Just when it appears that the dust has finally settled from last year's college football version of reality TV, with defections, alliances and conference wife swaps, there's always "that guy" who stirs the pot again.
This time, the rumors center around an ESPN report that Texas A&M seeks to become the 13th member of the SEC's mega-awesome "megaconference." With the crazy butterfly effects seen last year, could Notre Dame's treasured football independence, which narrowly survived the reorganization cyclone intact, be at risk again?
It's hard to imagine a repeat of last summer, in which many scenarios predicted the dissolution of entire conferences like the Big East. This was the linchpin for the Irish; the collapse of the Big East likely would have caused Notre Dame to sacrifice its treasured football independence to save its other sports from a scheduling black hole.
Fortunately for the Irish, the impacts of a potential shift this year by the Aggies look to be on a much smaller scale. The biggest reason for the unlikelihood of a "double dip" of transformational change is that Texas A&M is late to the party.
Last year saw a perfect storm of multiple "big brand" teams willing to realign and "big brand" conferences that were willing to expand. Now, most of the shifting activity is done and the number of teams that could join the Aggies is relatively small.
Would a Texas A&M conference change impact Notre Dame football independence?
Despite A&M's advances on the SEC, it's also unclear whether the SEC would even want the Aggies. With the new conference structures, the SEC now has nice round numbers with two six-team divisions.
Texas A&M would make for an awkward 13th wheel that would throw a wrench into what is a relatively uncomplicated scheduling process. It's unclear whether a 14th team would make this easier, even if such a team wanted in.
Additionally, Notre Dame discovered last year that it has an unlikely ally in the University of Texas. It was the athletic directors of those two schools who provided the clout to keep the Big 12 and Big East conferences alive. Both schools have their own independent TV contracts (Texas' Longhorn Network launches later this month) and have no interest in losing those privileges to other conference-based TV networks.
This is a key driver behind the motivations for both schools, which seem to point more toward maintaining the viability of their associated conferences (Big 12 and Big East) than for either of them to join another conference.
But as history shows, these things can get out of hand quickly. Rumors are floating around about other potential school shifts, including Florida State, Clemson and Missouri to name a few, although they have amounted to little more than that.
This will likely remain a headline story for the next few weeks, but it appears that Notre Dame's football independence will steer clear of the chopping block—for now.