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Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith Hopes Notre Dame Considers Joining Big Ten

The conference expanded to the West Coast on Thursday with the addition of UCLA and USC.
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During a press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Friday morning, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was asked if the Big Ten is considering expanding beyond UCLA and USC, who were unanimously admitted to the conference on Thursday.

“Obviously, we’re in an unbelievable, crazy time in college athletics with many moving parts and things to be decided,” Smith said. “I wish I had a crystal ball. I really do. If you asked me this question in March of this year, I wouldn’t have been able to project it.”

The addition of UCLA and USC now brings the conference to 16 full-time members, but Smith acknowledged that other schools have expressed an interest in joining the Big Ten, as well. He didn’t specify which schools, though he later said he hopes Notre Dame is considering the move.

“I love my alma mater, except when we play them in any sport, and I’ve always thought they should be in a conference,” said Smith, who was a member of the 1973 national championship team and graduated from the university in 1977. “I don’t know what a next step would be (for them), but I hope they consider that opportunity, and I hope it’s the Big Ten.”

The Fighting Irish have been independent in football for their entire history, aside from joining the ACC in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They unsuccessfully attempted to join the Big Ten in the early 1900s, then nearly joined the conference in 1999 before the university decided against it.

Perhaps this time, though, the changing landscape in college football will force their hand once their television contract with NBC ends after the 2025 season. Not to mention, their long-standing rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and USC – as well as their upcoming home-and-home series with Ohio State – could make the move enticing.

“Who knows?” Smith said. “They’ve been operating the way they have for a long time, so not sure what will happen there.”

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