As the 2011 NCAA college football season proceeds into its fourth week, talk of conference realignment looms large.
The latest news is of both Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East to join the ACC, giving the latter conference a total of 14 teams and leading many experts to question who will jump ship next and where they will go.
Big Ten fans are wondering what their conference will do. Who could they add? What would be the potential ramifications of expansion?
As of mid-September, the Big Ten has not sought to add any more schools to the 12 it currently contains, but just as the Pitt/Syracuse move happened almost overnight, it's clear that teams could switch conferences, and do so quickly.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been quoted several times saying that the conference isn't looking to expand, but with the possible advent of super conferences, that is, conferences containing 16 teams or more, expansion is likely not completely off the table.
If the Big Ten wants to expand, who could they add?
Many experts believe the conference could try again at acquiring Notre Dame, which exists outside of any conference in football but plays basketball and other sports in the Big East. Missouri, Kansas and Rutgers are also possible options for Big Ten expansion, though nothing concrete has been put forward as of yet.
I have a possible solution for the Big Ten, both in expansion and realignment. As it stands now, the current divisions for the conference are as follows:
Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Both the names of the conferences and the member distribution seems haphazard at best. I propose using an east-west format, using Indiana's western border as the line of separation. The divisions would then appear as follows:
Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
This would be much more streamlined, in my opinion.
As for expansion, I propose that they attempt to add Missouri, Kansas, West Virginia and Notre Dame, giving the conference a much stronger presence in several sports, notably football and both men's and women's basketball.
I would also suggest a renaming of the conference into something like the Midwest Conference, obviously denoting the conference's region and the fact that the Big Ten has been a misnomer since 1994, when Penn State joined as the conference's 11th team.
The expanded divisions, following the east-west guidelines I mentioned earlier, would then look like:
Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, West Virginia
Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Granted, these are only idle thoughts by a person who loves Big Ten Sports, but with schools changing conferences at an unprecedented rate, the Big Ten must expand or face the fate that may await either the Big 12 or the Big East.
The major factor is time, which may be running out faster than anyone thinks.