Big Ten, with lack of options, right to avoid expansion talk for now

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Big Ten isn’t having any expansion or realignment talk. 

At least for now. 

The Houston Chronicle reported Oklahoma and Texas are interested in joining the Southeastern Conference, news that re-ignited realignment and superconference talk across college football. Newly-appointed Big Ten adviser Barry Alvarez had a simple question when he read the report: “Why?” 

“It caught everyone by surprise,” Alvarez said to a small group of reporters at Big Ten Media Day on Thursday. “It really hasn’t struck me one way or the other. I don’t know how legitimate it is. No one has commented on it. The fact there has been no comment on it maybe says something. It’s something you have your antenna up for.” 

What is the conference’s response? Should the Big Ten respond? That’s when Alvarez, a former head coach and athletic director at Wisconsin, bristled. 

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“I don’t know anything about that,” Alvarez said. “We have never even broached that in any meeting I have been in with athletic directors.  I don’t want to get into talking about expansion because it’s too early. We have never even discussed it. I have nothing else to say.” 

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren added a noncommittal answer on top of that. 

“We’re always constantly evaluating what’s in the best interest of the conference,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how that story evolves and where it lands.” 

It’s never too early to talk about the possibility of expansion, but don’t count on the Big Ten to react any time soon. After all, if Texas and Oklahoma do indeed go to the SEC and Notre Dame stays locked in its five-game agreement with the ACC, then what do the leftovers look like?

In this case, no action might be the best course of action. 

“I don’t know if the Big Ten has to respond to it until it happens or if it’s a plan they had themselves,” Big Ten Network analyst Howard Griffith said. “It’s obviously sent some shockwaves in college football when you talk about two dominant, prominent programs and what they could do for the SEC.”

Where could the Big Ten go if expansion were a possiblity? A cursory look at the possible selections: 

TCU. That would give the Big Ten a Texas outpost in the Dallas market, but it would be a football-exclusive move. The Horned Frogs have made just one appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 2000.

Kansas and Iowa State. The Hawkeyes get a rivalry with the Cyclones, but what does everybody else in the Big Ten get? Kansas would be a basketball-exclusive move, and an unnecessary one given the conference strength in that sport.

Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Choose your pick-two combo. The Buckeyes aren’t in a rush to share that Ohio spotlight with Cincinnati. Pitt and West Virginia would likely be the best bet, but that won’t generate much excitement. 

Does the Big Ten wants to chase those schools? For not much excitement?  Perhaps that’s why Alvarez is not in a big hurry to talk about expansion.

The Big Ten added Penn State in 1990, Nebraska in 2011 and Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. Do those fan-bases truly embrace being in the Big Ten? 

Depends on who you ask and when. Remember, the Huskers challenged the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the season in 2020.  Nebraska, of course, also is familiar with Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 days. Nebraska coach Scott Frost still wasn’t taking the hook. 

“I have absolutely no comment on Texas or Oklahoma or another league,” Frost said. “I think there is a lot of dust flying around, and we’re all going to have to wait and see where the dust settles. If that leads to some more realignment, then I feel great about the position Nebraska is in.”

No comment. Nothing else to say. No repsonse. 

In this case, the Big Ten is right to wait and see what happens next. 

 

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