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Status of Big Ten expansion exploration unchanged

Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:57 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany unfolded a piece of stationery with notes scribbled all over it as he prepared to provide an update on the conference's exploration into expansion.

Delany's first public comments in about two months on the subject that is dominating college football this offseason lasted about 30 minutes, but didn't provide much insight.

"There are no announcements, notifications, or is there a change in the timeline," he said Wednesday, while taking a break from BCS meetings at a lavish resort hotel in Arizona.

Back in December, the Big Ten announced it was considering expansion and that it would take about 12 to 18 months to figure out what it wanted to do.

According to Delany, the league is still mulling over its options.

"It's pretty clear that we may not act," he said. "It's also a possibility that we may. It's a possibility that we may act in a way that would (add) more than a single member.

"There's nothing Earth-shattering here. I wanted to put our announcement of last December into some sort of context given some of the reports."

The Big Ten has hired Chicago-based financial firm William Blair & Company, Delany said, as a consultant. He added that the firm is not specifically vetting candidates to become the next Big Ten member.

He would not go into specifics about what type of school and athletic program would interest the Big Ten.

"You're not trying to find somebody that you want to spend a year with," he said, "you're trying to find out who you're going to be for the next 25 to 50 years."

A bigger Big Ten would allow the conference to expand the reach of its cable network, which has turned into a cash cow in its three-plus years of existence. It would also allow the league to add a championship game, though Delany reiterated that creating a Big Ten title game, which would require at least 12 members according to NCAA rules, is not the conference's primary motivation when it comes to expansion.

While Delany hasn't said much if anything publicly about what the conference plans to do since December, the rest of the college football world has been eagerly awaiting any news and gobbling up the rampant speculation about which schools might be headed where.

The most likely potential candidates to become the next member of the Big Ten, now reside in the Big 12 (Nebraska, Missouri and Texas) and Big East (Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers).

For the Big East, which has only eight football members, losing schools could be a crushing blow.

"It would be irresponsible of me not to be concerned about that stuff," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said. "We're all concerned about it, not only the Big East."

As usual, Notre Dame's name is coming up in the Big Ten discussion. The league has courted the Fighting Irish before.

Potentially, though, expansion by the Big Ten could set off sweeping changes across the sport that could effect every conference.

"If there is going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful to make sure it maintains its position as one of the nation's pre-eminent conference," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said.

And if that isn't enough to stir up college football, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said when he took over last year that he wants to take a serious look at expansion as his league heads toward negotiating new TV deals early next year.

"Nothing has changed, except we're going out and doing the work," Scott said.

With all the major college football's conference commissioners gathered in Scottsdale this week for three days of meetings, there was speculation that some news could be coming from Delany and the Big Ten this week.

Nope, but his colleagues were interested to hear what he had to say.

"We may all come back and listen," Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson said before Delany met with reporters.

Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson actually did hang out in the mostly empty meeting room where Delany held his unstructured news conference.

Delany said the Big Ten is in no rush to make a decision, but it is sensitive to the fact that the rest of college football is bracing for what could be dramatic news.

"We're doing the best we can," he said. "We're sensitive that we're in a community."


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Comments

Ellis Smith April 22, 2010 | 6:07 a.m.

The most logical addition would be Notre Dame. It lies within the present - and traditional - geographic area of the Big Ten schools. Actually it is located almost dead center in that area. It presently plays an average of three Big Ten teams each season, and has played other Big Ten teams on a regular basis in the past (e.g., Iowa).

Notre Dame may prefer to continue playing as an independent in football. It's a tradition.

BTW the Big Ten already has two member teams whose school colors are black and gold. How many more do they need?

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