Rumors and speculation continue to swirl around a possible Big Ten Conference expansion. Here’s the ways we see this could shake out.
The Big Ten doesn't expand and doesn't add a championship game.
There are many risks to expansion for the storied conference. Adding multiple teams would water down the product and decrease guaranteed television payouts per team. Increased revenue from Big Ten Network cable subscriptions sounds like a good idea, but that only works if people are buying them.
Only Notre Dame would give the Big Ten what it needs — and more important, what it desires. And the Irish simply won't scrap decades of tradition — and in the end, neither will the Big Ten. These are two proud entities with rich histories of doing things their way, no matter the consequences. The Big Ten has finally agreed to play games after Thanksgiving, but Notre Dame still won't play night games at home. Those are two defining stages of college football in the 21st century, things the rest of the sport's teams have embraced for some time.
"Notre Dame doesn't want anyone dictating to them what they can and can't do," Irish legend Paul Hornung says. "(The media) wouldn't even think of it if it weren't for a damn story. It's not even feasible. They're not going to change (expletive). Why would you change when you're sitting on top of the world? They'll go backwards."
The Big Ten doesn't expand but adds a championship game.
The current rule states conferences must have at least 12 teams to hold a championship game. NCAA rules are made to be broken. Or in this case, made to be rewritten.
The Big Ten needs the title game. The SEC says it made $14.3 million from its last championship game, and the Big 12 brings in $12 million to $15 million from its game.
If one of the sport's two biggest conferences — and a powerful player such as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany — says it wants a championship game with 11 teams, it'll get it.
This really is option 1A for the Big Ten — right after adding Notre Dame and Notre Dame only.
"I would think that would have a chance to pass," says Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, a former member of the NCAA's management council, which oversees, among other things, legislative review.
This is the preferred option for the old guard in the Big Ten. And that is more than just a vocal minority.
"I'm more of a traditionalist," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald says. "The Big Ten product is as competitive as it's ever been. We need to make sure we're prepared to see where the landscape is going to go in college football. But I'm not one to think we have to keep up with the Joneses."
The Big Ten adds one school not named Notre Dame to get its championship game.
Rutgers and Missouri are promising candidates because of their potential to grow the Big Ten Network. Syracuse is a possibility, though it has little, if any, connection with a key television market. If the barometer were the combined quality of the football and men's and women's basketball teams, Pitt would be the team to add. But it would add little to Big Ten Network subscriptions.
If the league could find the right 12th team, though — and begin a conference title game — it could move a step closer to the SEC.
"I sense that in college athletics, as in most things, status quo does not last forever and that there's constant change, constant tweaking, to find out what would be a better way to do things," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel says. "The minute you think everything's fine and will be that way forever, is just when somebody passes you by."
The nuclear scenario:
The Big Ten expands to 14 or 16 teams, blows up the Big East and forces Notre Dame to join the conference.
If the Big Ten added more than one team, Notre Dame would either join, too, or be left behind scrambling to find a partner for its other sports. After the expansion announcement, representatives from the Big Ten and Notre Dame would have formal meetings to discuss, among other things, revenue sharing and television contracts. This is the goal for the Big Ten: to get Notre Dame to the negotiating table.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The nuclear option would also potentially bring other schools into the mix, including Big 12 heavyweights Nebraska and Oklahoma. Don't think that's completely out of the question. There still are hard feelings throughout the entire Big 12 about rules and attitudes perceived to favor Texas.
CFT: The University of Nevada is honoring longtime coach Chris Ault, who stepped down in the fall, by renaming the school's football field after him.
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
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