Notre Dame considers joining Big Ten conference

Matthew Cross

CHICAGO — Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday he recently initiated contact with Notre Dame about entering the conference in the near future.
He said the move, which is the second attempt since 1994 to entice the Irish into the Big Ten, is purely in the preliminary stages but that it could happen within the next few months.
“Right now we have only agreed to exchange information with each other,” Delany said. “There are no financial or competitive answers, but we are definitely intrigued by expansion. They’ve asked some questions, and we’ve asked some questions. That’s all.”
True, there are a lot of questions. For instance:
ù Would this effect the number of conference games, and does it mean less overall games for each team in the conference?
The Big Ten is interested in actually increasing the number of conference games in each sport and decreasing the number of nonconference foes, Delany said. Thus, expansion is an intriguing topic for the conference. In football at least, the trend is and will remain for each team to try and schedule the maximum of 12 games per season. That standard of filling schedules to the brim will likely spill into other sports as well.
ù When could Notre Dame start competition?
Delany said the talks with Notre Dame have not reached that point, and refused to elaborate any further.
ù What would happen with the Irish’s ties to other conferences (they play basketball in the Big East conference)?
Delany said in order for Notre Dame to be allowed into the Big Ten they would be expected to compete in all sports within the conference, not just football.
ù What do the other football coaches think about expanding the conference to let Notre Dame compete?
Most of the football coaches remain indifferent about the idea, not wanting to divulge too much of their opinion so early in the talks. Still, most agree it would increase the strength of the already powerful football conference.
Asked how he feels about adding Notre Dame to the Big Ten, Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez said: “I think it only makes sense — for Notre Dame and for the Big Ten — to go in that direction.”
Purdue football coach Joe Tiller, who, before arriving in West Lafayette, was the head coach at Wyoming for six years, said he has witnessed the potential evils in expansion. He said the WAC increased to 12 teams and then to 16, forcing divisions to be made within the conference. The same division has happened in the SEC.
Still, Tiller said he supports the Big Ten’s inquiry into recruiting Notre Dame.
“It’s a great program and a great institution. It would be a great addition to the Big Ten,” he said.
In 1994, the Big Ten also expressed interest in having Penn State join the conference. After Penn State accepted, Notre Dame declined for unspecified reasons. “There wasn’t a meeting of the minds,” Delany explained.
Having the Lions in the Big Ten has significantly improved the Big Ten’s respect in several sports as one of the most competitive conferences in the country.
“It’s been a great move for us,” Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said.
“Whether it would be the same for Notre Dame or not, I don’t know.”
Delany said Notre Dame is the only school that has been contacted about possibly joining the Big Ten, and no other schools have been identified in discussions.