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Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Take Two: Another round of expansion?

By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg

Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

With college football still buzzing from last week's announcement of a Big 12/SEC champions bowl game, there is more talk about potential realignment and super conferences. Today's Take Two topic is this: What moves should the Big Ten make if the conference landscapes again start to shift?

Take 1: Brian Bennett

I don't think the Big Ten is very interested in expanding past its current 12 members, but Jim Delany and the league have to be ready to do something if the winds change. That could happen if a couple of ACC teams bolt for the Big 12 or somewhere else, creating some free-agent chaos. The problem for the Big Ten is that there are not a whole lot of really attractive schools who fit geographically, academically and culturally. Maryland and Rutgers would probably be the best two possible additions, but neither get your blood pumping. Maryland is a bit of a mess right now with its major sports, while Rutgers has never really accomplished anything in football. Neither makes the league stronger. Notre Dame remains the Holy Grail but looks far more interested in joining an expanded Big 12 if it ever is forced to give up its independence. Schools like Florida State and Clemson just don't mesh with the Big Ten. If the league needed to add, I think Virginia Tech might be a good target. While the Hokies may not be an ideal fit, they are highly competitive in football and open up some new areas of exposure for the conference. That would make bringing in Maryland and/or Rutgers more palatable. But let's hope it doesn't come to that, because the Big Ten is in really good shape right now with 12 teams.

Take 2: Adam Rittenberg

I agree that 12 is a good number for the Big Ten, and any further expansion, other than Notre Dame, would likely be a reluctant move for the league. But the Big Ten can't afford to sit on its hands while the realignment landscape remains so active. Let's make this clear: I hate the idea of 16-team superconferences. It's expanding for the sake of expanding. Leagues would completely lack intimacy and commonality, teams would play even less often and there would be filler teams everywhere. That said, the Big Ten likely can't afford to stay at 12 if both the SEC and the Big 12 go to 16 teams. Beyond Notre Dame, the Big Ten likely would be adding for the sake of adding. But unfortunately, that's the reality. In this case, Maryland isn't the worst option, although Maryland's athletic department is a mess right now. I think it would be important to stretch the boundaries -- every other league is doing so -- and look to the southeast. Georgia Tech is a potentially intriguing option, located in a major market (Atlanta) in SEC territory. The AAU factor remains extremely important to Big Ten presidents, despite Nebraska's loss of membership. AAU schools that make sense include Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. While it's nice to think about the Big Ten having a larger presence in the New York market, there's a risk there because Rutgers doesn't bring you much. The more prudent move would be to look to the southeast.