Notre Dame floated a trial balloon yesterday about surrendering its football independence and sources say its intended target is the Big Ten.
Notre Dame spurned the Big Ten in 1999 after lengthy negotiations because it didn't want to give up its independent status in football as it has in other sports as part of the Big East.
But the changing landscape in college athletics apparently has forced the school to re-evaluate its stance.
This time, though, sources say the Big Ten isn't likely to court the Irish; Notre Dame would have to initiate talks.
The Big Ten would not confirm when, or even if, talks with the Irish have occurred.
"As of right now the Big Ten is not pro-active in respect to expansion." associate director of communications Scott Chipman said.
Commissioner Jim Delaney was not available to comment.
According to a story in USA Today yesterday, Notre Dame has inquired about full membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But several sources familiar with the situation say the ACC, which recently expanded from nine teams to 12, is wary an Irish overture could be an indirect Notre Dame attempt to re-open Big Ten talks.
"We have received some informal inquires concerning potential membership, but our schools are not pursuing any institution for membership at this time." ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement.
Notre Dame would not confirm talks had taken place with either conference.
The Big Ten expanded from 10 to 11 members in 1990 when it added Penn State.
Adding a 12th member would allow the Big Ten to stage a football conference championship game, a potentially lucrative source of revenue.
Only conferences with at least 12 teams can have a championship game in football.
The desire to tap into that revenue stream is in large part responsible for the recent expansion of the ACC, which enticed three Big East schools-Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech-to join it earlier this year.
That change led to the Big East taking in Marquette, DePaul, Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida from Conference USA.
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