The latest phase of college football realignment saw the Big Ten add USC and UCLA starting in 2024, with all eyes on what the conference will do next.
The one major follow-up report indicated that the Big Ten was poised to add Oregon and Washington next, in addition to football rivals Cal and Stanford.
Now it appears the Big Ten is content to press pause on expansion for the time being, as its interest in those schools has "cooled," according to CBS Sports.
College football realignment update
After the anxiety caused last week regarding further Big Ten expansion, industry sources have indicated the Big Ten is no longer as interested in adding California, Oregon, Stanford and Washington. Rights holders were balking at paying the same amount for those schools as the 16 Big Ten schools going forward ($80 million-$100 million).
Instead, the Big Ten is taking its current holdings into the next media rights contract negotiations going into 2023.
The conference added USC and UCLA just in time, as including those two premier brands extended the Big Ten's media coverage into the vital Los Angeles market.
And will help increase the value of the league's next TV contract. Analysts predict the Big Ten could earn up to $1 billion per year on its next deal.
But just because the Big Ten doesn't want to add any more Pac-12 schools doesn't mean it's still not in hot pursuit of Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame Factor
Big Ten officials have been open about their desire to add the Fighting Irish, who want to maintain their football independence, but could be persuaded to change their mind if the situation (and the price) is right.
Notre Dame has been independent in football since the beginning, going back 135 years (with the exception of the Covid season in 2020, when it played in the ACC), and has been able to stay that way thanks to its deal with NBC and its continued access to the College Football Playoff.
But if either of those things should change, the school could consider joining a conference, with the Big Ten being the most likely destination.
Currently, Notre Dame is hoping to get a new deal from NBC in the neighborhood of $75 million per year, according to reports, and the school's ability to secure that kind of money could determine whether or not it stays independent.
In turn, NBC is on the lookout for another college football property to air on its network in order to be able to afford Notre Dame's demands.
If it decided to join up, the Big Ten would insist Notre Dame bring its other sports, most of which are currently members of the ACC.
But to escape that conference would mean paying a hefty exit fee thanks to the league's grant of rights deal, which doesn't expire until 2036.
All of which signals that Notre Dame has almost every incentive to stay independent.
But that doesn't mean the Big Ten won't be watching every step of the way, just in case.