It's been a few years since this last happened, so it is possible that we are due for a bit of a shakeup. Of course I'm talking about realigning of major conferences. Not too long ago, the ACC raided the Big East to expand to 12 teams. The purpose was to give the conference a championship game and help gain notoriety.
With the current BCS system, teams are rewarded both financially by having the extra game and it helps bolster their BCS rankings. Now it looks like the Big Ten (technically 11) is looking to get in on the conference expansion game.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany let writers at the Chicago Tribune know that conference expansion is something he was considering at some point in the near future. Of course the obvious reason is money. The ACC, SEC, and Big 12 have huge money makers in their conference championship games to conclude the football season.
You can also rest assured the powers to be in the Big Ten do not enjoy watching these three conferences hog the spotlight on conference championship Saturday. By the time Wisconsin took the field against Hawaii on December 8, everyone was either in bed or worn out from watching two amazing finishes in the ACC and Big 12 title games.
Most Big Ten teams complete their regular season schedule by mid to late November, that means they are off of national television for at least a month. Ohio State has taken up to 40 days off between their final game and a BCS game. Many blame this long hiatus for the Big Ten's difficulty in making a final climb in the BCS rankings, as well as losing votes on Heisman Trophy candidates.
If Ndamukong Suh had not put on a show in the Big 12 Championship Game, there's a good chance he does not get the invitation to New York to attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Commissioner Jim Delany is not the only person within the Big Ten who supports expansion, Penn State coach Joe Paterno has come out in favor of adding an extra team as well. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has also thrown his support towards adding a 12th team.
For what it is worth, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has spoken out against the idea of expansion, citing wanting to stick to traditions.
If the Big Ten is looking to expand, then the question becomes, who is the lucky 12th team? Here are a few names that have floated around, and some reasoning behind these choices.
Rutgers: The Scarlett Knights have vastly improved in the last few seasons despite having a down year in 2009. Adding in Rutgers will expand the Big Ten to the East coast as well as give them inroads to the New York media outlets.
Syracuse: Cuse was on the wish list for the ACC a few years back, but the Big East fought hard to keep them in place. If the opportunity arises again, the Big East may not be so lucky. Syracuse has had a historical football program that has hit on hard times. However, they do add a big gain when it comes to basketball.
Pittsburgh: Bringing in Pitt brings in the possibility of creating an instate rivalry between the Panthers and Penn State. Pitt has put together a solid program over the past seasons and would help the overall strength of the Big Ten.
Missouri: This one is more of a rumor, the Big Ten would love to bring them in, but the Big 12 is not so keen on letting them go. This is probably the most likely of all teams to jump ship.
Cincinnati: Brian Kelly turned the Bearcats into a national story this year, on two levels. The Bearcats proved they can play with the big boys and being based in Cincinnati means the conference can remain predominately oriented in the mid-west.
Louisville: Just like the Bearcats, Louisville just changed conferences a few years back when they moved into the Big East. A couple years ago, Louisville was considered a BCS buster with their football program a few years ago and despite recent difficult times, it would not take long for the Cardinals to come back into form.
Notre Dame: The Domers are America's most famous independent school. They spurned the Big Ten back in 1999, however, thanks to recent troubles, it may turn out to be Notre Dame begging for entrance into the Big 10 rather than the other way around. Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice.... you just can't fool me.
All of these teams make legitimate arguments as to why they can join the Big Ten and without a doubt, they would help to build out the conference depth and a few of them can make an immediate impact on the landscape.
While the change will not likely happen this off season, several Big Ten authorities have brought it up as something they want to pursue aggressively this year.
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