Every year, Big Ten fans hear the rumors of expanding the conference in order to hold a championship game in football. The rumors vary from adding just one team to adding upwards of five, and the teams being mentioned include Iowa State, Mizzou, Syracuse, and the Golden Domers themselves, Notre Dame.
But, in the end, these are always just talk, and Big Ten commish Jim Delany almost always comes out and says they are just exploring options.
However, this past week things appeared to be moving forward for one of the teams on the Big Ten wish list as officials at the University of Missouri said that they were willing to listen to what the Big Ten had to say.
According to an article in the Kansas City Star, athletic director Mike Alden, system president Gary Forsee, and campus chancellor Brady Deaton all met to discuss what their interest in leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten.
Of course, they denied this "meeting," but what else could you expect? Besides, college athletics is a big business and you can't show your hand til all the cards have been played.
Geographically, it would make a lot of sense. An expanding conference is always looking for a new television audience, and with the Tiger football team being the best in the state, (including the Chiefs and Rams) that is exactly what they'll get: a new, passionate football fan base.
The move also makes sense financially as the Big Ten would provide an increase of more than $8 million in added revenue for the school. In addition, the school would get more national exposure due to the Big Ten network.
So far everything sounds like this is a slam dunk, hole in one, case closed situation.
But as Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend."
Back in the early '90s when the Big Ten was looking to expand and the Big Eight was faltering, Mizzou was on the short list of teams to be added. Many politicians and businessmen lobbied for the Tigers to be added as the 11th team. As we all know, Penn State and the fighting Paternos were selected, and Mizzou would later be a part of the Big 12 conference.
So how could this happen again?
It is simple. The Big Ten already has an audience in the vicinity of parts of Missouri with both Iowa and Illinois being on the border, so coverage of Big Ten sports will bleed over into parts of the Show Me state. Who doesn't have a Big Ten market nearby? Syracuse doesn't, and they also have those New York dollars that the conference would love to have.
Nevertheless, an expansion must be done in order for the conference to continue to thrive out on the football field. At least one team will have to be added, it is just a question of who, and then it is a question of alignment.
Aligning the divisions may be the most difficult task. Geographically if they do East and West, they will end up with the three big powers—Ohio state, Penn state, and Michigan—all in one division, thus having a lopsided, Big 12 North-like problem.
On the positive, they can actually play later into the year, pushing rivalry games into that Thanksgiving weekend, and having the title game the following week. The real plus here is not having those 40+ day layoffs entering the bowl games, which has hurt conference teams in the past.
In the end it is not a question of if the Big Ten will expand, it's a question of when it will expand. But, who will they take? How will it align? Will it make the bigger conference better? Only time will tell...