What Is The Big Ten’s Next Expansion Move?

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With Nebraska in the fold (and Zombie Tom Osborne apparently their athletic director — seriously, he looks undead in that photo!), The Big Ten has some decisions to make.

Do they stay at 12 teams? Do they continue to expand as all their major conference counterparts frantically do the same, or do they save themselves?

Do they have any clue what they even want to do, or what they want to be??

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By Paul Schmidt

Really, it makes sense to answer that last one first: I don’t believe ANY of the conference commissioners have a coherent plan — it seems like they are just making things up as they go along.

The collegiate presidents are the ones eating the attention up. Premier schools have three and four people clamoring for their love.

Seriously, this is starting to take on the characteristics of the reality TV  show, “The Bachelor.” It wouldn’t shock me if Pac-10 commish Larry Scott showed up to Austin, Texas with a rose for the Longhorns’ higher ups…

In reality, the Big Ten MUST continue to expand. Most likely, by the end of next week, the Pac-10 will be the Pac-16. The SEC will eventually look to the ACC and most likely start expanding by taking on Miami and Florida State, and their most coveted possessions, Duke and North Carolina (though those both would be huge “gets” for the SEC, it makes more sense for them to go after the two Florida schools and then try for Georgia Tech and Clemson. The two schools already have natural rivals in the SEC and play every season anyway, so it really makes sense for the conference as a whole). The Big East will be ripe for the picking in all of this.

Assuming for the moment that Notre Dame is still in fact a pipe dream (although I do believe there may be a chance — everyone is saying there’s no chance that Notre Dame comes to the Big Ten, but me thinks they doth protest too much), and assuming the Big Ten has cooled on Missouri like everyone says they have (The Big Ten views St. Louis as an Illinois market — not to say they OWN the market, but there are enough Illinois fans there to already have a foothold, so adding Missouri doesn’t give them much in terms of extra eyeballs on TV screens), the Big East is truly the only option for those that want to pillage.

So which teams to take?

Rutgers is still the team on everyone’s mind due to it’s proximity to the New York market and the rest of the east coast’s large cities. Even though the validity of Rutgers as an academic and even an athletic fit is debatable (their football team has only recently been good, and their men’s basketball team is a train wreck…but their women’s hoops team is very very good), we will go as far to say that, if the Big Ten chooses to further expand, Rutgers is a lock to be included.

Syracuse is another school that has been bandied about repeatedly. I can’t figure out how the New York school fell out of favor, honestly, but I do have a guess – Their football team kinda sucks. Make no mistake, these moves are all made with football in mind first and foremost, so that is a genuine problem. However, the Cuse are strong in so many other sports, including basketball, that the move might make sense in spite of itself. Still, the Orange seem to have that football mojo working against them. Maybe we can all blame Greg Paulus for that too.

Pittsburgh is a school that has pretty decent academic prestige, pretty decent football prestige and a great recent basketball history. So why wouldn’t they come to the Big Ten? They are out on an island, a little bit, as they are pretty far removed from the Atlantic Coast, and have a great natural rival in Penn State. However, neither school seems to want to play the other on a regular basis in any sport. They truly don’t like each other, but don’t want to give either the advantage on the recruiting trail by saying they beat the other. It’s an interesting choice, and even more interesting that the two schools seem to agree on the concept. So any merger that makes sense seems unlikely to happen just based on that.

Cincinnati’s football team, recently, has been very, very good, including last year’s BCS bowl game appearance, and their basketball team has a glorious history and a solid present. Academically, the school is very solid — until you take into account the academics on their athletic teams, most notably their basketball program. While Bob Huggins was the head coach, they famously had a zero percent graduation rate; granted they thought the rate was calculated in a very misleading way, but the fact remains that there were some academic issues in the Cincy hoops program. Whether that rep is still deserving or not, it may hamper Cincy greatly in any move.

Connecticut is perhaps my biggest wet and pipe dream. From a football standpoint they are mediocre, but are generally viewed as an up-and-coming program. Obviously, the draw would be the basketball program and quite the huge get. They would, however, be the furthest program from all of the rest, and probably fit in better to the ACC — a conference that, more than likely, will just forgo being a football power and play to its obvious basketball strengths. Still, the thought of adding a basketball program of this caliber with a football program that doesn’t shame you (I’m looking at you, Duke Blue Devils) is very intriguing.

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  1. David K. says

    UConn and Cuse are NOT leaving the Big East…. I won’t allow it!

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