The divisions would have to be called the Schembechler and Grange.
Get ready for Michigan and Ohio State playing twice each season.
Then there would be the whole mess about the Big Ten's new name. Big 12 is already taken.
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Welcome to the brave new world of the Big Ten, or whatever Sesame Street counting game the league is going through at the moment. The league took a significant step Tuesday, admitting in a news release it is exploring expansion from 11 to 12 teams.
Putting ink on paper at least indicates that the Big Ten puts other leagues on notice that it might be the latest home wrecker in the conference expansion merry-go-round. As our august presidents and educators have proven time and time again, when profit is involved college athletics' leaders operate like common prostitutes.
The money's on the dresser.
In this case, the money is in a football championship game that could be worth at least $5 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. There has been a "growing groundswell" of support for expansion among Big Ten athletic directors, according to the paper.
The league would expand to 12 teams, split into two six-team divisions, à la the Big 12, SEC and ACC, and stage a championship game. If you really want to think ahead, that's a potential gain for Minneapolis, Indianapolis or Detroit as they have the only three major indoor stadiums in the Big Ten region. It's hard to imagine playing a conference championship in the first week of December in Chicago's sketchy weather at Soldier Field.
Whatever the weather and whatever the site, a Big Ten title game would almost certainly be a ratings and financial winner. The league has a 51 percent stake in the Big Ten Network that could televise the game.
The SEC shot to the top of the revenue charts in the last year when it finalized a 15-year deal with CBS and ESPN that guarantees each league school a $17 million check each year. The Big 12's championship game has been a financial boon, helping league reap more than $100 million in revenue per season.
No doubt, Big Ten leaders have gotten tired of watching other players and leagues get attention in the pregnant pause after the traditional end of the conference season in the week before Thanksgiving. With the addition of conference championship games, the season now ends during the first week of December.
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The Big Ten reviewed expansion in 1993, 1998 and 2003, but took no action. This time the Big Ten said in the news release "the timing is right" to look at expansion again. That doesn't necessarily mean anything is going to happen and if it does, recommendations won't come for another 12 to 18 months.
So why the consternation?
• The Big East and Big 12 should be nervous. The schools most frequently mentioned in a Big Ten raid are Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East and Missouri from the Big 12. Missouri went so far Tuesday as to issue a statement that didn't exactly dismiss the issue. Missouri's chancellor said that if an offer came, "we will evaluate it in the best interests academically and athletically."
The last round of expansion by the ACC almost wrecked the Big East and the ACC hasn't exactly flourished in the new alignment. The Big East has put in financial penalties for teams that would leave in the future.
The early-line leaders? Pittsburgh or Rutgers. Pittsburgh would be a natural rival for Penn State, which joined the Big Ten in 1990. Rutgers would bring the New York market into the Big Ten.
Commissioner Jim Delany has said in the past if the league expanded it would add an "institution," not just a team.
• There is only one school that makes sense. If Notre Dame said yes tomorrow, it would be in the Big Ten by the end of the week. Reading the shamrocks, that isn't happening anytime soon. There is absolutely no momentum on the South Bend campus to join a conference. Notre Dame officials have stated repeatedly that it wants to remain independent before and after rejecting Big Ten overtures in 1999.
• If the Big Ten wants to hit a home run, it could invite Texas. The school might be geographically undesirable, but the league would have to salivate at a chance to have the two richest athletic departments in one conference (Ohio State is the other).
It is known that Texas has been desired by the Pac-10 in the past. Texas has been upset at times with various Big 12 issues, the latest the three-team tiebreaker that kept it from winning the South Division last year.
• Traditional rivalries would take a hit. As mentioned, there is the possibility that Ohio State and Michigan could play twice each season. Wouldn't the league have to separate its two flagships? On the other hand, the Big 12 and SEC eased into new divisional alignments over the years.
A league championship game might better prepare league teams for bowls. As it stands, Ohio State will go 6½ weeks between games after ending its season on Nov. 21. That down time has been blamed, in part, on the Big Ten's current six-game Rose Bowl losing streak.