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Columnist
It's time for the Big Ten to woo Irish again
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/16/2009 12:00 AM | Updated: 12/16/2009 12:17 AM

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It's a classic storytelling device.

Boy woos girl. Girl snubs boy. Time passes. Boy deals with the pain. Girl realizes she might have been hasty (and recognizes the single life isn't as sweet as before).

They meet again and - voila! - sparks fly and they live happily ever after.

OK, Big Ten and University of Our Lady - time to realize you can't fight Hollywood romance this time around.

For those who didn't get the memo Tuesday, the Big Ten announced that commissioner Jim Delany will "conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion."

Delany expects to use the next 12-18 months to handle this initial step. Then he'll make recommendations to the league's council of presidents and chancellors. Then either something will happen or it won't.

It says here Notre Dame ought to come aboard as the Big Ten's 12th school.

Yes, the Irish turned down the Big Ten's overtures in 1999. Don't put much meaning on it. That was a lifetime ago in college football circles.

Since that time, the Big Ten constructed its own lucrative cable network that craves more relevance. Where can the league find more interested viewers (and thus more interested advertisers) than by adding Notre Dame?

It just so happens Notre Dame and its personal network (NBC) have a contract that runs through 2015.

At the rate Delany plans to attack this project - keeping in mind Penn State accepted its Big Ten invitation in 1990 but didn't start playing league games until 1993 - the timeline might work here.

What's in it for Notre Dame? Among other things, a better chance to get to the BCS title game. After all, isn't that the Irish's raison d'etre?

In 1999, the BCS was in its infancy. Nobody knew exactly how it would play out, but it looked like the Irish had an inside lane to the BCS games.

In the last 10 years Notre Dame has played in three BCS bowls (two Fiestas and a Sugar). That's nice, but it's not close to where the school wants to be. Why else would the Irish be on their fourth head coach (not including George O'Leary) in the last decade?

Notre Dame clearly makes the most sense as the next Big Ten school. Did I mention it stands No. 20 in the U.S. News and World Report's 2010 rankings?

Some headstrong dames are sure they can go it alone, though, so the Big Ten must hedge its bets.

Rutgers makes some sense because it could capture some of the New York broadcast market while not threatening the football powers-that-be.

Pittsburgh gives Penn State a traveling partner and rival, but where's the added value to the Big Ten Network?

Perhaps Syracuse? The private school shares 58th place with Pittsburgh in the U.S. News rankings.

Texas and Missouri are too comfy to leave the Big 12. Boston College jumps conferences every so often, but why pick a lesser Notre Dame?

So put on some lipstick and pucker up, Brian Kelly. Big daddy Jim Delany might say he wants to go out for a malted, but really he wants a multimillion-dollar merger.

Am I the only one who sees Touchdown Jesus giving this union the thumbs-up?

lwillhite@dailyherald.com