Thursday, June 10, 2010
Kramer: Big Ten will expand in phases
By ESPN.com staff
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany clearly dropped a clue about the league's expansion plans Sunday, when he told a group of reporters, "We could not act; we could act; we could act and act again."
Act and act again.
I admit I didn't think much of the comment at the time. And I still think that if the Big 12/Pac-10 hadn't forced the Big Ten to accelerate its timetable for expansion, the league likely would have acted just once in expansion.
And that could still happen. Nebraska, expected to become a Big Ten member as early as Friday, could be the beginning and the end of the league's expansion push. A source with knowledge of the Big Ten's plans tells me no other additions are imminent besides Nebraska. The Big Ten isn't waiting on Notre Dame or anyone else at this point, the source said.
Still, none of us should be shocked if Delany decides to act again.
"The process, as designed, contemplated a single action or phases," said Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, the chair of the Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors. "The process was designed to keep open those options."
Roy Kramer agrees.
The former SEC commissioner tells colleague Gene Wojciechowski that Nebraska likely would be just the first step for the Big Ten in expansion.
"If Nebraska goes it would be my understanding that Missouri would be not far behind," Kramer said. "Then they would have to look to the East Coast. Rutgers. Maybe Syracuse."
Although the Big Ten has reiterated its desire to study expansion thoroughly and limit damage (i.e. Armageddon) on the back end, Kramer doesn't think it will stop Delany and his league from reaching 16 teams.
"If the Nebraska domino falls, the Armageddon is out there," he said. "Now forget about your conscience and do what's right for your conference. … You got to look at it from 10 years from now, eight years from now, six years from now. ... My best guess is that the Big Ten will eventually get to 16 in phases."
Phases. There's that word again. Nebraska looks like Phase 1. But another phase could include the Big Ten's longtime target: Notre Dame.
"If I were [Notre Dame] I think a move to the Big Ten would be very fortuitous for us in the long range," Kramer said. "If the Big East were to fall apart, then Notre Dame would be in a tough position with the other sports. Nobody is going to take them as a part-time member."
I'm not so sure the Big East will fall apart -- in some scenarios, the league could end up stronger in football -- but these are some interesting thoughts from a guy who spent time on the front lines of expansion in college sports.