- Matt Fortuna, College Football
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick likes the direction the Big East is heading. Now, it's time for the 14-team conference to act on its plans to expand, something its presidents voted unanimously to authorize commissioner John Marinatto to pursue after a meeting Sunday at Georgetown.
"It's great to make plans," Swarbrick said Wednesday at Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Arena, where its hockey team announced it would join Hockey East. "It's whether the people you might be interested in or the circumstances will allow you to achieve those plans, but certainly the way the conference is thinking and what it's trying to achieve are consistent of what I think it needs to do."
The Big East lost Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC on Sept. 18, causing concern about the viability of the league in which 18 Notre Dame sports compete in, including its men's and women's basketball teams.
A weakened or a non-existent Big East would likely force Notre Dame to re-evaluate its status as a football independent, something it desires to maintain.
The Pac-12 announced it would not expand three days after Pitt's and Syracuse's moves to the ACC, seemingly quelling the realignment circus momentarily.
Notre Dame was mentioned repeatedly last year when the Big Ten was discussing expansion, culminating in the addition of Nebraska as its 12th member. The Irish have also been mentioned as a desirable target for other leagues in recent months, particularly by the fractured Big 12.
Swarbrick, who said in earlier interviews had said he was caught off-guard by Pitt's and Syracuse's moves, said Wednesday that he knows better than to think all is settled in the college sports landscape.
"You know I certainly have been taught enough times now not to claim there's any calmness emerging," Swarbick said. "Every time I declare it someone proves me wrong. So our assumption is it's not. Certainly the factors that have contributed to the larger conference realignment continue to exist and we're doing the same thing we've done throughout: monitoring it closely and hoping that the Big East stays a vibrant and successful partner for us."
Asked the odds of the Big East staying vibrant and successful, Swarbrick said: "I'm not placing any odds on anything these days."
Notre Dame also announced Wednesday its hockey program was joining Hockey East in two years and that its games would be televised on NBC. That network has televised Notre Dame football games for two decades.
Swarbrick said he didn't envision Notre Dame having a separate network for its sports similar to the Longhorn Network at Texas. That doesn't mean Notre Dame's exposure won't reach from coast to coast through various means.
"Texas has a geographic footprint that allows it to launch a cable station, a cable network. We don't," Swarbrick said. "There is no cable footprint that fits Notre Dame, but when emerging technologies allow us to put a program out that someone in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York can all gain access to because of those technologies, that's where we want to be."
Swarbrick, who is involved in NCAA task forces, predicted significant changes ahead for college sports -- outside realignment -- soon.
"I do think college sports is going to look different in meaningful ways in 18 months," he said without elaborating. He then suggested he supports some kind of stipend for athletes to defray living expenses.
"It's a cost of living element that exists in a lot of academic scholarships," he said. "This isn't a radical notion in the university world. So given the demands on student athletes increasingly across all sports and they way they engage in their sport year-round, it probably is an appropriate offset to the fact they can't typically have gainful employment in the summer like most students or have an internship."
Matt Fortuna is ESPN.com's Notre Dame football blogger. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick says the school is closely monitoring the changing landscape of college athletics and hopes the Big East remains a vibrant partner with the school.