We've traveled down this road before, but here we go again. The Big Ten wants to expand, and it will explore its options over the next 12 to 18 months, the Associated Press reports.
The Big Ten already features 11 schools: the University of Illinois, Indiana University, the University of Iowa, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin. All these schools compete in the two major sports: men's basketball and football. But the conference would like to find another school so that a conference championship game can be played in football.
The idea of adding a 12th team is supported by many within the conference. The Big Ten last added Penn State in 1990, though Notre Dame turned down an offer to join the league in 1999.
"About every five years, the Big Ten Conference explores the possibility of expansion," Illinois Athletics Director Ron Guenther wrote in an E-mail to the AP. "Any expansion of the conference would obviously have to be a good fit academically, geographically, and financially. If the Big Ten does make a change, I hope it will be as successful as the addition of Penn State."
Several possible candidates have surfaced, from Notre Dame (again) and the University of Missouri to the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University. Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton said on Tuesday that his school would listen to any offers the Big Ten might have, although there are rumors that the Big Ten wants to dig into the New York City market.
"The University of Missouri has not been contacted by the Big Ten," Deaton writes in a statement. "Should there be an official inquiry or invitation, we would evaluate it based upon what would be in the best interest of MU athletically and academically."
Sports Illustrated columnist Stewart Mandel isn't exactly buying the argument that the Big Ten needs another team. But ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg says now is the right time to explore expansion. (Here are a few other good reads about the Big Ten's possible expansion.)
Whatever happens, it will send ripples throughout the college community, both on and off the fields of play.
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