What if Notre Dame were to do the unthinkable?

With all the college football expansion talk centered around the potential for adding a team or more to the Big 10, what if the biggest fish of all, Notre Dame football, decided to follow its basketball program and join the Big East?

Over the past two days, reports have circulated that Notre Dame might be reconsidering its position as one of college football's last bastions of independence. That the Irish might actually be entertaining the thought of joining a conference for football, too.

And with that talk has come the most obvious possibility, i.e., that Notre Dame will join the Big Ten, the conference it spurned not so long ago.

Apparently, Notre Dame has what's been described as an "open invitation" to join the Big Ten.

And many think that would be the most obvious choice for ND should they decide to change their thinking on their independent status.

But what if there were another alternative? One that would allow them to, in a way, maintain a sort of "independence."

By joining the Big East, Notre Dame would immediately become the linchpin of the conference's football fortunes. They wouldn't have to play second fiddle to anyone. And that would be the case from the day they might make that choice.

On the other hand, if they were to join the Big Ten, would their relevance be even further watered down? Playing alongside the Big Ten's big two, Michigan and Ohio State, they truly would be relinquishing their independent status.

From the folks I've spoken to on this matter and from what I've read, the idea of independence is a very real thing to the Notre Dame football program. One that followers of college football like me don't fully understand nor appreciate.

But that might be changing.

In a number of other articles, I've been forwarding the idea that if the Big Ten expands, a school like Rutgers would be the best, albeit biased choice.

Then this thought came to mind.

And it came to me while reading a piece on today's New York Times website.

In an article about the new Pinstripe Bowl to be played at Yankee Stadium, I was reminded that the new-old ballpark is scheduled to host the 2010 Notre Dame-Army football game. There's a reason for that. A sound business reason.

No matter how much I want Rutgers to become what many tell me it never will, Notre Dame enjoys a following in the New York metropolitan area second to no other college football program in the country.

Perhaps Notre Dame joining the Big East is not that far fetched.

Maybe Notre Dame is about to play a card that few thought they held.