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ND still undecided on conference decision

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's new five-year television
contract with NBC will not play a significant role in the school's
decision whether to keep its football program independent.

"There's not an immediate correlation of any kind between those
two things," athletic director Kevin White said Sunday in an
interview with The Associated Press. "We made a decision to extend
our deal with NBC. We're going to continue to monitor our choice.
We haven't made any decision."

There has been speculation since Notre Dame and NBC announced
the five-year extension that it was a sign the school, a Big East
member in basketball and other sports, would continue as an
independent in football.

The contract with NBC is worth a reported $9 million a year
through 2010.

White has avoided talking about Notre Dame's conference future
except to issue a statement saying the school would "monitor the
landscape."

White said Sunday nothing has changed.

"We're looking at everything and we're looking at it all the
time," he said. "We're not rushing to a decision."

There's also been speculation that Notre Dame's decision whether
to join a conference could hinge on how the next Bowl Championship
Series is set up. The current BCS system, which ends after the 2005
season, has tie-ins with six football conferences and Notre Dame.

But White, the AD at Notre Dame since 2000, said he did not
believe the new BCS contract would be a major factor, either.

"I think BCS is a market-driven endeavor. My position has
always been, if we're good enough, we'll be invited. If our
football team warrants an invitation, we'll get one. I don't think
that is going to change," he said.

White declined to cite what factors will be key in the
decision-making process.

"Everything is important," he said.

White said he has tried to avoid commenting on the subject
because he did not want inferences drawn from what he did or did
not say.

"We're staying the course and we're monitoring the landscape.
We haven't made any decisions beyond that," he said.

He also said the decision would not be his alone to make.

Irish football coach Tyrone Willingham has said he supported
White's approach.

"You just keep a constant visual of the landscape and at the
right time you do what is right for the institution," he said.

Willingham was noncommittal on what he believed Notre Dame
should do.

"My take is that we've done a great job in maintaining a very
special place in college football history," he said. "No one has
done that role any better than Notre Dame. But I do think you have
to keep an eye out and be aware of that is going on around you."

White said Notre Dame has considered joining a conference since
the 1920s. Notre Dame took its most serious look in 1999, but the
Board of Trustees voted against joining the Big Ten after students
and alumni rallied against the proposal.

White said he believed most Irish fans were taking a
wait-and-see approach now.

"There are a lot of moving parts. It's fairly complex and I
think a lot of people haven't rushed to a conclusion, at least
that's my observation," he said. "A lot of things are changing
around and we can't control that. But it would be irresponsible of
us not to pay attention."