Conference Expansion Is Firing Up Again: Where Will Notre Dame Land?

Aaron McKinneyCorrespondent IIIOctober 25, 2011

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 19: A general view of the 'Golden Dome' on the campus of Notre Dame University before a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Michigan State Spartans on September 19, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame, the crown jewel of major college football conference expansion, is being linked to multiple conferences.

We knew Missouri, after being spurned by the Big Ten, was moving to the SEC, following the lead of Texas A&M. Syracuse and Pittsburgh jumped the sinking ship that is the Big Least for the ACC. TCU backed-out of it's agreement to join the Big Least to instead rejoin most of it's old SWC buddies in the Big XII. And today we're getting reports that West Virginia is also going to the Big XII.

That essentially leaves a few scraps that are somewhat interesting to BCS conferences (Rutgers, UConn, and Louisville) and a couple (Cincinnati and South Florida) that "may" get interest.

The other floater is Notre Dame and suddenly they seem to be drawing interest from the ACC which may be mutual. Why would it be mutual? The ACC may be the only conference, aside from the Big XII, that's willing to let the Irish keep their NBC television contract. 

That means it's time for the Big Ten and Jim Delaney to stop the silliness and call Jack Swarbrick. The last thing the Big Ten needs is to lose Notre Dame. The two entities have constantly flirted with each other for fifty years. Time to form a union.

Yes, the Big Ten can still get a few more teams to expand to 16 teams, but without Notre Dame they all seem like taking your sister to the prom. Obviously they can get Rutgers, UConn, and Louisville, but those teams only accomplish minor victories.  

Louisville enhances the basketball profile, which needs a major boost. UConn also does that and pushes the recruiting footprint to New England. Rutgers does nothing for the major sports, but does grab the New York television market, and it does it more so than Syracuse does for the ACC. 

Notre Dame represents the shot that could be heard around college sports and especially in football. If the Big Ten lets the ACC reach into their territory and pluck the Irish right out from under them they will never recover.

I understand the Big Ten is the oldest, strongest, and wealthiest conference. I do realize that the SEC is better at football and the ACC is better at basketball, but when you average it all out, no conference has more pull than the Big Ten. They also have more solidarity between members than any other conference. 

Now, it's obvious Notre Dame can only go one of two places. It's either the Big Ten or the ACC. The Irish would never join the SEC as their academic profile is much higher than any school down their, including Vanderbilt. They couldn't join the Big XII for that reason and their deal with NBC plus the Longhorn Network would probably tear apart any goodwill that has been built up in recent weeks. That leaves the Big Ten and ACC.

So why has the ACC emerged as such a viable candidate? It's rather simple. They have stated that they are willing to work around an incoming television deal.

That's the biggest stumbling block for the Big Ten. They have had their Big Ten Network longer than any other conference has had their network. And despite having teams like Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State who have national appeal, they share the bounty equally and that is a huge reason why their conference, even without Notre Dame, will never be threatened.

That's why the PAC-12 and SEC have followed in the Big Ten's footsteps with conference solidarity. I know it was mentioned that the Big XII was going to try and reacquire Arkansas, but the Razorbacks would never leave for a conference that may have left them out in the cold had they not left the SWC for the SEC twenty years ago.

All I'm saying is that if I were a Big Ten school chancellor or athletic director, I might dial up Jim Delaney and force his hand to do something to sway Notre Dame away from the ACC.