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Point/counterpoint: Should the Big Ten become a super conference?

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Yes

Just when it looked like conference expansion may have been put on hold for a few years, the topic has again taken center stage in college athletics.

Texas A&M, the Big 12, and the SEC continue their national soap opera. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are set to join the ACC after officially announcing the move on Sunday. And the Pac-12 is working on adding Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech to its ranks.

Can Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany afford to stand pat, or should he go back on the offensive, as he did in 2010 by adding Nebraska?

The answer is simple: Adapt, or fall behind. The Big Ten could survive with the 12 teams it currently has. But for a conference with so much pride and tradition, mere survival is not enough. It needs to thrive.

So which schools does Delany look to in order to advance the conference?

Delany has gone for nothing less than the home run in previous expansions (Penn State and Nebraska). There are two such "big fish" in the water: Texas and Notre Dame.

Texas is the biggest cash cow in all of college sports. In fiscal 2009, the Texas Athletics Department brought in well over $138 million, a number that was top in the nation.

Notre Dame is a natural fit in every way — program tradition, geography, etc. — but it has been reluctant to give up its status as an independent. If the vaunted "super conferences" take shape, however, the Fighting Irish will have little choice if they want to maintain their current prominence.

By adding these two schools, the Big Ten would own nine of the top 20 revenue-generating athletics departments in the country. No other conference could match the Big Ten in terms of star power or the almighty dollar.

But if Delany wants to maintain that elite status, he needs to act quickly. Texas is looking for a new home right now. The conference has few real options and can't afford to let one of them slip away.

Expansion is happening with or without the Big Ten. Delany can either lead the charge, or he can wait and lose out on Texas.

He would have to be either stupid or insane to let that happen. His history says that he's neither.

— by Tork Mason

No

The Big Ten is in perhaps the best position of any league in this round of Conference Armageddon, and that's exactly why it should stay put and not expand past its math-damning 12 members.

That isn't to say that it couldn't happen anyway, of course. With leagues such as the Big 12 and Big East seemingly ready to implode, the Big Ten is in a position to poach whichever team it wants — without any fear of losing members.

The members of the conference also know they have a safe, long-term, viable home and won't have to threaten to sue members that try to leave (I'm looking at you, Iowa State and Baylor).

However, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has said the league is not actively looking to expand, and the conference should not be. The conference is in a perfect position with 12 members, and adding schools just for the sake of keeping up with the ACC — and possibly the Pac-whatever — would be a bad idea.

Hypothetically adding Rutgers and Missouri just to get to 14 teams would not add anything to the Big Ten. The stroke of genius that was the Big Ten Network has made the conference a crazy amount of money, and adding mid-level schools would not add to that pile of cash.

Conferences such as the ACC have expanded in fear that they could be left behind when the fad of conference realignment is done. That fear doesn't apply to the Big Ten. When the dust settles, there is no scenario in which the Big Ten is left behind, no matter how many teams are in the league.

The Big Ten should not — and will not — settle for any school that is not a home run. The name brand and national relevance of Nebraska made that selection a round-tripper, and there are very few other schools that both fit that bill and satisfy the Big Ten's academic standards.

If the conference finds that perfect school that is willing to join, then fine. But until then, the Big Ten is fine with its current Legends and Leaders.

— by Ryan Murphy


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