Making the case for a 12-team Big Ten

May, 20, 2010
5/20/10
4:00
PM ET
As you can tell, Big Ten expansion is in the spotlight around here today.

If you haven't done so already, check out my Big Ten spring meetings coverage as well as five lessons learned about the league's expansion study.

Colleague Pat Forde also weighs in on the expansion process, going through three potential scenarios and listing his preferred route for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

Option 1: A 16-team league that could destroy the Big East and/or Big 12, create scheduling headaches, potentially eliminate rivalries and prompt the SEC to expand as well and possibly get stronger. It also could generate a boatload of money and attention for the Big Ten.

  • Forde's advice to Delany: "It would destroy what little collegiality is left in college sports. And I think you're old-school enough for that to matter."
Option 2: A 14-team league, with Nebraska, Missouri and Rutgers as the likely additions. This league would be easier to administer but would lack big-splash additions Notre Dame and Texas.
  • Forde's advice to Delany: "But here's who you aren't getting in either the 16- or 14-team scenario, Jim: Notre Dame and Texas. They're the two golden tickets in this expansion game. Problem is, they know it. And they have things situated so well right now that it's hard to see either giving that up."
Option 3: Add Nebraska to the Big Ten and form a 12-team league. Missouri and Rutgers also are possibilities, but Nebraska's football program still moves the needle nationally and will be relevant in most seasons.
  • Forde's advice to Delany: "Fans everywhere will tune in to watch Nebraska play Michigan and Ohio State. Not sure the same can be said for Missouri or Rutgers. This way you can have two sensibly sized divisions and play a championship game, making your conference relevant into December. You can schedule with greater inclusion and fewer cries of favoritism than in a 16-team league. There still will be geographic divisional issues, but they are surmountable."

What do you think about a 12-team Big Ten with Nebraska as the new addition? I like it more and more.

There's a tendency to get greedy in this process, especially because of the already lucrative Big Ten Network. But bigger isn't necessarily better. Nebraska might be the best single realistic option for the Big Ten. The league would add marquee matchups and at least one hot new rivalry (Nebraska-Iowa). And college sports wouldn't get completely chaotic.

Are there better options? Sure. Are there most realistic options? Maybe not.

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