Ten The Right Number...For Now

One by one, the athletic directors in the Big 12 have professed their support for a 10-team league, and the conference board of directors reaffirmed that stance on Thursday.

That doesn't mean they wouldn't be happy if the right No. 11 came along.

Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis, chairs the board of directors, said he was "flattered" that Florida State and other schools have expressed interest in joining the once-fledgling league, but when the subject of Notre Dame was broached, Hargis had a different response.

"That's something we would have to pursue," he said.

Historically an independent in football, Notre Dame hasn't yet expressed interest in joining the Big 12 - or any conference, for that matter. But it may be forced to consider its options depending upon the proposed changes to the postseason and the Big East's long-term viability. Most of Notre Dame's other sports compete in the Big East.

One of the iterations being considered for a four-team playoff would emphasize conference champions. That could limit access to the national championship game - and possibly other major bowls - for the Fighting Irish.

Some have floated the idea that Notre Dame could work with the Big 12 by playing a handful of games against league members, allowing it to retain traditional games against Southern California, Michigan, Boston College and the service academies.

The only other news of interest on a relatively mild day at the Big 12 meetings regarded acting commissioner Chuck Neinas, who stepped into the fold when Dan Beebe was forced out and was largely responsible for bringing the conference back from the brink of extinction.

Neinas is already transferring power to Bob Bowlsby, the former Stanford athletic director who has been chosen as his permanent replacement. Neinas is due to conclude his tenure at the end of June, with Bowlsby taking over in an official capacity on June 15.

There are several issues that must be addressed in the coming months, including negotiations on television deals and the Big 12's positioning in a proposed playoff structure, and that could be difficult for Bowlsby because of obligations at the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Neinas said he would be willing to extend his tenure through July, perhaps as a consultant to the league. He wouldn't provide a potential date for fulfilling his work with the league.

As for his thoughts on whether the Big 12 will eventually add more schools, Neinas may have provided them most candid response once he stepped down from the dais and headed for the door.

"Why doesn't anybody believe us," Neinas asked a reporter seated near the door, "when we keep telling everybody that we're happy with 10?"

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