Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said he’s had schools inquire about possibly joining the Big Ten Conference, only he won’t say which ones.
“I wouldn’t comment on that,” Delany said about which schools might have approached him interested in expansion. “If they do, they do. If they don’t, they don’t. But certainly they didn’t inquire to make an announcement.”
The Big Ten expanded to 11 schools in 1990 when Penn State joined the league. Notre Dame rejected an offer to join the Big Ten in 1999.
Speculation has swirled for years concerning the Big Ten and potential expansion. The schools mentioned the most often as possible candidates include Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers and Missouri. Expansion would allow the league to become eligible for an annual football championship game, which often nets millions of dollars for conferences and their schools.
Recently, two Big Ten football coaches have spoken favorably about league expansion. Penn State Coach Joe Paterno wants the league to expand because “we go into hiding for six weeks.”
“Everybody else is playing playoffs on television,” Paterno told ESPN.com. “You never see a Big Ten team mentioned. So I think that’s a handicap.
“I’ve tried to talk to the Big Ten people about, ‘Let’s get a 12th team — Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt — we could have a little bit of a playoff.’”
Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema, a former Iowa captain, also welcomed the idea of league expansion.
As for Delany, he said the league does discuss expansion and it’s a likely topic next week during the league’s football coaches and athletics directors meetings. But it’s unlikely the league will expand anytime soon.
“It’s a back-burner issue for a long time, but it’s not to say that it doesn’t get discussed,” Delany said. “It’s just a back-burner discussion, because I don’t know how else to say it other than periodically.
“We’ve spoken with two institutions, in one case Penn State, and it resulted in an expansion; another with Notre Dame and it did not result in an expansion. We haven’t felt the need to move it off the back-burner since that time (1999), although it gets discussed — the pros and cons internally — from time to time.”