Last night, Texas-affiliated Orangebloods.com filled us in on the latest conjecture out of what is likely the University of Texas athletic dept.:
That same athletic director (source) said if Notre Dame agreed to join the league, the Big Ten’s expansion would stop at one school - Notre Dame - and be a 12-school league.
Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com also reported last night on KZNX-AM in Austin that if ND doesn’t immediately join the Big Ten, his “source” told him that the league would then set in motion a plan to expand to 16 teams, plucking Nebraska and Missouri from the Big 12 and perhaps Rutgers, Pitt and Syracuse from the Big East.
With the Pac-10 then gone to 16 teams, that could possibly set the scene for four 16-team superconferences, none of which would included Notre Dame. (With the remaining desirable Big East and Big 12 teams picked over by SEC, ACC and/or MWC.)
The latter threat supposedly could force Notre Dame’s hand into joining the Big Ten as the rust belt league’s 16th team, but according to ND AD Jack Swarbrick, the Irish at least seem like they will not be the first party to make a move.
Speaking to Pete Thamel of the NEW YORK TIMES, Swarbrick said last night of talks with the Big Ten:
“First of all, there haven’t been any sort of deliberations. Internally, we talk about this stuff all the time. We have not entered into discussions with anyone.”
Remember, that’s not a denial and doesn’t preclude anything.
Thamel also notes that Swarbrick did at least hint back in March that if Big Ten expansion took the league to 15 members, ND might reconsider its independent status.
So how could Notre Dame back into the Big Ten as team No. 16? Simple. Swarbrick said in March that the only way Notre Dame would join a league was if something forced it to, saying that “anyone could invent a scenario.”
So here’s the current thinking - at least via the Texas-centric Orangebloods.com website and Thamel of the N.Y. Times:
1) Notre Dame turns down the Big Ten’s initial offer to join the league.
2) The Big Ten expands to 15, inviting Nebraska, Missouri and two of Rutgers, Syracuse and/or Pitt.
3) The Big 12 loses Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado/Baylor to the Pac-10.
4) The Big Ten goes back to Notre Dame and offers the Irish its 16th spot.
5) Notre Dame accepts.
After that, you would assume the SEC would move to expand to 16 teams, raiding the best and brightest the ACC has to offer.
What would then follow between the runoff from the ACC, Big East and Big 12 is unforeseeable at the moment. Likewise the future of the Mountain West, which has, in anticipation of the Big 12 breakup, decided not to immediately expand. (What a coincidence.)
With Notre Dame now seemingly boxed in by the Big Ten’s expansion plan, it’s now at least a reasonable bet that you will soon see a Notre Dame-bolstered 16-team Big Ten, along with 16 teams in the Pac-10 and SEC. And of course, the immediate demise of the Big 12.