all, since the Lou Holtz era, the team has gone 78-56, which means they've only won 56 percent of their games. But it's not an easy case. You see when Notre Dame wins, they're a good buy, as ratings seem to be directly correlated to their winning percentage.

Here's a look at the Nielsen ratings for the Notre Dame broadcasts per year, courtesy of Sports Business Daily:

Year Record Avg. Rating +/-%

2007 3-9 1.9 -36.7%

2006 10-3 3.0 11.1%

2005 9-3 2.7 8.0%

2004 6-6 2.5 4.2%

2003 5-7 3.2 ----

What's interesting, which you can see when you look at last year's game-by-game breakdown, is that the ratings aren't any better when Notre Dame is playing a better team if the Fighting Irish aren't any good. Aside from the Navy game, it doesn't seem like anyone is interested in Boston College or USC if the Golden Domers are having a losing season.

Date Team ND Record* Viewers

Sept. 1 Georgia Tech 0-0 3.34M

Sept. 22 Michigan State 0-3 2.8M

Oct. 13 Boston College 1-5 2.8M

Oct. 22 USC 1-6 2.5M

Nov. 3 Navy 1-7 3.4M

Nov. 10 Air Force 1-8 2.0M

Nov. 17 Duke 1-9 1.7M

*record going into the game

The reason this direct correlation to winning percentage is important is because Notre Dame is playing a much easier schedule. Traditional games like Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Purdue and Navy are there. But the rest of the schedule is filled with playing teams--San Diego State, North Carolina, Washington and Syracuse--that were a combined 10-27 last year. Next year will see Nevada and Washington State added and in 2010, a series with Army will start up.

The point is that this looks bad on paper--that Notre Dame's schedule is getting easier. But if you believe that they're not a team people love to see get beat as much as a team that people love to see beat others, as is often quoted, it's just as important for Notre Dame as it is to NBC for the team to just win against anyone they can schedule.

NBC Universal is the parent company of CNBC.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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