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Two Steps That Could Push Notre Dame to Join the Big Ten

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 7/4/2022 Thomas Neumann
© Provided by Sports Illustrated

The rapidly changing college football landscape could nudge Fighting Irish into a conference affiliation.

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Days after a seismic shift in the college football landscape, many observers are watching to see how independent titan Notre Dame will react.

In the wake of Thursday's whirlwind departure from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten by USC and UCLA, speculation is rampant that the Big Ten isn't done expanding. The next move likely belongs to Notre Dame, one industry insider told Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde. However, the insider mentions that there is no timetable for a decision by the Fighting Irish.

A source familiar with the thinking inside Notre Dame's athletic department told Forde that the school's likely preference is to remain independent. However, Forde listed two issues that could nudge the Fighting Irish toward the Big Ten: the fates of the Atlantic Coast Conference and College Football Playoff.

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Notre Dame has been a member of the ACC in all sports except football and ice hockey since 2013, but it's possible that the mighty Southeastern Conference could pursue ACC elites such as ClemsonFlorida State and North Carolina. Meantime, while the Fighting Irish currently have a path to the national championship via their affiliation with the CFP, the playoff is only currently contracted to exist through January 2026.

Given recent news, the ACC and CFP don't seem as stable as they did just a week ago.

"The vast majority of the writing assumes a playoff, and that it's going to get bigger," the industry source told Forde. "I'm not sure about that assumption."

If either the ACC or CFP become imperiled or diminished in a rapidly evolving college sports world, Notre Dame could be compelled to join the Big Ten, which has sought the school's membership for decades.

Only one thing seems certain: the college football world will be closely watching South Bend to see what future course Notre Dame plots.

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