The Case for Big Ten Expansion

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJune 26, 2009

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions addresses the media after their defeat against the USC Trojans at the 95th Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi on January 1, 2009 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Big Ten expansion has been a hot topic around the conference in recent months. Advocates such as Joe Paterno have made their case, while the league, especially commissioner Jim Delaney, has continuously slammed the idea.

For political reasons, Delaney cannot and will not ever say that expansion is a good idea. It would cause too much unrest within this traditional and old conference. So those fans who keep on hoping for Delaney to change his mind, I hate to break it to you, but that just isn't going to happen.

Most of the people who are against Big Ten expansion are the ones who say "we shouldn't do it just because everyone else is doing it," but the fact is, that may be the only reason the Big Ten is someday dragged into it. Most Big Ten teams end their season on November 21, two weeks before the rest of the country.

While this may not seem like that big of a deal, it is a huge blow to the Big Ten in the polls. The polls favor the teams who won most recently, not those who have consistently won over the course of the season.

If a Big Ten team is 11-1 and won their last game two weeks before, but an SEC team is 11-1 and won their last game in early December, the SEC team will move ahead of the Big Ten team in the polls. This is critical when fighting over a No. 2 spot and the other conferences almost always have the advantage.

While not a major issue, money is another factor that drives pro-expansionists. Money shouldn't be a primary concern for the NCAA's richest conference, but in today's world, it could end up being a major factor down the road.

Other conferences get millions from their conference championship games and the TV ratings are through the roof. This is precious money that the Big Ten could pick up in no time but won't because they are too stubborn.

Conference championship games, as mentioned earlier, are also great for television exposure. Many ignorant SEC fans who will always be stuck with the "Big Ten sucks" motto would have the chance to actually watch a Big Ten game. A game against these two premier teams could actually help improve the Big Ten's shattered image.

Now that we've reviewed the benefits of expansion, the only thing left to do is decide on which team to bring in. That is the hard part. Several teams have been mentioned, including Notre Dame, Missouri, Nebraska, Pitt, Iowa State, Rutgers, and Syracuse. The problem is, all of those teams have more reasons to stay put than to move to the Big Ten.

While they are the most sensible team to add geographically, Notre Dame has the most reasons not to join the Big Ten (and not just because Joe Paterno doesn't want them).

Because they are an independent, Notre Dame has a massive TV contract. They also have a long tradition there of scheduling whoever they want. Plus, all they have to do is be semi-decent every year and they reach a BCS or January Bowl.

Adding to that, many rivalries, such as the Navy and USC rivalries could go away because a loss of free scheduling. Granted, most of their rivals are in the Big Ten, they still wouldn't give up their freedom of scheduling all of their own games.

The other teams have issues as well. Missouri and Nebraska, especially the latter, have way too much history and too many rivalries in the Big 12 to switch conferences. Rutgers and Syracuse are too far east. That leaves Pitt and Iowa State.

Pitt could benefit from the move by playing better teams than they would find in the Big East, helping to boost their reputation again. Plus, Pitt already has an old rivalry in the league with Penn State and has played other Big Ten teams in recent years.

Iowa State also benefits because they can escape being pounded by the Big 12 week in and week out (although the Big Ten won't be much better). Like Pitt, they too have a rivalry within the conference in Iowa.

While Pitt and Iowa State are slight possibilities to join the Big Ten, the chances look very slim. The conference could always drop a team, but that is even more far-fetched than expanding. For now, Big Ten fans will have to live with their 11 teams and hope that the advantages of the other conferences don't become even more drastic.