The news this week by Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez that the Big 11 (er,...10) will seek an additional member for their conference should come as no surprise. Penn State Coach Joe Paterno has been talking this up to anybody that would listen for years.
The initial question on most Big 10 fans minds is who will be added. The more intriguing questions in my mind are: why? how? and the resulting implications. The other conferences will not take this lying down.
Why? Money. I think the powers that be in Bloomington, Ann Arbor, Columbus, etc. look at the wild success that the conference title games have become and are salivating. Can you imagine a Big 10 Title Game in the new Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis or at Soldier Field in Chicago? The Big 10 wants their new TV Network to succeed. A new addition in a new TV market is just the ticket.
The last time a major conference expanded - the ACC a few years back - the Big East went crazy and robbed C-USA blind. The major conferences will not be caught exposed this time and will try to get ahead of the Big 10 before they sink their teeth into one of their schools.
Syracuse was high on the ACC wish list. As was The "U" and VA Tech. But Duke and UNC would not allow SU, as they compete for the same recruits in basketball. Thus the consolation prize of Boston College. This tells me that the traditional football powers in the Big 10 - Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State - will not want another major football power in the conference. Scratch Notre Dame, West Virginia, Pitt, and Nebraska. Same thing in hoops. IU, OSU, Michigan, Purdue will not want Syracuse or UConn raining on their parade.
The logical choice is Rutgers. It brings the East Coast TV market to the Big 10, and Rutgers is not a threat to the traditional powers in either football or basketball. This is a threat to the Big East. Losing Rutgers from a competitive standpoint can be overcome. The addition of Rutgers puts a fence up around the New Jersey recruiting market, and will bring the Big 10 into traditional Big East territory in both basketball and football.
Assuming Rutgers is the prime target, what does the Big East do? I think the answer is (drum-roll please): Create a new conference with schools that will have equal status in both football and basketball by pilfering other conferences. Yes: Dump basketball-only schools Georgetown, Villanova, St.Johns, Seton Hall, and Marquette.
Syracuse, UConn, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Boston College, Penn State, Cincinnati, Louisville, Temple, South Florida, and Buffalo. The Big East must be aggressive or they are going to get robbed for the second time in five years. Are the AD's listening? I hope so. This will force the expansion west or finally get Notre Dame to wake up and realize they make the most sense in so many ways to join the Big 10.