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Texas has eyes for Notre Dame

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For more on Notre Dame football, see this related story http://bit.ly/nNX8SH

Longhorn leader wants Irish in Big 12

Friday, September 23, 2011 - 10:50 pm

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds is a powerful person in the world of intercollegiate athletics. But it remains to be seen whether he is powerful enough to place a cowboy hat on a leprechaun.

Dodds spoke with www.orangebloods.com, a website focused on Texas athletics, earlier this month, and he made it perfectly clear that he has a desire to bring Notre Dame into the Big 12 if the Fighting Irish ever choose to leave the Big East Conference.

According to Dodds, he spoke with his counterpart at Notre Dame, Jack Swarbrick, this past summer and made his desires to work with Notre Dame clear.

“Notre Dame was worried about getting decimated to where they were sitting without a conference,” Dodds said. “And I told Jack, ‘Come on down.'”

The Big 12 is racing to stabilize itself after defections by Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M over the past year. Notre Dame has professed its strong desire to remain an independent in football. But at the same time, the university wants to be affiliated with a strong, nationally recognized conference for its other athletic programs. That is just fine with Dodds.

“Keep your football (and) come on down,” Dodds told Swarbrick. “If Notre Dame wants to be an independent and something happens to the Big East, I've told Jack, ‘I will fight for you to be a part of this conference in some form or fashion.' I think it would be good for them, and I think it would be good for us.”

Well, guess what? Something is happening to the Big East.

The Big East lost Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference over the weekend and despite a statement of confidence released by commissioner John Marinatto, the league appears to be on shaky ground. Statements released this week by Connecticut, West Virginia and Georgetown did not unequivocally state their intentions to remain in the conference.

“We have been approached by a number of such institutions and will pursue all of our options to make the Big East Conference stronger than it has ever been in both basketball and football,” Marinatto said in a release.

One of those institutions that Marinatto spoke of is East Carolina, which applied for membership with his league Wednesday.

"While we have formalized our interest in Big East Conference membership as a viable option, ECU will remain focused on competing at the highest level through the efforts of Conference USA," East Carolina Chancellor Steve Ballard and athletic director Terry Holland said in a release.

The Associated Press reported that both Air Force and Navy were also under consideration by the Big East for membership, but only in the sport of football. The league currently is comprised of eight football-playing schools and eight non-football schools, of which Notre Dame is a part.

The Big 12 is down to nine teams following the aforementioned defections. Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State each met with Pac-12 officials earlier this week in Los Angeles, but were rejected in their quest to join that conference.

Dodds told the Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday that he would like for his athletic program to be part of a 10-team conference, most notably for scheduling convenience.

“Nine works, but I've always liked 10,” Dodds said.

Dodds declined to name any other schools that the league would pursue, but still did not rule out Notre Dame.

“I think there's always a chance,” he said.

For more on Notre Dame football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.