With rumors trending towards Arizona State ending up as a member of the Big Ten Conference, speculation increased as to which program would join the Sun Devils to give the Big Ten an even number of teams.
All indications are that that team will be Notre Dame:
Multiple sources confirm @NotreDame men's hockey will depart @hockey_east for @bigten. More to come. Won't take effect til 17-18 season.— Jimmy Connelly (@jimmyconnelly) March 22, 2016
The Fighting Irish certainly make geographic sense for the Big Ten, but Notre Dame playing under the Big Ten banner as an affiliate member would be remarkable, given Notre Dame's long and acrimonious history with the Big Ten regarding Notre Dame's football program.
Notre Dame was the darling of college hockey's last expansion, given the school's TV deal with NBCSN. After a long deliberation, the Irish opted to join Hockey East, with hopes that the east coast Boston schools would help boost television ratings. But three years in, television ratings have been bad and getting worse, and the travels considerations and general unhappiness being in Hockey East has apparently caused Notre Dame to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a conference of only six teams has been one of a myriad of problems for the Big Ten conference, which has struggled since its' inception. Adding a program with some recent success in Notre Dame perhaps raises the stature and perception of the conference.
This is a developing story with many implications for college hockey. We'll have more on this story as it unfolds.
Update: Numerous outlets have confirmed that Notre Dame of their intention to leave the conference. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has confirmed with the Big Ten that Notre Dame will be joining the conference.