Could Notre Dame be the next Big Ten powerhouse?
The Big Ten conference decided Tuesday that they will be exploring expansion options within the next 12-18 months in order to add a 12th team to the power conference.
The last time the conference came close was in 1999, when Notre Dame turned down an offer, and the last team to enter the conference was Penn State in 1990. Due to Penn State’s success in the conference, adding a 12th team at this time seems to be a good idea.
Not only will the move bring in more money and visibility for the conference but it would also provide more balance to the conference in creating two divisions and a resulting conference championship.
Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno has been adamant on the issue of adding a 12th team, stating it would ease scheduling difficulties as well as keep players in good shape with late schedules. That, in turn, would create better performances in bowl games, resulting in a better Big Ten showing and silencing its critics.
So who could the 12th team be?
The obvious choice is Notre Dame. With its storied football program and current “independent” status, think about the kind of action the Big Ten would get year in and year out with the Irish committed to a bigger conference.
Unfortunately, due to its TV contract with NBC, it wouldn’t be the financially smartest move for the Irish. Plus, they already turned down an offer 10 years ago, why wouldn’t they now?
Some other possibilities are Syracuse, Missouri, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers. Pitt and 'Cuse have some ties to the Big Ten conference, but don’t typically have the power or fan base of a Notre Dame. Missouri has somewhat of a rivalry with Illinois, being matched up against each other every year in both football and basketball.
Columbia, Missouri, the home of the Tigers, is a little more south central than the typical Big Ten school, but they’re still a possibility.
At this point, I think Rutgers is the front-runner. Head football coach Greg Schiano has done a great job with the program with what he’s got. He has the best winning percentage of any Scarlet Knights head coach since the ‘80s. He’s also coached five of the six bowl games Rutgers has played in since 1869.
I look forward to seeing what comes of the discussions within the next year or so. As a fan of the Big Ten, creating more of a balance will help create a more dominant conference in the long run.