Kelly embraces football independence

In an offseason where the possibility of Big Ten expansion has been the talk of the sport, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly took a few seconds Wednesday to stress how much he embraces the Fighting Irish's college football independence.

Kelly was acknowledging a Kansas City radio station's report from earlier this week that said Notre Dame was one of four universities to be extended an initial offer to join the Big Ten.

"From my standpoint, being the head football coach at Notre Dame, there's nothing better than being an independent football school," the coach, quoted in the South Bend Tribune, told the crowd at a scholar-athlete dinner.

"I know you're hearing all these rumors about the Big Ten and all these other things, but let me tell you one thing, the history ... the tradition of Notre Dame football is steeped in that independence."

WHB-AM in Kansas City reported Monday that the Big Ten extended invitations to Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Rutgers to help grow the conference.

The following day, it was confirmed that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany reached out to the four schools to quash the report that the conference had offered expansion spots to them.

The conference is looking at expanding from its current 11 members so that it can extend the reach of its lucrative cable network and add a league championship game in football.

Big Ten athletic directors and coaches will meet for three days beginning Monday in downtown Chicago. They will be joined by faculty representatives, senior women's administrators and the head coaches in football and men's and women's basketball.

Smith, meanwhile, described next week's meetings as routine and that nothing would be decided in terms of expansion.

"This is our normal meetings, the ones we have every year," Smith said. "Jim will probably give us an update on what the consultant has shared, and I don't even know if the consultant report is done. He'll give us an update and then move on doing what he's been doing."

When Big 12 officials meet in June, they're likely to hear how unhappy conference commissioner Don Beebe is that two of his members are potentially being targeted by the Big Ten.

"We need to have a very frank conversation about where we're going and who's going to be on the plane when we take off," Beebe told WHB. "I will be very direct ... and want to find out."

Then Beebe added, "I've talked directly with Jim. I understand what he's doing, where he's coming from. Maybe I'd do it differently if I were in his situation, maybe I wouldn't. But I'm going to protect our interests."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg was used in this report.