I haven’t posted lately on the topic of possible Big Ten expansion because there hasn’t been much news on that front. Bloggers are speculating and new articles include stray comments from time to time, but hard information about what has been happening has been tough to come by.
It looks like that new shortage is going to end, and soon. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delany, and representatives of Big Ten schools are meeting today, in Washington, D.C., to talk about expansion. The Trib‘s article speculates that if the meeting indicates there is significant support for expansion, Delany could begin acting on expansion next weekend at the meeting of the Bowl Championship Series conferences. The first step would be for him to alert the commissioners of other conferences (and representatives of Notre Dame, presumably) that Delany will be talking to potential expansion candidates.
The Trib article further speculates — and you have to admire “sourcing” that includes phrases like “[t]he thinking among those in touch with conference officials,” which could refer to anyone from knowledgeable participants to family members to reporters — that the Big Ten will be looking to expand to 14 to 16 teams. According to ESPN, the leading contenders are Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas.
The only real news in all of this is that the Big Ten representatives actually are meeting, and when meetings occur, decisions might get made. Although the initial Big Ten announcement about possible expansion talked about a 12- to 18-month timetable, it appears that the conference has moved ahead quickly. It may be that the enormous attention possible Big Ten expansion has received, from the media, the public, and from other conferences, has also caused the Big Ten members to expedite things. If the Big Ten’s move is going to start a bunch of dominoes falling, the Big Ten representatives may want to get that process started sooner rather than later.
As I’ve noted before, I’m opposed to Big Ten expansion. I like the conference the way it is and don’t care who might be added. Other people admittedly are enthusiastic about the possibility of a “superconference.” I can’t imagine even ardent proponents of expansion getting excited about adding schools like Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Syracuse, however. I really question what those schools would bring to the conference, be it academically, athletically, or in adding new TV markets for the Big Ten Network. Texas and Notre Dame would be a different story, of course.
From what I have read, it seems as though the Big Ten holds the cards and the cash and — with the possible exception of Notre Dame — may have its pick of other schools. In the coming weeks we will see how the cards get dealt.