Adding Nebraska a nice start, but Big Ten can do more
A nice start.
That's what the Big Ten got itself Friday when the third domino in this expansion free-for-all toppled, pushing Nebraska its way and the NCAA closer to anarchy.
The Cornhuskers are a storied program with a rabid fan base who'll do more for Big Ten football than Big Ten finances.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In the long run, it’s probably a good thing. And surely Nebraska’s addition is more significant than Colorado to the Pac-10 or Boise State to the Mountain West.
But if the Big Ten stops at one, if Nebraska is the only or even the biggest addition, then the conference comes out of this expansion mess with a blemish on its face.
Texas was the prettiest girl at the party when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany announced he was looking to add new teams last December. Notre Dame was the old high-school flame he was hoping to woo back again.
So far, Delany hasn't danced with either, and there’s no telling if he ever will.
According to reports, Texas’ Board of Regents will meet next Tuesday to ultimately decide the fate of the Big 12.
If the Longhorns stay in the now 10-team conference, expansion likely will cease (save for a few minor moves, like balancing out the 11-team Pac-10).
If Texas bolts, with the Pac-10 being its most likely destination, and takes Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with it, Armageddon ensues.
Maybe the suddenly formidable Mountain West scoops up the rest of the Big 12. Maybe the SEC, sensing its days as the dominant football conference are numbered, poaches Miami and Florida State from the ACC. Maybe the basketball-centric ACC responds with another raid on the Big East, this time for UConn and Syracuse.
And maybe Notre Dame, with its BCS bid in doubt and no place left for its non-revenue sports to play, casts a lonely eye back to the Big Ten and Delany gets the girl of his dreams.
Even if the mega-conference model doesn't materialize, the Big Ten still could land Notre Dame (plus Rutgers or Pitt or Missouri or some other insignificant school for bookkeeping purposes). Joining the Big Ten is in Notre Dame’s best long-term interests, something that will become abundantly clear if its BCS bid is squeezed by the Mountain West.
If that doesn’t happen, if Nebraska is it, Delany and the Big Ten hit a nice, long double off the wall when the public discussion of expansion meant they needed a home run.
Big Ten football got stronger Friday. The league’s fans and bowl partners and TV execs shouldn’t complain.
But for the Big Ten to cement its place as the nation's premier conference, more work needs to be done.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.