Is Notre Dame Afraid of Ohio State's Dominance?

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IJune 10, 2010

TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 02:  Wire receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to break a tackle by Marcus Freeman #87 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on January 2, 2006 in Tempe, Arizona. The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 34-20.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Nebraska appears to be on board with the Big Ten, pending an official vote and announcement Friday.

But the next domino to fall in the realignment of the Big Ten Conference could come from a team within its own geography: Notre Dame.

While we don't know for sure whether or not the Irish are considering joining a conference, their reluctance to do so is very surprising.

The driving force behind the expansion craze is revenue sharing, and the Big Ten carries probably the most attractive bargaining chip in play: The Big Ten Network.

Schools in the Big Ten, with combined television contracts from the Big Ten Network and ESPN, make around $20 million annually in revenue.

The money makes declining an invite to the Big Ten a hard thing to do, especially with the popularity of the Nebraska football program all but in the fold. Yet that's the road the Irish seem to be going down.

But what if there is more to the Irish dipping only one toe in the expansion pool, while Nebraska has jumped in?

The lack of success for Notre Dame in the past three seasons hasn't been very reassuring to fans in South Bend, as the team went 6-6 in 2009 despite a weak schedule.

And when they look at the teams in the new Big Ten, it would give most teams cold feet.

In Dennis Dodd's post-spring top 25 , five teams represent the future Big Ten: Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, and third-ranked Ohio State.

The Buckeyes are clearly the class of the Big Ten, and have been since 2006 when they have either tied for the conference title or won it outright.

And Jim Tressel is 1-0 against Notre Dame, defeating the Irish 34-20 in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.

If the Irish do not feel they can compete with the Buckeyes in football, getting into the Big Ten might be a hard sell for concerned ND fans.

The hopes are that new coach Brian Kelly can turn around the program after a string of disappointments from former coach Charlie Weis.

And Notre Dame is not slated to play Ohio State anytime soon if they stay independent, but a move to the Big Ten could find the two schools in the same division.

But can Notre Dame really put themselves in a position where it will be very difficult for them to get back to the BCS, a place they haven't been since 2007?

With the talented teams that a program like Ohio State puts out every year, it's tough to imagine that team not being able to come out of their division for a potential Big Ten Conference Championship Game.

That could be the fear that Notre Dame football has.

The program hasn't lived up to expectations in the past three years, and just hasn't had the mystique it once had.

And although their pride may keep them tied to their independent status, it may be time to give it up, because it could soon no longer provide them adequate profits.

Whether or not the intimidation factor of Ohio State among others has an effect is unknown, and probably will stay an unknown.

But Notre Dame may decide to stay independent if they feel they would not have success against the big fish of the Big Ten, whether or not Nebraska plays a role into that intimidation factor.

And while the Huskers should add to the competitiveness of the Big Ten, it might be the flagship program, Ohio State, that plays the untold role of Notre Dame wanting to stay out of the Big Ten.

When all is said and done, Notre Dame could very well end up in the Big Ten.

And if they do come, the move could put the Big Ten prestige-wise on a level comparable to the SEC.

The problem for Notre Dame will be if they see themselves competing with the top teams, including Ohio State if they join the Big Ten.

If they don't think they can, they will most likely stay independent.