Monday, June 7, 2010

Big Ten Expansion

Rumors run wild after the Big Ten first openly discussed the possibility of expanding their 11 team conference. The last team to join was Penn State in 1993 and since that time there has been some changes to the major BCS conferences. But when Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney first mentioned the idea of adding to its exclusive club, dominoes are preparing to fall all around the country. But what do we actually know?

Of course it would make sense to the world of college athletics for Notre Dame to become the 12th team. They would be centrally located allowing their Olympic sports to economize their travel budget. The Irish already face many of these teams in many sports creating natural rivalries. But Notre Dame likes to stick to its independence and they have turned down the Big Ten once within the last ten years. But is Notre Dame enough for Delaney? I say no as he wants to make a big splash that will be the final defining moment in his legacy.

Nebraska and Missouri are two other rumored schools to join the Big Ten. That would of course have a ripple effect with the Big 12. However there are plans for the newest league to disband leaving half for the Pac 10. This would leave schools such as Kansas and Iowa State out in the cold. Each team having a great deal to lose. Kansas, known for its basketball tradition, would lose much of its credibility leaving the Big 12. Also Turner Gill, KU's new football coach recently left one mid-major for the BCS school, may find himself make to mid-major status once this shakes out. Iowa State has a great deal to lose. An athletic department that currently sufferes financially will lose any status it has gained by being disregarded by the other Big 12 schools. It will be difficult for the Cyclones to ever be a major player nationally  if it drops out of the BCS conference fame.

Iowa fans should definitely be happy the Hawkeyes are already in the Big Ten. If the landscape of college athletics were to start from scratch, where would the Hawkeyes end up? Who would be in the Big Ten? Michigan and Ohio State would be in. Penn State would also be included. Michigan State? Illinois?Indiana? There are possibly six. How about a few schools currently outside? Syracuse? Rutgers? Kentucky? Would private schools be included? How 'bout Northwestern? Vanderbilt? Although the Hawkeyes have much going for them today, where would they end up in a shake out of a new conference? Wisconsin and Minnesota  may also be on the outside looking in.

Twenty years ago a veteran assistant coach joined the staff of Hayden Fry at Iowa. In 1990 three coaches left Fry's football program and one of the replacements was Milan Vooletich, known for the years he spent on Bo Schembechler's staff at Michigan. Milan had his share of wild ideas--bringing in the National Enquirer noting that is where the real news is among the many--but one that he was ahead of his time on is the concept of "Superconference." Milan said for college football to continue to grow, super conferences would be created. Today we are on the verge of a possible major shake up nation-wide, or we may be sitting by the side watching the fall out from a distance. But one idea I'm confident in is that Jim Delaney will continue to look to expand the conference by more than one additional Notre Dame team. This is definitely something people will have people remembering Delaney for.

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