Confirmation from Notre Dame to ESPN that the Irish will move all of their sports - except football - out of the Big East and into the Atlantic Coast Conference as soon as possible came as a big surprise to many in the Big 12 Wednesday.
The Big 12 had been actively courting Notre Dame to make the same move into its 10-team league for more than a year.
But sources in the Big 12 told me this morning the governing board at Notre Dame wanted to maintain its affiliation with the East Coast and felt the ACC (with several former members of the Big East, such as Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami - and starting next year - Syracuse and Pittsburgh) was a better fit than the Big 12. The board also valued the ACC's academic standing, which is the best among the BCS conferences.
The big question my Big 12 sources were asking this morning is what does the ACC plan to do about Notre Dame's desire to have its own TV network? It's something the Big 12 would have welcomed, because schools in the Big 12 own their third-tier TV rights.
In the ACC, almost all the revenue from Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 TV rights (all contracted with ESPN) are shared equally. In fact, the ACC was concerned about Texas bringing the Longhorn Network into the ACC when the Longhorns looked at the ACC as a possible landing spot last year (when Oklahoma began talking to the Pac-12).
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said on Monday he thought Notre Dame in the Big 12 "would be a positive" and added that Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby "are friends, too, and hopefully those conversations are continuing."
Bowlsby and former Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas both had conversations with Swarbrick, including keeping Notre Dame in the loop about the Big 12's decision to partner with the SEC on the Champions Bowl, which will begin New Year's Night 2015.
The conversations had included Notre Dame playing up to six games against Big 12 schools. The agreement between Notre Dame and the ACC calls for the Irish to play up to five games against ACC schools.
"No one is going to say it publicly, but this is a bit of a surprise and a big disappointment," one Big 12 source said. "We thought Notre Dame would be able to pursue its own network in the Big 12 and be a great fit here. I'm not sure what Notre Dame is going to be able to do in terms of its own network in the ACC.
"But Notre Dame is a great school and you wish them all the best."
The ACC had taken a stance of all-in membership or all-out previously in terms of whether the conference would admit a partial member. But clearly the events in May that included Florida State's chairman of the board of trustees saying the Seminoles would listen to the Big 12 shook the ACC into taking action to try to fortify its walls.
The addition of Notre Dame, even as a partial member, should help the ACC solidify and will probably quiet - for the foreseeable future - any talk of expansion or realignment involving the Big 12.
According to my sources, the pecking order of adding schools to the Big 12 - if expansion was to occur - was: 1) Notre Dame; 2) Florida State; and 3) Georgia Tech.
With the ACC adding Notre Dame and playing up to five games against the Irish, that talk will probably all but disappear.