When it comes to Big Ten expansion, nothing substantive has surfaced lately, but the rumor mill keeps grinding.
I'm becoming convinced it's about who and how many. Adding one, three or five teams are all still options. But the rewards that can be reaped through the Big Ten Network make adding schools irresistible, even to a league that's already the nation's most well-endowed economically.
Here's a scenario from veteran Boston Globe writer Mark Blaudschun that makes a lot of sense: A major raid on the Big East.
If the Big Ten persuades Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Connecticut to join, that would put major pressure on Notre Dame to sign up. That would create a 16-team super league that adds massive television numbers in New England and New York. That would mean two eight-team divisions, a big-time conference championship game in football--and a Big Ten Network that's a big deal all around the country, when you add in transplanted alumni.
That would take the Big East back to its roots as a city-school basketball league.
Adding five teams would be phenomenal change. But considering past moves by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who's probably the most dynamic commissioner in the history of college sports, it would be in character. It was Delany, after all, who engineered, among other things, the addition of Penn State, the creation of a Big Ten men's basketball tournament and the current BCS setup in which the Big Ten and Pac-10 entered the national-championship football mix.
The picture will become clearer in the coming months, as behind-the-scenes negotiations continue.
If the five-team Big East annex happens, one question would be, ``Which current Big Ten teams would slide over to the Eastern front?'' Penn State seems a pretty obvious choice for an eight-team eastern division. The other two are anybody's guess.
Another question is the domino effect around the nation: To Blaudschun, it would make sense for the ACC to annex football-playing South Florida, West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati from the Big East. That would also force the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-10 to add schools, with a few super-conferences dominating the college landscape.
Another question would be, ``Can they still call it the Big Ten?'' How about, ``The Really Big Ten,'' since conference officials maintain that Big Ten has a connotation that goes beyond the number.