Here are some notes that I received from a source connected to the Notre Dame administration.
The word out of the Midwest this
week is that ND and the Big Ten will tentatively announce their union this
spring or summer. The discussions are underway in earnest. The new NBC
deal does not preclude this and, in fact, anticipates this (or some conference
FB affiliation). The deal is structured to allow either party out, with at least
two years notice, and no financial penalties.
While polls indicate ND fans overwhelming prefer independence, apparently that sentiment is "soft." In-depth (internal ND) polls indicate that the "right deal" would be accepted by the most influential alumni. The desired choice is clearly the Big 10. ("The greatest fear seems to be that ND FB becomes the next Penn State, now a football irrelevant.")
What is being resolved now is timing, configuration, schedules and financial impact. Early (pre '10) integration involves significant rescheduling work (and $$$ penalties) by all schools, not just ND. Also, the config. of the Big 10 (even its name!) needs to be resolved. All 11 schools want ND on their schedule: who gets ND first--and at home--is a big deal. Also to be resolved is conference alignment. Apparently there is only limited support for two divisions and a play-off, at this time. There are lots of other, non FB stuff to cover too.
All of this will take months. Only after the major issues are resolved (including the value of the "new" Big Ten's next TV contract w/ NBC?) will an announcement of tentative agreement in principle be revealed. An announcement could come by June.