Is Notre Dame Rethinking Its Stance on the Big Ten?

Chip MinnichCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2010

28 Mar 1996:  Offensive tackle Orlando Pace of the Ohio State Buckeyes blocks linebacker Melvin Dansby of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during a game at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  Ohio State won the game 29-16. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With the Big Ten looking to expand to as many as 16 teams, Notre Dame may be reaching the conclusion that football independence may leave them on the outside looking in, especially as it pertains to the BCS and conference bowl tie-ins.

Before this story broke, I was under the belief that the Big Ten was leaning towards Missouri for its 12th member.  Missouri would enable the conference to stage a conference championship game, such as the SEC, the ACC, and the Big 12.

With Notre Dame possibly back in the mix for the first time since 1999, when Notre Dame rejected an invitation from the Big Ten, I believe the likely candidates would be Missouri, Notre Dame, and Rutgers, creating a fourteen team conference.  By doing so, the Big Ten would expand its television coverage via the Big Ten Network through the coveted New York City viewing audience all the way west to St. Louis and Kansas City, two decent-sized metropolitan viewing areas.

If the Big Ten truly wants to create shockwaves with an expansion move, how about adding Pittsburgh and Nebraska into the mix too?  While Nebraska is not a population hotbed, its storied tradition and loyal fanbase would enable the Big Ten Network to expand all the way west to the threshold of the Rocky Mountain area.  Comments by former head coach and current Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne lead me to believe he may be interested in hearing the Big Ten's sales pitch.  Pittsburgh would allow Penn State to revive its in-state rivalry, and would give the Big Ten another large city into the Big Ten viewing fold.

Obviously, there is much more to come as it relates to the Big Ten's eventual expansion (and I do consider Big Ten expansion an inevitability).