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Monday, December 14, 2009
Big Ten expansion debate heats up

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

I'd like to offer a special thanks to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez.

See, NOTHING sparks more interest among Big Ten fans than the possibility of the league expanding to 12 teams. It's really not even close. And Alvarez recharged the debate by telling Wisconsin's athletic board on Friday that the Big Ten will increase its push for expansion.

My inbox exploded this weekend with suggestions from you fine people, and with more news coming Tuesday, the issue isn't going to go away for a while.

Some of you want to know my take on the topic. I'll weigh in more as the week goes on, but I'm pro-expansion and think Missouri makes by far the most sense (unless Notre Dame does an about-face). There are certainly issues with the Big Ten brand -- what would you call the conference? -- as well as division alignment and scheduling, but a 12th member, if it's the right one, could really help the league in a lot of ways.

But before hearing more from me, here are some of the suggestions you're making for Big Ten expansion. As you can see, there are many different views.

David from Portland, Ore., writes: Adam, Considering the recent success of the University of Cincinnati, any chance they'll be considered for the 12th spot in the Big 10? I don't know if UC's facilities or size of stadium would be an issue, possibly they could play at Paul Brown Stadium for part of the season in order to satisfy demand for, say, an Ohio State game. It would also make them in-state rivals with the Buckeyes. Also, assuming UC hires a coach whose style reflects that of Brian Kelly, this would make UC even more attractive considering they play with a dynamism like that of Pac 10 and SEC offenses, something the Big 10 has been hugely criticized for lacking. Looking at it that way, one could argue that UC might be just the tonic from saving the Big 10's apparent slide towards irrelevance.

Tony from Muncie, Ind., writes: Great articles. How about a re-hash of possible candidates for expansion?  Iowa State, Pitt, WVU, Louisville, Syracuse, etc...  I think there are good and bad for all of them. WVU would increase southern exposure and have bball presence. Pitt has football and bball.  I don't think und will be. There is too much to lose in football and they compete in big east and ccha on others.  As an alum of IU and MSU, I want a championship game. It increases exposure. You can also put the championship game in major cities throughout the area.  I would like to see league move south to increase exposure to those kids. I am just not sure there is a team other than WVU that we might be able to get.

Andrew from Parts Unknown writes: Greetings. I am not sure what university other than Notre Dame would be a fit for the Big Ten. Other than Northwestern, all the universities are state run public schools. If Notre Dame were to join a conference, they would be better off joining the Big East Football Conference. They have seen the benefits of their basketball team playing in the Big East basketball conference. Notre Dame plays a couple of Big East Football schools each year. They would be a big draw back East when they played Rutgers or UCONN. Notre Dame would be the ninth university in the Big East Football Conference which means playing eight conference games and still playing Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and USC. And Notre Dame would keep its aura that would be lost joining the Big Ten.

Jeff from Lansing, Mich., writes: If the Big Eleven is really going to look at expanding to 12 teams, how is Pittsburgh not the top choice? A natural rival for Penn State, geography fits perfectly, Michigan State had a nice series with them a few years ago, quality Stadium, quality city/campus.Beyond football, they have a good basketball program and really fit the Midwest type feel of the Big Ten.What more could the Big Ten want?

Deric from San Diego writes: I think that the Big 10 should go after Nebraska if they are unable to add Notre Dame. Omaha which is Nebraska's largest city borders Iowa so you would have a natural rivalry. That might also help with the separation of the divisions by West and East. Getting a storied program like Nebraska would create a lot of buzz. Pitt would also be a good fit but Syracuse wouldn't do a lot for the conference football wise.