The announcement that the Big Ten was actively exploring the possibility of adding a 12th member was greeted with much fan fare throughout the college football world.
Before we get in to how the conference could very well look in four years time it would probably be best to dispel some rumors.
First and foremost, conference commissioner Jim Delany and representatives from the 11 member schools are merely exploring the possibility of adding a 12th member. This means that after the 12-18 month time frame is up, the league could very well decide to stay the way they are, though it seems unlikely.
Regardless, this has not stopped the rumor mill from speculating which school will join. Safe to say, the list of schools can be whittled down by process of elimination based on four criteria: academic prowess, competitiveness, finances, and location.
Just as fast as excitement spread through Big Ten country, so too did the jeers from Irish fans screaming "Hell No, We Won't Go." A word of advice to the golden domers, you can't RSVP without an invitation. Sure the Big Ten was turned down by Notre Dame in 1999, that just increased the likelihood that the conference would not come knocking again. You see, ego's run high in the Big Ten and other perfectly acceptable candidates are being scoped. In the words of Joe Paterno "They have had their chance".
It should be noted that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Unless Notre Dame (wisely) decides it can't go on without the affiliation, the 12th team will come from a raid that is bound to shake up some other conference. Fortunately for fans in the great plains, you may breath a big sigh of relief. The Big 12 conference is young and I don't see significant interest in any member to jump ship, no matter how alluring it may be.
In the unlikely event that Nebraska or Missouri are admitted in to the conference the Big 12 need not fret, there are a fresh crop of schools that can be "brought up" to the BCS level. Utah, BYU, Boise State, and TCU are not just poised to replace a lost member; they could very well be names brought up for other possible conferences like the Pac-10 to expand.
The Big East
What seems to make the most logical sense right now is a team from the soon-to-be depleted Big East conference. Pitt, Syracuse, and Rutgers appear to be locked in a three way tie for the early favorite. While my money is on the Pitt Panthers, each school meets the four criteria of Big Ten standards.
Interest in the Scarlett Knights and the Orange stem from the willingness to break into the New York market. Frankly, New York City is a pro sports town. Until the Big Ten lands the Giants, this move is to extend the conference footprint and gain a championship game.
As a consolation prize, these three schools would also boost Big Ten basketball. While their addition may be football motivated, many other sports programs at Pitt, Syracuse, or Rutgers would mean more revenue from being shown on the Big Ten Network.
How the two newly formed divisions are set up is bound to stir controversy but the best way to preserve the great rivalries (college football's bread and butter) in the tradition-soaked Big Ten is as follows.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- 12th Member (Pitt, Syracuse, or Rutgers)
While some would accuse the conference of being east-heavy, the western teams have each performed well in their separate niche. You can't have a division without the game between Michigan-Ohio State and you certainly can't have a rubber match in the conference championship. Along with others, no rivalry would be disrupted, unless you're hell-bent on seeing Northwestern and Indiana meet annually. (Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)
The newly constructed Lucas Oil Stadium where the Indianapolis Colts play would be the site of the annual Big Ten Championship Game, has a nice ring to it. A modern, state-of-the-art stadium would be an ideal location smack dab in the middle of Big Ten Country. With the conference adding a bye-week and a championship game, the game played in December would have the luxury of being indoors.
Finally, it will be 2013: Joe Paterno receives 35-year contract extension! And the Big Ten will keep its name.