As we discussed before, the Big Ten conference is thinking about expansion again. Last week I suggested a few potential candidates and asked the vast Dilettante readership to weigh in. Based on my initial suggestions and the deep thoughts of my well-respected readers, our list appears as follows:
Boise State (from Night Writer)
Cal Poly (from a wise-guy anonymous commenter, likely from the Fox River Valley)
I'm guessing the Cal Poly suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, so we'll set it aside.
Here's what I think.
First, the Big Ten is rightly proud of its academics. It is the only major conference in which every member school is also a member of the Association of American Universities, a consortium of the top research universities in the country. I would be shocked if the Big Ten chose any school that is not also an AAU member. As a result, I am highly confident that Night Writer's bold suggestion of Boise State will have zero chance of going forward.
So if we look at the rest of the schools on the initial list, we see that all of the schools except Notre Dame and Kentucky are AAU schools. Notre Dame is a special case but has already rejected membership in the Big Ten, so I do not think it will be offered a second chance. It's difficult to see the advantage of bringing Kentucky into the league, either. So the list would be as follows:
Pittsburgh (Big East)
Rutgers (Big East)
Syracuse (Big East)
Iowa State (Big XII)
Missouri (Big XII)
Nebraska (Big XII)
Texas (Big XII)
Kansas (Big XII)
I would also suggest three other AAU members who might fit, all from the ACC:
What I suspect is this: the Big Ten would like to add a school that fits academically. It also wouldn't mind hurting one of its rival conferences by taking away a prominent school. But ultimately this is about one thing: football.
A few weeks back, the nation's attention was focused on the SEC and Big XII championship games. These games determined the participants in the BCS championship game. The Big Ten's season was over a month ago.
While the Big Ten cherishes its academic standards, it also wants to win championships. Adding the right team would allow the conference to have a championship game and to get into the mix for the BCS. And that is why the teams on the list are the most likely candidates to join. But which one? I'll address that tomorrow.