Nobody hold your breath. The belief here is that Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford has been frank in downplaying the possibility of the Irish becoming the league's 12th member.
No self-respecting conference such as the ACC is going to accept Notre Dame as anything but a full conference member. If Notre Dame wants to join the Big Ten Conference or the ACC, it will have to play a full conference football schedule and share its hefty television revenues.
There's no way proud athletic programs such as Clemson, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State — or Ohio State and Michigan — would make exceptions for a new member. Not even for Notre Dame.
And Notre Dame, which has flirted with the Big Ten for decades, has always been unwilling to give up its independent status and share its football money.
What conference, if any, will get Notre Dame as a football member?
The Big Ten would seem to make the most sense because Notre Dame is located in the middle of Big Ten country and that conference needs a 12th team to be able to split into divisions and play a football championship game.
But the Big East Conference, crippled by the defections of Miami and Virginia Tech, might be an answer. The Big East, which already has Notre Dame as a member in other sports, may be ready to cut a deal that would allow the Irish to keep most of its football money. With Notre Dame, the Big East would regain some prestige and keep its Bowl Championship Series spot.
BEGINNER'S LUCK: Was Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham really a genius last season, or did he just benefit from luck of the Irish?
This season's Irish are 1-3 — 0-3 against the Big Ten — after three straight losses to Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. With Pittsburgh, Southern Cal and Florida State ahead on their schedule, they may be lucky to finish 6-6.
Last year, Willingham's first at South Bend, the Irish won their first eight games, but lost three of their last five and were outscored 72-19 in season-ending losses to Southern Cal and N.C. State.
Maybe Irish fans were a wee bit premature in hailing Willingham as an immediate savior for a program that has struggled since Lou Holtz left.