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Chicago Trib: Notre Dame isn't interested in joining Big Ten


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Notre Dame isn't interested in joining Big Ten

Irish content as football independent and in Big East

By Teddy Greenstein

Tribune reporter

December 17, 2009

During his 17 months as Notre Dame's athletic director, Jack Swarbrick has asked university officials about what transpired in 1999, when the Irish declined an invitation to join the Big Ten.

Was it a close decision?

"I'm not completely sure," Swarbrick said Wednesday. "The stories don't exactly line up."

Notre Dame's present-day stance is clearer: If the Big Ten opts to expand, it should not bother to knock on Notre Dame's door.

"Our strong preference is to remain the way we are," Swarbrick told the Tribune. "Independence is a big part of the tradition of the program and our identity. We'd sure like to try to maintain it."

Snicker if you must, but Swarbrick said finances would not play much of a role. Yes, Notre Dame has a television deal with NBC that pays the school $9 million annually.

But Swarbrick agreed that Big Ten and SEC schools derive more money from their conferences' media deals. Big Ten schools receive about $20 million a year in TV and radio rights fees.

"All of this has a lot more to do with our priorities than it does with business issues," he said. "Our independence is tied up in a lot of the rivalries we have. We play Navy every year and have the tradition of USC weekends. Frankly, it works pretty well to play USC in October at home and in November at their place."

Swarbrick also spoke of Notre Dame pioneers Knute Rockne and Jesse Harper, who envisioned a national football program.

"That defines the school and is very much part of our identity," he said.

That said, Swarbrick will follow the Big Ten's plans closely because of how it could influence the Big East, Notre Dame's partner for sports other than football.

"The question that any school faces, not just Notre Dame, is: Does this start the dominoes falling again, like the last round of reconfiguration?" Swarbrick said, referring to shuffles among the ACC and Big East in 2003. "It's less about our willingness to enter into discussions than what happens to the industry. What are the implications?"

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

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