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Friday, May 8, 2009
Would Missouri really be the best addition to the Big Ten?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Penn State coach Joe Paterno's recent comments about the Big Ten's need to expand has provided all kinds of fodder for Midwest reporters and columnists who have spent the past week speculating about which school makes the most sense to add.

The best of the lot came from my colleague Adam Rittenberg, even if he is trying to steal one of my teams and chide me about all of the frequent-flier miles I'm supposedly pocketing in my "sprawling conference" in a post earlier this week.

Just to let you know, Mr. Rittenberg, I'll take the front seat of my car and a satellite radio over one more trip through airport security or the displeasure of landing the cherished middle seat between two hefty airplane companions any day.

But I digress.

Rittenberg lays out several compelling arguments why Missouri makes the most sense for a future Big Ten addition.

Included among his reasons are the Tigers' recent development as a national football and basketball power, their recent facility improvements, the benefit of making the St. Louis metropolitan area as a true Big Ten market and the immediate rivals they would have in Illinois and Iowa.  

I think Missouri makes the most sense in all sports, although Nebraska would really beef up the Big Ten's football credibility.

But I also agree with Rittenberg that Notre Dame is the Big Ten's ultimate dream date. If they could convince the Notre Dame administration to join, it would be a master stroke for Jim Delany or whoever else pulls it off.

But I think the key to all of that happening would be if Notre Dame ever lost or showed signs of losing its lucrative deal with NBC. If that money was slipping away, I could see the Irish joining the Big Ten in a South Bend minute.

NBC is making allowances along with the Irish. They will play a neutral-site game in San Antonio Oct. 31 in prime time against Washington State. It will be interesting to see how that game draws against all of the football choices available on that date.

If that Notre Dame-NBC marriage ever unravels, Notre Dame will be headed to the Big Ten, trust me. 

And Missouri, Iowa State and Nebraska would remain safe in the Big 12.