Ted Greenstein of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE reports today:
According to a league official, the Big Ten will release a statement Tuesday saying the matter has moved to the front burner. The first sign of change came from former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who told Wisconsin’s athletic board on Friday that Delany “is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it. I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators.”
Alvarez also noted, “We’re irrelevant for the last three weeks of the football season because we’re not playing.” If Big 10 expanded two 12 teams, it would create two six team divisions and facilitate a lucrative Big 10 championship football game.
Penn State’s Joe Paterno said last May: “Everybody else is playing playoffs on television. You never see a Big Ten team mentioned. So I think that’s a handicap.”
Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema previously said to ESPN.com that, “everybody would welcome a 12th team in the league and maybe having a championship game.”
Six months ago, Commissioner Jim Delany went on the record about the issue: “I’m agnostic. I could live with two divisions and a championship game, but I think that has a tendency to devalue the season-ending game and have a negative impact (in terms of at-large BCS selection) on your losing team in season-ending games.”
Now for the fun part, what team would join the league? Notre Dame is the elephant in the room, but Paterno now wants no part of the Irish in his league.
Paterno: “There’s some pressure, I would suppose, to maybe go back to Notre Dame and ask again, which I would not be happy with. I think they’ve had their chance.”
So long as ND’s deal with NBC remains afloat, a move to the Big 10 for the Irish won’t happen.
My top candidates would include Missouri, West Virginia and Louisville. Louisville would help beef up the faltering state of basketball in the league. How the divisions would break down would be another questions - and rivalries maintained.
When it comes to logistics and a logical fit, I’d probably go with West Virginia.
West: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana
East: Penn State, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, West Virginia
What’s so hard about that?