Wolverines on the Web Explores Expansion

Pitt appers to be the most feasible, and logical, choice for a 12th Big Ten team.

Pitt appers to be the most feasible, and logical, choice for a 12th Big Ten team.

It’s old news by now, but certainly worth reprinting — the Big Ten is officially exploring the possibility of expanding to 12 teams:

PARK RIDGE, Ill. – The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) discussed the future of the Big Ten Conference at its winter meetings on Tuesday. The following statement is issued by the Big Ten office on behalf of the COP/C.

Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in June of 1990 and its addition has been an unqualified success. In 1993, 1998 and 2003 the COP/C, in coordination with the commissioner’s office, reviewed the issue of conference structure and expansion. The COP/C believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion. As a result, the commissioner was asked to provide recommendations for consideration by the COP/C over the next 12 to 18 months.

The COP/C understands that speculation about the conference is ongoing. The COP/C has asked the conference office to obtain, to the extent possible, information necessary to construct preliminary options and recommendations without engaging in formal discussions with leadership of other institutions. If and when such discussions become necessary the COP/C has instructed Commissioner James E. Delany to inform the Chair of the COP/C, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, and then to notify the commissioner of the affected conference(s). Only after these notices have occurred will the Big Ten engage in formal expansion discussions with other institutions. This process will allow the Big Ten to evaluate options, while respecting peer conferences and their member institutions. No action by the COP/C is expected in the near term. No interim statements will be made by the Big Ten or the COP/C until after the COP/C receives the commissioner’s recommendations and the COP/C determines next steps, if any, in this area.

In a word: hallelujah. I love the rivalries of the Big Ten, a conference steeped in tradition like few, if any, other, but every year I watch as the conference wraps up its season before Thanksgiving and gets put on the back burner in the national picture. Most of the arguments for staying at a nonsensical 11 teams are all about upholding tradition, and not sullying rivalries, especially Michgian-Ohio State; to that I say, just take a look at the SEC. They’ve got a title game, and I don’t see Alabama-Auburn or Florida-LSU or any of their other big games losing any luster among fans or the media.

Many teams have been thrown around as a possible addition to the conference, some logical — Pitt, Missouri, Rutgers, Nebraska — and some completely baffling — Iowa State, really? Personally, I think Pitt is both the choice that makes the most sense and seems the most feasible. As Brian Cook points out in his breakdown of potential candidates, Pitt makes geographical sense, provides a natural rival for Penn State, is a school rich in football tradition and boasting a strong hoops program, and also is academically qualified to be a Big Ten member, something that few of the other candidates can say.

And now, a quick rundown of the rest of the coverage on a potential expansion:

  • Indiana blog Crimson Quarry was the first blog on the scene, providing a great team-by-team look at the teams possibly in the running for the 12th spot. This is the place to start if you’re trying to get familiar with the whole situation.
  • Black Heart Gold Pants runs down the criteria for a 12th member, strongly emphasizing the academic aspect:

    (1) NERDS! Regardless of what is said, here and elsewhere, about a Big Ten Championship Game as the holy grail, no expansion will take place unless the eggheads approve.  Unlike the Big XII or SEC, the CIC (the Big Ten’s academic arm, which includes the 11 member schools plus the University of Chicago) holds veto power over any choice, and will freely exercise it over any institution it deems unfit for entry.

    You can pretty much write off Cincinnati, West Virginia, and Louisville (from the teams on Crimson Quarry’s list) just based on their academic standing.

  • Black Shoe Diaries says that the expansion discussion begins and ends with Notre Dame. While the Irish, of course, would be the school that makes the most sense as the 12th Big Ten team, their mammoth TV deal with NBC and insistence on staying independent are huge obstacles to overcome — the odds of Notre Dame deciding to join a conference now, when they’ve resisted all overtures in the past, are incredibly low.
  • Missouri blog Rock M Nation takes a look at what would’ve happened had Mizzou joined the Big Ten in 1996, including breakdowns of possible division setups and the like. A nice perspective from the other side of the fence, although I do have a bone to pick with this sentence: “The proposed divisions in this comment at BHGP probably could be a pretty realistic setup too, but in the mid-1990s, with Ohio State and Penn State easily the top two teams in the conference, I think any division setup would have broken them up.” Um, I know we’ve been bad for a couple years now, but we OWNED those two teams in the era Rock M is looking at here.
  • Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician posts five reasons why the Orange will join the Big Ten, and five reasons why they won’t. For practical purposes, it’s easiest just to read the reasons why they won’t — it’s not happening.
  • Yahoo’s blogs have a decent amount of coverage. From the football side, Dr. Saturday takes a look at the potential candidates, then puts out an article about how the conference will “bombard Notre Dame from every possible angle.” On the hoops side, The Dagger also has a rundown of potential schools, obviously with a more basketball-based perspective.
  • On the national level, SI’s Stewart Mandel has a very solid article on the potential pitfalls of expansion, while CBSSports’ Dennis Dodd says it’s about time the Big Ten went to the “Large Dozen” (his term, not mine).

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