Top 5 schools in the mix for the next phase of Big Ten expansion
The Big Ten expanded to 12 teams with the addition of Nebraska on Friday, and commissioner Jim Delany said he’s not done exploring the matter, though the next phase might not come until the end of the original 12- to 18-month timeline. Here are five more schools that could be in the mix should the Big Ten decide to grow again.
Notre Dame: After Texas, which could leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10 as early as Tuesday, the Irish are the biggest catch in the expansion game. Notre Dame values its independence in football, but might be forced to join a league. The Big Ten is a natural fit, though Notre Dame turned down an invite in 1999.
Rutgers: If Notre Dame jumps, the Big Ten won’t stay at 13 teams. Rutgers hasn’t had great success in football or men’s basketball, but it does expand the conference’s footprint east. Why is that important? Getting in the New York and Philadelphia TV markets means big money for the Big Ten Network.
Missouri: Delany told Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe on Friday he wasn’t pursuing any of Nebraska’s former conference mates - for now. Missouri still makes a lot of sense if, say, the Big Ten grows to 16 teams. The Tigers might be forced elsewhere, first, however. If the Big 12 implodes, expect the Mountain West to come calling.
Maryland: One of the hottest rumors has the Big Ten eyeing Maryland in its next expansion push. The school sits in the Washington D.C. television market, No. 9 nationally, and is a fit academically as a member of the Association of American Universities. Of course, as a charter member of the ACC, Maryland doesn’t seem like a good bet to bolt.
Pitt: Despite solid academics and athletics, Pitt, by itself, doesn’t add much value to the Big Ten. But if Notre Dame is the end game in this, the conference might have to poach a few more Big East teams to force the Irish’s hand. Every Notre Dame sport but football plays in the Big East. If that league crumbles, or becomes even less desirable than it already is, Notre Dame has to leave. Pitt makes sense in the 16-team super-conference model.
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.