Big Ten: Jack Swarbrick

This September's 42nd Notre Dame-Michigan matchup is likely the last between the schools for the foreseeable future. That doesn't, however, mean that the appearances of Big Ten teams on the Irish's schedule are coming to an end.

Michigan State and Purdue have been stalwarts on Notre Dame's slate -- more than Michigan. And athletic directors from both schools are happy to see their respective rivalries with the Irish continue, even if they're on an abbreviated basis.

Among imminent matchups, Notre Dame will "host" the Boilermakers Sept. 14 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for its annual off-site Shamrock Series game. The Irish have a home-and-home scheduled with the Spartans for 2016 (at ND) and 2017 (at MSU).

"[Notre Dame athletic director] Jack [Swarbrick] and I are in constant communication, and it's not adversarial whatsoever. But it's a situation where, both with us going to nine [conference] games and with them having to move into the ACC scheduling model, it's created some significant challenges for both of us," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told ESPN.com. "And right now we're kind of in a position of, we know the next two, we know we have two more in the future and we're just kind of taking it one step at a time. We've been in constant communication."

The future, Hollis told local reporters last week, includes an agreement to play a home-and-home in 2026 and 2027, as well as a neutral site game, possibly in Chicago, in 2023.

Notre Dame and Purdue, meanwhile, have five more scheduled games -- Sept. 19, 2020 at Purdue; Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame; Sept. 14, 2024 at Purdue; Sept. 13, 2025 at Notre Dame; and in 2026 on a date and in a neutral site that has yet to be determined.

"I think the relationship between the schools is -- you're not going to take it to San Juan," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told ESPN.com. "But we have alums all over the country, too. Strong populations in Texas, in California, in Florida. The likely sites are Chicago and Indianapolis."

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said last week that most of his scheduling conversations with Swarbrick start with Michigan, Michigan State and an SEC team. But Wolverines athletic director David Brandon told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg in an email that there had been no discussions with the Irish.

The mood might have soured between the two schools -- Sept. 7 at Notre Dame will be their last matchup following the Irish's 2012 exercising of a three-year opt-out clause in the series -- but that has not been the case between the Irish and the rest of the Big Ten.

"Jack and I have known each other for a long, long time," Burke said. "He had a hard deal because when the Big East went the way it went, he had to find a home for lots of sports. What he had to do then was to negotiate, he had to use some of the football inventory to do that, and that's what created the issue. There's no issues with wanting to play Purdue or Michigan State. The Michigan thing there's a little bit of a tiff, I guess. But I don't think so.

"Our history goes back a long time. So what we tried to do was to make sure that there was at least a path forward. In other words, don't just announce Lucas Oil and it stops, but try to show people that we're going to play more than just once every 10 years. That's the best we could do now. Who knows what the landscape will be down the road? My hope is that someday, I hope we don't look back and say we lost something that started in 1946, because there are Purdue and Notre Dame folks who have been going to those games for years and tailgated. And you've had some great athletic contests with some great family relationships. And as we break some of this stuff apart and get bigger leagues, do you lose some of those relationships, and 10 or 15 years from now, does that hurt you?"

With Purdue having played Notre Dame 85 times, and with Michigan State having played the Irish 77 times, both schools are hoping that the answer to that question is a resounding no.

"There's going to be fewer games with Notre Dame because of the national landscape, and that's one of the unfortunate parts of conference expansion, is those nonconference games take secondary step," Hollis said. "But it's important to Michigan State that we continue to play on a national stage, so we'll have Notre Dame as much as we can have Notre Dame. They want as many games, we want as many games, it just all has to fit."
Michigan and Notre Dame are contracted to play just once more in the foreseeable future, but many -- including Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly -- want to see the series continue in some form.

"We would like to play Michigan and Michigan State again," Kelly said at a Notre Dame golf event in Olympia Fields, Ill.

Notre Dame hosts Michigan once more, on Sept. 6. Michigan State, who had played the Irish every year since 1997, is off the schedule until the rivalry briefly resumes in 2016 and 2017.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told MSU beat writers Wednesday that the schools tentatively have a home-and-home series set for 2026 and 2027, as well as a neutral-site game, possibly in Chicago, in 2023.

But Notre Dame and Michigan -- annual opponents since 2002 and common opponents since 1978 -- have nothing set beyond this season.

Read the rest of Adam Rittenberg and Matt Fortuna's story here.
Before their in-state rivalry takes a break, Purdue and Notre Dame will square off in Indiana's biggest city.

The schools made it official on Thursday, announcing that their Sept. 13, 2014, game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It's part of Notre Dame's annual Shamrock Series. The Irish will be the home team, and kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

It's the first time since 1984 that the Purdue-Notre Dame game has been played off campus, as the teams met that year in the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.

After next year's game, Purdue and Notre Dame won't meet until the 2020 season at Purdue. The teams will play in 2021 (at Notre Dame), 2024 (at Purdue), 2025 (at Notre Dame) and 2026 (neutral site). Athletic directors Morgan Burke (Purdue) and Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame) are exploring dates beyond 2026.

Purdue and Notre Dame have met every year since 1946.

"Jack and I tried everything we could to keep the series going without interruption," Burke said in a prepared statement. "But between the Big Ten going to a nine-game schedule and Notre Dame’s affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference, it just didn't work out. The series is important to both schools, and we are pleased that we are able to extend it through 2026."

Burke really wanted to keep Notre Dame on Purdue's schedule every year, as the Irish bring tremendous exposure for the Boilers. But it just wasn't realistic with Notre Dame's ACC move.

The good news is Purdue can explore other scheduling opportunities such as Virginia Tech and Missouri.

The team announced Wednesday that it will play a home-and-home against Virginia Tech, hosting the Hokies in 2015 and visiting Blacksburg, Va., in 2023. The teams have never met.

Purdue also is in the process of finalizing a home-and-home against Missouri. The Boilers will visit Missouri on Sept. 16, 2017, and host the Tigers on Sept. 15, 2018. The teams last met in 1980, and Purdue holds a 6-2 edge in the all-time series.

Purdue also has moved a home game against Eastern Kentucky from 2017 to 2016, and its 2016 home game against Cincinnati has been moved back a week to Sept. 10.

The Boilers' non-league schedules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 are now complete.

ND-Purdue could move to Indy in 2014

November, 1, 2013
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Notre Dame's 2014 home game against Purdue could be moving further East. Barely.

An Irish spokesperson confirmed that the moving of next year's contest with the Boilermakers to Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium is "close but not yet done," echoing comments Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke made Friday during a radio show appearance about the game potentially moving to the Colts' home field.

"We're working on" the series, Burke told Gold and Black LIVE. "I think we're close."

The game would be Notre Dame's "Shamrock Series" contest, the school's term for its annual taking of a home game to a metropolitan area and wearing new uniforms, which it has done for five straight seasons near San Antonio, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago and, this year, Dallas.

Notre Dame has yet to release its 2014 schedule, as it still has 13 scheduled opponents for 12 games. While the school is "hoping to announce (the) next few full schedules as quickly as they are finalized," per the spokesperson, a game in Indianapolis would make plenty of sense given athletic director Jack Swarbrick's history in the area, which includes having helped the city land Super Bowl XLVI for the 2011-12 NFL season.
CHICAGO -- Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon didn't do the chicken dance when asked about Notre Dame's decision to stop the annual series with the Wolverines after 2014.

"I'm not sure I would have used the word chicken," Brandon told ESPN.com, referring to Michigan coach Brady Hoke's comments Monday about Notre Dame "chickening out" of the series. "That's kind of how football coaches would think about it, and that's OK. Brady's a pretty straightforward guy. I would just say Notre Dame had choices to make, and they chose to back away from a rivalry game we've had on our schedule for a long time."

[+] EnlargeDave Brandon
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsDave Brandon said the next two Michigan-Notre Dame games "are going to be really exciting because it's going to be the end of the rivalry, at least for a considerable period of time."
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick informed Brandon in September that Notre Dame would exercise a three-year out clause in the schools' contract, meaning the teams would stop playing annually after the 2014 game in South Bend, Ind. Michigan and Notre Dame had extended their contract through the 2031 meeting but on a three-year rolling basis, which gave one side a chance to back out.

Notre Dame's agreement with the ACC, which will include five games per season, prompted the move. Michigan has games with Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Oregon State, BYU and others scheduled for future seasons.

Although many would like to see Michigan and Notre Dame resume their series, Brandon says don't hold your breath.

"It's going to be a long time," Brandon said. "We've both been busily scheduling out into years into the future. And as I understood it from my counterpart at Notre Dame, they're making plans to go in a different direction. So the earliest we could schedule would be sometime post-2021, 2022, and when you start talking that far out, who knows. So it's going to be a while.

"The night game we have at Michigan Stadium this September, and then our last trip down to South Bend next year are going to be really exciting because it's going to be the end of the rivalry, at least for a considerable period of time."

Brandon used the word "disappointed" several times in discussing the end of the series, but Michigan is moving forward with a schedule model he hopes will position the Wolverines for the College Football Playoff. Although Brandon doesn't sound like he'll add another neutral-site game in the immediate future -- Michigan and Alabama opened the 2012 season in Arlington, Texas -- he recognizes the need to upgrade the schedule.

"We have a lot of work to do to regain our footing in terms of playing competition that's going to be attractive to our fans, help us build our programs and help us compete at the national level," Brandon said. "I'm a big believer that we should be strengthening our schedule and working hard to go out and fill those nonconference positions with the kinds of programs that are going to excite our fans, bring a lot of attention to us as we are broadcast on television and ultimately put in a position where we're going to have better football programs."

Brandon is trying to "take a negative and turn it into a positive" regarding Notre Dame and spread Michigan's wings more with new non-league opponents.

"At Michigan," Brandon said, "we want to compete for one of those four spots at the end of the season."
Despite what they call continued progress, the BCS power brokers remain divided or unsettled on many important aspects of college football's future postseason model.

Whether it's basic structure, access, location of games and the roles of existing bowls, the major conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director haven't reached any firm conclusions. When they present their findings to the BCS presidential oversight committee June 26 in Washington, they'll almost certainly present multiple models (2-3) rather than one recommendation.

The debate and discussion is very much alive.

But there's one item everyone agrees on: college football's future postseason model must be more transparent than its present one.

The need for greater transparency -- and its support from all the BCS kingpins -- is the focus of my story today. The current BCS formula has produced as much confusion as it has outrage because of so many unknowns. The coaches' poll only reveals its final ballots, while five of the six computer rankings systems remain secret.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been especially vocal about the importance of transparency in whatever selection process is used in the future model. He recently told me, "On a scale of 1-10, the transparency we have now would have a hard time getting above 3, 4, 5." While Delany's position on transparency might be tough for some to digest, given his staunch defense of the BCS over the years, he has made it clear what he wants to see going forward.

Here's more from Delany:
"Transparency comes in the form of knowing what the standards and instructions are with the committee. It comes in the form of knowing what's inside the guts of the computer program. And it comes in the form of a chairman coming forward and saying this is why we did what we did. You might disagree with it, but it's the human face and the human voice to explain.
"There's no one to explain why Oregon would be out and Stanford would be in if you used those polls as a proxy for the top four [in 2011]. There's no one to explain how Oklahoma could lose in the [Big 12] championship game and still be the No. 1 team in the country [in 2003]."

If a four-team playoff is incorporated, Delany favors using a selection committee with detailed instructions -- revealed to the public -- to choose the participants. While committee members can use different gauges to evaluate teams -- polls, computer systems -- those gauges should be transparent.

Delany brought up how the NCAA men's basketball selection committee uses RPI to pick at-large teams every year.
"You know what's there," Delany said. "You can argue whether or not it's properly weighted, but there's no misunderstanding of what's there. ... It's OK to look at an RPI. It's OK to look at an AP [poll]. It's OK to look at a coaches' poll. But none of them, by themselves, or even in some sort of combination, provide an appropriate proxy without a human judgment."

Here are some tidbits that didn't make the story:
  • The concepts of greater transparency and stronger scheduling appear to be linked during the BCS negotiations. If there's any opposition to either idea, it's pretty quiet at this point. "As much as we embrace strength of schedule as an important criteria, greater transparency is also uniformly embraced," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last week. If a selection committee is used, it could receive specific instructions about valuing schedule strength. "Most of us are concerned about establishing directions and standards that give the preference, the priority, the tiebreaker to the champion over the non-champion, and to the team that has clearly gone out and tried to schedule difficult opponents and succeeded, against the team that has avoided that," Delany said.
  • Delany weighed in on the evolution of the BCS formula. From 1998-200s, it used two polls (AP and coaches'), computer average and strength of schedule. It eliminated strength of schedule before the 2004 season, and the Harris Interactive poll replaced the AP the following year. "We tried to fix it along the way," Delany said. "Everybody acted in good faith. We wanted the coaches to be involved. We thought we would give it some credibility. We thought the Harris Poll was really superior to the AP because the AP guys are writing the stories. They felt they shouldn't do it. It was a good move for them and their editors to abandon it. What we replaced it with was superior, but still, since it’s got the computer application inside along with the poll, and we've intentionally taken out certain factors that could be relevant, and other factors that are relevant inside the programs, the information is proprietary. So when you put it all together, when you think about doubling the field, there has to be a better way."

We can all agree on that last point after 15 years of confusion.

Video: BCS meetings wrap-up

June, 13, 2012
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Adam Rittenberg wraps up the BCS meetings Wednesday in Chicago.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly summed it up perfectly Thursday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show.

"It just makes sense," Kelly said.

A Northwestern-Notre Dame series makes a lot of sense for both schools, and the two teams announced Thursday they will play in 2014 and 2018. Both Kelly and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald appeared on "Mike & Mike" to make the announcement.

This is obviously a bigger deal to Northwestern than it is to Notre Dame. The Wildcats will host Notre Dame in 2018, which will mark Notre Dame's first trip to Evanston since the 1976 season. Some are already wondering if this game will be moved to Soldier Field. Not happening. Northwestern wouldn't agree to the series if it didn't get a true home game. By then, Ryan Field will be renovated, and Northwestern is hopeful its recent success on the field, combined with its recent marketing push, means the crowd will be more purple than green.

The teams first will play on Nov. 15, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium. It will mark their first meeting since the 1995 opener, when Fitzgerald led Northwestern to a historic upset that propelled the Wildcats to the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance. The game marked the end of a four-year run of games between the schools, and Notre Dame had little incentive to play the Wildcats after the 1995 loss.

Things have changed for both programs in the past 16 years. Notre Dame now schedules the likes of Tulsa and Western Michigan. Northwestern, meanwhile, has become a consistent bowl participant. Although a Notre Dame loss to Northwestern wouldn't go over well among the Irish faithful, the shock value of the 1995 loss probably won't be there. Notre Dame also benefits from a trip to Chicago, given its fan base and its recruiting base in the area.

It's no secret how this series came about. Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips previously served as an associate athletic director at Notre Dame and knows Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick well.
"Northwestern and Notre Dame represent two of the finest academic institutions in the nation, and it's only fitting that we renew our rivalry on the football field," Phillips said in a prepared statement.

No arguments here.

The Notre Dame addition also continues to beef up Northwestern's nonconference schedules, which will feature Cal, Boston College and others in the coming years.

Notre Dame still will face three Big Ten teams in both 2014 and 2018. The Irish take a break with Michigan State in 2014-15 and take a break with Michigan in 2018-19. They will face Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue in 2014 and Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern in 2018.
So, did you miss me?

From the looks of your e-mails, the answer is yes. How did some of you function before our little blog network kicked off? Anyway, I'm back from Mexico, revived and refreshed as we're less than a month away from the start of preseason camps in the Big Ten.

The league didn't follow my advice and expand again during my vacation, but there was some news during the last 10 days or so. Here's a quick recap:
  • Heralded offensive line recruit Seantrel Henderson was released from his letter of intent from USC, but ended up signing with Miami instead of Ohio State, Minnesota or another school. It seems like these days, every drama king shirks the state of Ohio and ends up in Miami. Buckeyes fans certainly wanted Henderson, despite his father's less-than flattering comments about head coach Jim Tressel, and there are some disappointed folks out there. But remember that Ohio State has had its share of five-star offensive line recruits who didn't pan out. The 2011 recruiting class looks stellar, and the offensive line likely will return three starters next year. My take on Henderson heading to the U? No big deal.
  • Iowa starting defensive end Broderick Binns faces some type of a suspension after his arrest early Friday on suspicion of drunken driving. Binns' arrest comes about a month after running back Jewel Hampton and cornerback Jordan Bernstine were charged with public intoxication. These incidents are common around college campuses, but Iowa should have a heightened sense of awareness and concern after enduring a swell of player arrests in 2007 and 2008. Iowa had minimal issues between the spring of 2009 and early this summer, but it can't afford another string of conduct problems. These things tend to happen in waves.
  • Joe Paterno seems to be out of the woods after health issues sidelined the 83-year-old for much of May and June. Although Paterno's recent illness never posed a major threat to him coaching the team this fall, any health problems can't be taken lightly at his age. There also were some updates on Penn State's quarterback competition from the Lift for Life charity event, which raised more than $98,000 for the Kidney Cancer Association (congrats to Scott Shirley and his staff for another great event).
  • Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick thinks the realignment issue isn't going anywhere, and while nothing is imminent, he'll continue to monitor what happens around the golden dome. Swarbrick told the South Bend Tribune: "I had a lot of people shouting across the street to me to stay independent and it was interesting, but correspondences ran both ways. I think there's an assumption that there's a universal view among our fans and alumni on this, and there isn't. It's always great to hear what people think, but there are so many of the pieces of information they didn't know, they couldn't know, that there's limited value to that input in this case." I like this perspective from Swarbrick. He recognizes the pressure to stay independent, but he also doesn't put too much stock in the opinions of the less informed. My take: Notre Dame won't make a move unless Texas does.
  • A few coaching nuggets, as tight ends coach Greg Nord left Illinois for Kentucky before spending a single game on the Illini sideline. Also, Purdue head coach Danny Hope named a full-time recruiting coordinator in Don Coller, while promoting Casey Nuss to supervisor of football operations.
Notre Dame knows what the Big Ten can offer: money, exposure, proximity and security.

And still, all that doesn't seem to be enough to convince the Fighting Irish to join the league.

So how does the Big Ten reel in Notre Dame before all of this expansion craziness is finished?

There's one way the Irish join a conference: if their BCS access changes. It's one thing not to play for a conference championship every year. Notre Dame and its fans don't seem to care about that.

But if their access to the national championship game became tougher after all of the expansion dominoes have dropped, Notre Dame will have no choice but to join a league, and the Big Ten is the only league that makes sense. Delusional or not, Notre Dame still believes it can compete for national championships every year, or at least BCS bowls. The current setup still allows for good but not great Notre Dame teams (i.e. the 2006 squad) to make the big bowls.

The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein writes:
If the Pac-10 does plump to 16 teams (by adding Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State), conference officials reportedly will push for two automatic bids to Bowl Championship Series games. That threat might help push Notre Dame into accepting a Big Ten bid. [ESPN analyst Kirk] Herbstreit believes Notre Dame "has to" go the conference route because of that BCS instability and the extra revenue derived from the Big Ten's lucrative combo TV deal (ESPN/ABC and the Big Ten Network).

The Tribune's Notre Dame beat writer Brian Hamilton gets right to the point:
In a word, it's about access for the Irish, probably more than money and tradition. It's about ensuring unobstructed views of the national title scene and relevant playing fields for sports other than football. If mega-conferences don't change that, Notre Dame won't change, either.

As for history, the hard-line traditionalists cling to football independence like someone clings to a cliff ledge while dangling above a deep ravine. But athletic director Jack Swarbrick is too realistic and forward-thinking to doom Notre Dame to irrelevance for the sake of sepia-toned memories.

So, again, the pivot point is access.

The Big Ten certainly can add Nebraska in Phase 1 of its expansion and go forward as a 12-team league. But Jim Delany can also sit back and watch what happens to the BCS when all of the shuffling is over. If Notre Dame's access changes, he can pick up the phone, call South Bend and perhaps get the answers he's been waiting more than a decade to hear.

Forget breaking up the Big East. The path to landing Notre Dame goes through the BCS.
CHICAGO -- Back in 2007, Michigan and Notre Dame announced a continuation in their annual football series from 2012-31.

Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon said Wednesday that a contract for the extension hasn't been signed, but he has no plans to adjust the rivalry series with Notre Dame. Michigan will host Notre Dame in 2011 in the first ever night game to be played at Michigan Stadium. The two schools will take a break in 2018 and 2019, but plan to meet in every other season until 2031.

"We don't really have a contract right now," Brandon said. "We announced we had kind of reached a meeting of the minds for a 20-year extension with the potential for a two-year hiatus, but that was never codified into a contract. That was what I was handed when I came into this job. So what we're going to need to do with Notre Dame is sit down and hammer out some specifics."

Brandon plans to work with Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick on finalizing a contract. Both men weren't in their current positions with Michigan and Notre Dame announced the 20-year extension.

Would Michigan ever stop playing Notre Dame every year?

"We love our rivalry with Notre Dame," Brandon said. "Never say never, but we've had a lot of discussions with Notre Dame about the future."

Many fans wonder why Big Ten teams continue to play Notre Dame after the Irish have rejected several chances to join the conference. Three Big Ten teams -- Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue -- play Notre Dame almost every season.

Would a boycott of the Irish make a statement to them?

"Words like boycott are silly," Brandon said. "I don't agree with that. I don't think it's going to accomplish anything helpful. The Notre Dame series is one that's really important to us and one that we would like to continue for a long time."
This isn't exactly groundbreaking stuff, but Missouri officials continue to sound very open to joining the Big Ten if the opportunity presents itself.

The latest report from The Associated Press includes Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon saying the university "should look at [joining the Big Ten] if it is offered."

For Missouri and Nebraska, the decision to join the Big Ten is a no-brainer, as both schools would substantially increase their annual television revenue. The Big 12's unequal revenue sharing system really hurts the league as it tries to hold onto its members.

One interesting nugget at the end of the AP story:
Leaving the Big 12 wouldn't come without a cost. Under conference rules, Missouri could have left without penalty had it given the league two years notice by June 2009.

Now, a "breaching member" wanting to withdraw would owe the Big 12 a payment equal to 80 percent of its two-year conference revenues if notice is given by June 30. The penalty increases to 90 percent before the end of the year or 100 percent is notice isn't given until 2011.

If the Big Ten expands by three or five, which I've heard are the expected routes, it's hard to imagine Missouri and Nebraska being left out. Both schools probably wouldn't need much arm twisting to say yes to the Big Ten and its deep pockets.

It should be an interesting 72 hours next week when Big Ten coaches and athletic directors meet in Chicago.

While we're talking expansion -- what else? -- SI.com's Andy Staples has a good breakdown of all of the expansion candidates for the Big Ten and the Pac-10. Staples makes predictions of what will happen to each candidate, and he likes Rutgers, Nebraska and Missouri for the Big Ten.

Regarding Notre Dame, he writes: "Despite the financial benefit it could offer Notre Dame, the Big Ten still would need to blow up the Big East to force Notre Dame's hand. That probably would require the acquisition of at least three Big East teams. If that doesn't happen, expect Notre Dame to remain independent in football."

It sounds more and more like Notre Dame won't make a move unless the school finds itself in a corner with a flurry of activity around. Unless AD Jack Swarbrick can tell Notre Dame's independence-obsessed fan base, "I had no choice but to join," the Irish aren't going anywhere.
Several of you have asked about the voting process for Big Ten expansion, and I have an answer for you.

According to the Big Ten's bylaws, an institution first must apply for admission to the league's Council of Presidents/Chancellors. The COP/C then votes, and it takes 70 percent of the council, or eight of the 11 members, to approve the candidate for admission to the league. So a candidate doesn't need to earn a unanimous vote to be admitted to the Big Ten, as is the case in the Pac-10.

Since the Big Ten has accelerated its push for expansion, a vote or votes on expansion candidates could take place in early June during the league's meeting of presidents and chancellors. Remember that because a vote takes place after an institution applies for admission, the COP/C only votes on institutions that want to be part of the Big Ten.

Here's a step-by-step outline of how the process could work:
  • Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the league's presidents and chancellors meet in Washington, site of the Association of American Universities spring meets, to discuss expansion candidates. Delany then would inform Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon, chair of the COP/C, that the league intends to begin formal discussions with candidates.
  • Delany attends BCS meetings Tuesday-Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he could notify commissioners of the affected leagues or Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick of the Big Ten's intentions. The Big Ten doesn't want to tamper with institutions before informing their conference commissioners.
  • The courting process begins between the Big Ten and expansion candidates (for some, it wouldn't take much).
  • The Big Ten holds its meetings of coaches (football, men's basketball, women's basketball) and athletic directors on May 17-19 in Chicago, where expansion will continue to be discussed.
  • An institution or multiple institutions formally apply for Big Ten membership. The COP/C votes in early June and the league officially expands.

Needless to say, it's an exciting time in the Big Ten, so stay tuned.
Big Ten expansion talk has quieted down just a bit during the last six weeks or so, but things are about to pick up.

Real fast.

As first reported by the Chicago Tribune, top Big Ten officials will meet beginning Saturday in Washington to discuss expansion. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany confirmed in a text message to ESPN.com that he's in D.C., and the Tribune reports that Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro and University of Illinois interim chancellor Robert Easter also will attend. I'm still trying to confirm whether other Big Ten leaders are there, particularly Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon, the chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors.

The gathering coincides with a three-day meeting of the Association of American Universities, beginning today in Washington. All 11 Big Ten schools are AAU members, and the top expansion candidates, with the notable exception of Notre Dame, also are part of the AAU.

AAU members include Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas. Connecticut and Boston College are not part of the AAU.

It's also very significant that the BCS annual meetings take place later this week in Phoenix. Remember that in its Dec. 15 statement about expansion, the Big Ten said it will notify the commissioners of affected conferences -- or Notre Dame top administrators -- before engaging in any formal discussions with institutions.

If I were Big East commissioner John Marinatto or Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, I'd worry about a tap on my shoulder during the BCS meetings. From what I've been told from coaches and officials around the Big Ten, Delany wants to get something done, and the commish usually gets what he wants.

Two other dates to remember:

  • The Big Ten holds its meetings of coaches (football, men's basketball, women's basketball) and athletic directors in Chicago from May 17-19
  • The Big Ten holds its meetings of presidents and chancellors in Chicago in early June

Translation: the Big Ten could finalize an expansion plan, and quite possibly rock the college sports landscape, in the next two months. So much for the 12- to 18-month plan outlined in the league's initial statement.

As the Tribune points out, "The fiscal years of universities end on the last day of June, 'so if you go past July 1, you have to wait an extra year,' one source said." So if the Big Ten wants to be a 12-team, 14-team or 16-team league for the 2011-12 academic year, it needs to act quickly.

I've had the chance to visit seven Big Ten schools for spring football practice, and the buzz among coaches and officials is that the Big Ten will expand, and there's a strong likelihood the league will add more than one team. Almost everyone I spoke with thinks the league will go to 14 or 16.

I'm still skeptical about a 16-team super conference, which sounds great in principle but hard to successfully execute. I still believe that if the Big Ten can add Notre Dame as a 12th member, there's absolutely no need to do anything else.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, by the way, had this to say on Saturday: "Our highest priority is maintaining football independence."

Swarbrick can say what he wants, but he still has to at least listen if the Big Ten comes calling. Major changes could be coming to college sports, and Notre Dame can't be left on the sideline, clinging to a football independence that seems to mean less and less with each passing year.

I still think the Big Ten has to make a push for Notre Dame before moving on to schools like Pitt, Rutgers, Missouri and Nebraska. If the Irish ultimately say no, the likelihood of a three-team or five-team expansion goes way up.

The next few weeks should be very, very interesting, so stay tuned.

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Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12