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Policy change for Irish

PHOENIX -- The Bowl Championship Series made a major decision on Notre Dame yesterday, turning the Fighting Irish from an independent team into a conference team in terms of the payout the Irish would receive.

Under the previous arrangement, Notre Dame, when it qualified as a BCS team, received the same payout a BCS conference champion would receive, which last year was slightly more than $14 million.

But under that agreement, the Irish would receive no BCS money if they didn't meet the criteria of a Top-10 ranking or nine wins.

Under the new arrangement, which will begin with the new BCS contract, starting in the 2006 regular season, the Irish will get the same $1 million share any BCS conference team receives each year regardless of how Notre Dame performed on the field.

In the event the Irish meet new BCS automatic eligibility requirements -- a ranking of eighth or higher in the BCS standings -- they will receive only $4.5 million instead of $14 million.

''In the new contract, Notre Dame is treated like a member of a conference," BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg said yesterday.

In other BCS news, Weiberg said that minimum standards for conferences retaining their automatic berths would remain in place for the next two seasons, but then new criteria based on the overall records of conference teams would be implemented and leagues not meeting minimum standards would have their automatic berths subject to review.

MARK BLAUDSCHUN

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