Swarbrick pumps brakes on Big 12 talks

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With news that the conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick plan to present a four-team playoff plan to universities presidents in the coming days, a new rumor surfaced earlier today from OrangeBloods.com’s Chip Brown that is once again is connecting Notre Dame with the Big 12.

In Brown’s latest (and not the first time Brown has tried connecting Notre Dame with the conference) he reports growing speculation that the Irish might move their Olympic sports (read: Not football) to the Big 12, in exchange for a seasonal slate of football games.

Here’s the juicy bit from the article:

Speculation is growing among those sources that an announcement could come from South Bend before the end of the summer.

As part of such a move, Notre Dame, which has a contract with NBC to televise its home football games through the 2015 season, would agree to play up to six football games against Big 12 competition (but most likely three or so to start with), sources tell Orangebloods.com.

Notre Dame would maintain its independence in football … for now. If the Irish ever felt compelled to join a conference in football, the Big 12 would be ready and waiting for them. The trusted relationship between Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick can not be underestimated if such a move transpires.

Notre Dame’s explanation to the Big East would be that the Big East is no longer the conference the Irish joined as a non-football member back in 1995, the sources said. Since the Irish joined, the Big East has seen Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College leave with Syracuse and Pittsburgh planning to join the ACC in two years.

Swarbrick, who has had a busy few days between college football meetings in Chicago and extending basketball coach Mike Brey to a new ten-year deal, was quick to refute any new developments between Notre Dame and the Big 12, a conference where he’s got plenty of allies with new commission Bob Bowlsby and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds.

Thankfully, the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton was on the spot and asked Swarbrick about the situation. His response was pretty clear:

“I have no idea what prompted that,” Swarbrick said. “It is not based on any discusson, any meeting we have done…

“I can’t imagine what triggered the account, because I did see it. There was no conversation, no ‘something’ that would cause it to be written.”

Swarbrick said that could be considered an official denial that there would be, say, a news conference about conference affiliation in coming months. As always, though, there was some wiggle room left should the Big East disintegrate.

“I’ve said all along that there were three important factors for us,” Swarbrick said. “One was the resolution of postseason football, which we are closer to. One is a resolution of our media relationship, which we are in the homestretch of.

“The third is related to the stability of the Big East, which we get more information on eveyr day. In that sense, pieces of that are starting to fall into place, and that will put us in a time and place where we probbaly take a look at it and decide what we’re doing.”

I’ve purposely steered clear of most conference realignment talk because so much of what’s out there is strictly posturing or a smoke screen. Swarbrick, who has been put in charge of a pretty unenviable situation, has done an amazing job cutting through the rumors and holding strong with Notre Dame’s preference for independence in football.

From the looks of it, he’s accomplished what he set out to do with these playoff discussions: Keep Notre Dame in the running for a championship and also keep them independent in football.