Big Ten’s 12th Team Announcement- Rutgers, Syracuse or Pittsburgh?



by Peter Christian

Part II – Who to choose

Yesterday, I discussed what criteria the Big Ten should follow in searching and ultimately selecting a 12th team. Today, I examine which teams are the best candidates. To read Part I, click here.

Later today, the conference will make an announcement on whether there are officially picking up a new team or not, with Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh as the leading candidates.

So who else is out there? Realistically, there are quite a few options as the Big Ten could try and steal a team from another BCS conference such as the Big East or the Big XII or they could target a smaller conference team that has had some prolonged success against lesser teams.

Last week I put out a very informal poll on my Facebook and Twitter feeds asking very simply: “Who should the Big Ten target and why?”


The school that was mentioned the most (and is also the school that I am completely against joining the Big Ten) was expectedly Notre Dame. I could write another 1000 words on why Notre Dame is not the right fit for the Big Ten (and I might if people keep mentioning them as a possibility) but in short, Notre Dame would not help recruiting, Notre Dame would want special privileges and provisions to gain an upper hand over other conference opponents if they accepted the invitation (because they’re elitist snobs) and courting Notre Dame would be a major waste of time. Notre Dame has a sweet TV deal with NBC and a ridiculous clause in the current BCS agreement that allows them to get a bid when they are barely a good team.  In my eyes, no Notre Dame in the Big 10.

Other BCS conference teams that were mentioned: Pitt, Syracuse, Iowa St. Nebraska and Missouri. I wouldn’t be opposed to any of those teams joining the Big Ten Ranks, but I think Syracuse and Nebraska would be the toughest “gets” of that group. Syracuse would be challenging because of their basketball rivalries in the Big East and their presence as a Eastern powerhouse in the basketball world. The Cornhuskers would be just as difficult for the same reasons but on the football field instead. Throw in that Nebraska seems to be on the rise in the Big XII North as a potential power again and they could be tough to convince in Lincoln. Pitt and Iowa St. both make sense geographically and could be swayed away from their respective conferences but Iowa St. doesn’t really bring any clout in either sport. Pitt should definitely be a finalist. Mizzou is also a good candidate because they would be able to immediately step in and compete in both football and basketball and would help expand the recruiting region of the Big Ten to compete with some of the Big XII schools.


As far as smaller conference teams go, the options are to steal a team from either the MAC, the WAC or Conference USA. I believe each conference provides a viable option for the Big Ten but each comes with a bit of a drawback. Out of the MAC is Central Michigan, which has an underrated football program (8 wins each of the last 4 seasons) which beat Michigan State this year but the basketball program hasn’t had a winning season since 2002-03, when the Chris Kaman led team upset the Kyle Korver led Creighton Bluejays in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. While Indiana and Iowa would really like the Chippewas to be in the conference right now, the chance of Central Michigan joining is pretty slim.

The next two candidates however would show that the Big Ten is willing to take some risks to achieve their goals. I would be really pleased if the Big Ten made an attempt to bring in either Memphis or Boise State to the conference.

Memphis Tigers

With Memphis you’ve got a lower tier football team that goes with a basketball program that is not the national power it was under John Calipari but they are still a reputable team. The Tigers football team had a poor season this year but they’ve been to 5 bowls since 2002 and would be a big benefactor of moving into a bigger conference and being able to bring in better talent from a region that is widely untapped by the Big Ten. Memphis would give the Big Ten a southern presence to not only help Memphis recruit players in SEC country but some of the other schools as well.


Boise State on the other hand has gone from “the team with the blue field” to a two time BCS bowl school and the first non-BCS conference school to win a BCS Bowl game. On the football field they have the talent and juice (your welcome, Mr. Banks) to compete with the rest of the Big Ten for the upper echelon of bowls and possibly the National Championship. On the basketball court, Boise State has been good but not great. They have 4 winning seasons in their last 8 to go with one NCAA Tournament appearance, an NIT appearance and a CBIT appearance. In the Big Ten they would definitely be among the bottom 4 teams, but they have shown the ability to play well in the past. Two other positives that Boise St. would bring the Big Ten: Western US recruiting and exposure and falling into the BCS’ good graces. By putting Boise State into a BCS conference it would thereby eliminate the possibility of a non-BCS school continuing to cause the BCS headaches at the end of every season.


That gives us four finalists: Boise St., Memphis, Mizzou and Pitt. The big schools bring a more evenly spread credibility between football and basketball but both Boise St. and Memphis give the Big Ten a potential home run in football or basketball respectively. No matter what (and who?) the future holds for the Big Ten, I hope they move forward logically and not foolishly. Approach each candidate with the same grading system and analyze each option fairly and both the fans and conference will come out as winners.

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  1. Charley Davis says

    Nearly every discussion I read about Big Ten expansion assumes that we are looking for a solitary twelfth member to replicate the models of the SEC, ACC or Big XII. I think this methodology is short-sighted, we need to break the mold, not conform to it. We have the opportunity to completely restructure the NCAA with astute planning and invitations.

    First, I wholeheartedly agree that the ship has sailed on ND and that would be looking backward. Instead, there needs to be cooperation among Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue to ostracize them and make sure the Big Ten no longer contributes to their ability to remain independent without finfancial repercussions.

    Secondly, this decision cannot be made on behalf of Penn St. to provide them with a closer geographic rival. If this expansion is not designed to enhance the academic and competitive reputations of the charter members of the Western Conference than the entire exercise is a waste.

    Going back to my original point, why stop at 12 instead of creating a super-league comprised of 14 or 16 members? In this vein we can invite blocks of teams to abandon their former conferences. In essence corporate raiding in order to improve our business to the detriment of our adversaries.

    Although opening up the NYC market audience to the Big Ten Network by accepting both Syracuse and Rutgers has appeal, I rather Go West. Neither Missouri or Nebraska are pleased with the way the Big 8 has marginalized their original members in deference to Texas. It would be far easier to invade the Big XII North by bringing their premier football programs into our brave new world.

  2. Peter Christian says

    I agree wholeheartedly Charley… I believe that no matter what the decision ends up being (12 teams or more) that the primary goal is to expand the conference territory geographically as well as numerically. Adding a team that is already within the boundaries of “Big Ten Country” doesn’t help the conference or the existing members other than the fact that they can add a Conference Championship and become relevant to college football after Thanksgiving. It won’t help recruiting (would actually hinder recruiting) and it wouldn’t help in making the Big Ten nationally relevant every weekend from September through March.

    Adding 3 or 5 teams instead of just one is a very interesting proposition in the fact that the Big Ten could expand in 3 geographical directions rather than just one. If an Big East Team is brought in, a “Southern” team (i.e. Mizzou or Memphis) and a Western team are all brought in that would establish the Big Ten as the geographically (and likely competitively) dominant conference in the nation. And then we could tell the SEC and ACC to go eff themselves on a daily basis.

  3. Paul Schmidt says

    The only reason it sounds like Boise State would be a non-starter is because I’ve heard that after this winter the WAC basically blows up with Boise St, Fresno St, and Nevada all headed to the Mountain West.

    I think that I like Charlie’s idea, but to go both east and west. Let’s make it an unweildy 16 teams, and go with Mizzou and Nebraska from the west, and Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers from the east. Gets us to 16, doesn’t COMPLETELY screw things up academically (4 of those 5 schools are pretty good in that respect), and geographically isn’t awful.

    The only problem is selling a 16 team football conference…I’m not sure how that really plays out scheduling wise.

  4. Paul Schmidt says

    Also…they would have to rename the conference…The Big Big?

  5. “And then we could tell the SEC and ACC to go eff themselves on a daily basis.”

    cant we just do that anyway?

  6. the big one? the big momma conference?

  7. I’m not sure if there is a reason but everyone has left out the school that would be at the top of my list. I thought the Big Ten should have pursued Cincinnati a few years back when they moved to the Big East. They fit the bill in all stated categories. Louisville would also be a very attractive addition to the Big Ten. But if Missouri was looking, they might be the best fit of all.

  8. Peter Christian says

    Come on guys, you all should be all over the proposal I made back in the spring: Memphis in the Big Ten!

  9. I want Barry Alvarez’ opinion on this. David Kay—go interview Barry up inside Camp Randall and see what he thinks. He has to be over the ND idea…it was his idea ages ago. But I’m sure he’s abandoned it. I actually like Pitt, Memphis, Mizzou, Boise St. and for a fifth…Barry once told me he’d like to see a Florida team in the mix. I’d like to hear if he still thinks that. That’s too much though geographically. Nightmare, yikes.

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