Would the Big Ten look to the Big 12 to snatch a 12th member?
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez started the firestorm when he mentioned the possibility of the conference adding another school. Several conference members have told Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany about their hopes for expansion.
"I have a sense he is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it," Alvarez told the Wisconsin athletic board last week. "I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators."
And E. Gordon Gee, the chancellor at Ohio State, sounds like he's made a 180 in his opposition to a 12th member for the conference after strong early reservations.
"We have to be thoroughly modern and realize the world has moved on, and having a playoff for the Big Ten championship makes sense," Gee told the Columbus Dispatch. "I'm not planting a stake in the ground on that issue, but it's something we now need to tackle."
That's where the Big 12 might come in to this scenario as several conference schools have been mentioned as potential candidates for the 12th spot.
I still have to think Notre Dame would be the first school that would be considered. And that Delany would be absolutely, positively have to be sure that the Irish had given up hopes of accepting that bid before he would look elsewhere.
After that, Big 12 schools would likely figure prominently. Among the potential schools would be Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers and Louisville, along with Big 12 schools like Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa State.
I would think that Missouri would be the most potentially desirable of the Big 12 schools because of its population and growth potential as the single football-playing school in the state. Missouri is the 18th largest state in the country according to 2008 population estimates with 5.91 million people. It would be an inviting market for the Big 12.
Nebraska would bring greater natural cache because of the traditional excellence of its football program, but would bring little extra population or additional football viewers compared to the other schools. It ranks 38th nationally with a population of 1.78 million. Iowa State would bring even less because the Iowa market is already saturated by Iowa for the Big Ten as it is.
The reasons the Big Ten is talking about expansion are interesting. The conference's recent bowl struggles have made some coaches and administrators wonder if a championship game would keep their teams sharper at the end of the season.
There's also a wealth of new stadiums in the Midwest that would serve as ideal homes for a potential championship game. They even have some domed stadiums in places like Indianapolis and Detroit where December weather wouldn't be a problem in settling a championship.
I don't necessarily think the Big 12 should have any concerns about one of their members being snatched up by the Big Ten if expansion should come. I think several other potential contenders likely are better fits -- both from a geographic footprint and economic sense -- than any school currently in the Big 12.
But it would be interesting to see which way the Big Ten would go if it went trolling for a 12th member.
And I'd be even more interested to see where the Big 12 would go if it needed to find an additional member to keep its number intact.
I'm just curious. I'm wondering if the readers believe the Big 12 has anything to fear about a potential defection, and also what would be their choice for a new member if the Big 12 needed to find one?
Your thoughts, as always, would be appreciated.