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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Expansion not 'dead,' but not B1G's priority

By Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- The man who many think gave life to realignment fever around college football three years ago isn't quite ready to give expansion its last rites.

Asked Wednesday whether expansion is dead in the Big Ten, league commissioner Jim Delany replied, "Dead is a strong word."

Delany never will close the door to more Big Ten expansion, but the topic didn't bring much if any discussion at the league's spring meetings of athletic directors. The ACC's recent grant of media rights agreement through 2026-27 likely put the brakes on the immediate possibility of more Big Ten expansion, as the league had been rumored to be targeting other schools on the East Coast after adding Maryland and Rutgers in November. ACC members like North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia had been mentioned as possible Big Ten additions.

Delany made it clear that the East Coast remains the Big Ten's priority, but the league is focused more on expanding its existing product, especially the Big Ten Network, and integrating its new members than pursuing new ones.

"I can't speak for others, but we've been focused on making a home in a new region, making new members feel at home in this region," Delany said. "Everything we'll do competitively and in television and in bowls is to bring, as quickly as we can, a level of comfort. The Eastern corridor is ... the richest corridor in the world from the standpoint of financial institutions, political institutions, media institutions, and we're new to it. So if we can build relationships, make friends and be impactful and relevant over time, that's the goal.

"We're not going to be changing the world, but we are looking forward to doing everything we can to build a presence in that place."

Many thought building a presence would include more members from the East Coast, but if the ACC is secure, and it appears to be, there aren't many if any attractive expansion candidates. Connecticut is looking for a home, but it's not a member of the AAU, a virtual must for future Big Ten members, league sources say. After that ... it's slim pickings.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said further expansion didn't come up in the meetings. Michigan State AD Mark Hollis joked that the Big Ten could pursue the University of Toronto, an AAU member and a favorite expansion possibility among Big Ten blog readers (also an unrealistic one).

There are potentially attractive candidates in other regions like Missouri, but adding a member from anywhere other than the East Coast doesn't seem to click with Delany's bi-regional vision. The Big Ten is in the process of looking for a space for an East Coast office, most likely in New York. Delany noted Wednesday that the Big Ten has 1.2 million alumni living between Northern Virginia and New York.

"Some people say they're tired of writing about [expansion], but they keep asking questions about it," Delany said. "From my perspective, we're inactive and we're focused on bringing [our] new members into the fold."