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June 20, 2012

Sources: Irish Olympic sports likely headed to B12

Two sources in the Big 12 said Wednesday the possibility of Notre Dame moving its Olympic sports out of the Big East and into the Big 12 is becoming more and more likely.

Speculation is growing among those sources that an announcement could come from South Bend before the end of the summer.

As part of such a move, Notre Dame, which has a contract with NBC to televise its home football games through the 2015 season, would agree to play up to six football games against Big 12 competition (but most likely three or so to start with), sources tell Orangebloods.com.

Notre Dame would maintain its independence in football ... for now. If the Irish ever felt compelled to join a conference in football, the Big 12 would be ready and waiting for them. The trusted relationship between Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick can not be underestimated if such a move transpires.

Notre Dame's explanation to the Big East would be that the Big East is no longer the conference the Irish joined as a non-football member back in 1995, the sources said. Since the Irish joined, the Big East has seen Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College leave with Syracuse and Pittsburgh planning to join the ACC in two years.

Incoming Big East members include Central Florida, San Diego State, SMU, Houston and Navy.

One of ND's biggest attractions to the Big 12 is the ability to have its own Tier 3 television network, along the lines of Texas' Longhorn Network. Tier 3 inventory is whatever is left after the TV partners with Tier 1 (ABC/ESPN in the Big 12) and Tier 2 (Fox in the Big 12) rights select the football and basketball games they want to air.

Tier 3 inventory typically consists of 1 or 2 football games (although DeLoss Dodds has told reporters LHN could air three Texas football games in 2012) and less than a dozen basketball games as well as Olympic sports.

Sources in the Big 12 told Orangebloods.com during the league meetings that Notre Dame as a non-football member is the only expansion target that would receive universal approval from the league.

While sources say Texas and Oklahoma favor the Big 12 as a 10-team league for now, there are some in the Big 12 who think a move by Notre Dame - even just its Olympic sports - into the Big 12, could cause a frenzy of interest from football powers in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Orangebloods.com reported last month that Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech all had efforts made on their behalf to gauge the interest of the Big 12 in expanding. The Big 12 indicated at its conference meetings in Kansas City in late May that it was happy at 10.

And while that was the sentiment then, a potential move by Notre Dame to affiliate with the Big 12, could cause more discussion and possibly a rethinking of the league's current position about bringing in new members.

Stay tuned.




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