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Conference Realignment Talk May Only Be Pressure on Notre Dame

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All the talk about conference realignment as a result of Big Ten (11) expansion may be having it's intended effect.  Yesterday, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick admitted that Notre Dame is rethinking it's football independence.  A 14 or 16 team Big Ten might damage the Big East, where Notre Dame participates in most of their other sports.  ESPN's Bracketology currently has Notre Dame on the bubble (while SB Nation's own Bracketology has them in), but in with a #12 seed, of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.  Would Notre Dame have the resume for an NCAA berth if the Big East wasn't as strong?

So has all this talk about a titanic shift in college football just a power play to push Notre Dame into the Big Ten?  Perhaps, though it depends on whether the Big Ten wants to solidify and enhance their position as a premier conference by adding bigger names.  Pitt and Rutgers aren't big names, but Notre Dame and Nebraska certainly would be.

One reason why the Big Ten would want to think bigger is the future of the Big Ten network.  The Big Ten makes the conference a lot of money...but it still only reaches about 40% of the country.  Bigger names make it more desirable to cable subscribers.

The financial success of the Big Ten network has gotten the attention of the Big XII, where  the idea of a Big 12 Network has resurfaced.  Good idea for non-revenue sports, as a Big 12 Network would increase exposure nationwide.  But the Big XII's current TV contracts for football give the Big XII better exposure than the Big Ten or SEC networks, who bump many games to the relatively low-exposure Big Ten and ESPNU networks.

But the money is hard to ignore.  And money drives so much of college athletics anymore, it's certainly a realistic proposition.