Big Ten expansion hot topic at meetings

Updated: April 21, 2010, 8:45 AM ET
Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Since Jim Delany put the college football world on notice by announcing the Big Ten would explore the possibility of expansion, speculation has been rampant.

Delany, the commissioner of the most lucrative conference in college sports, has remained mostly mum on the league's plans since his December statement.

On Wednesday, Delany plans to take questions from reporters at a swanky Arizona resort hotel where college football's power brokers are gathered this week for Bowl Championship Series meetings.

Maybe he'll provide some insight into where the Big Ten stands in a process that he initially said would take 12 to 18 months. Or maybe not.

There's little doubt the topic of expansion -- the Pac-10 has also said it is looking into adding schools -- will be discussed, at least informally, among the commissioners of the 11 major conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick over the next few days.

Formally, however, realignment was not discussed Tuesday, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said after afternoon meetings broke up.

If the Big Ten decides to grow from its current 11 members to expand the reach of its already successful television network and create even more revenue with a conference championship game, it could cause a massive domino effect across college football.

That's why everyone from fans to commissioners is curious -- maybe even anxious -- to find out what the Big Ten will do.

Add one team? Maybe three? How about five to become a 16-team conference?

Beebe said earlier Tuesday he does not expect to hear anything definitive during these meetings, which run through Thursday.

Several Big 12 schools have been speculated to be on the Big Ten's most wanted list, including Texas, Nebraska and Missouri.

"I expect that Jim, who I have known for many, many years and trust implicitly, that he'll do what he said he's going to do," Beebe said. "If and when the time comes that they're going to do anything -- and if that includes any of the institutions in the Big 12 -- he'll let me know first."

The Chicago Tribune reported last weekend the Big Ten was discussing accelerating its timetable for a decision on expansion.

"My understanding is that his timetable hasn't changed, in spite of the media speculation that there was activity going on," Beebe said.

Other schools that have been talked about as possible Big Ten targets are mostly in the Big East. Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse all fit the profile athletically and academically.

Rutgers and Syracuse, in theory, could help the Big Ten grab hold of the New York television market.

For the Big East, which withstood losing Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference in the last round of conference shuffling, losing even one team would sting. Losing two or more members could make it difficult for Big East football to survive.

"They had to regroup before, they'll do it again," said Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, who is representing the Big East's ADs at these meetings.

And then there is Notre Dame. The Big Ten has tried unsuccessfully before to persuade the Fighting Irish to give up their football independence. Swarbrick has said staying independent is Notre Dame's No. 1 priority. Sweeping change, however, could alter those plans.

But the person who matters most in what has become college football's great offseason soap opera is Delany. Until his conference makes a decision, everybody else is just waiting to see what happens.

"I tried him in a headlock, but he's a tough guy," Beebe said with a laugh.

On a typically warm and sunny Tuesday in the desert, Delany was relaxing with a couple of other college football big shots in the garden of the Royal Palms Resort and Spa before lunch and several hours of meetings.

He exchanged a couple pleasantries with reporters, but quickly ended the conversation before it started with a promise to see them tomorrow.

So stay tuned.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE