Expansion rumors are flying again, with Texas A&M's flirtation with the SEC setting off speculation of another conference shuffle. But the Big Ten says it's not interested in taking that ride.
The league put out a statement Friday afternoon acknowledging that its council of presidents and chancellors (the COP/C) recently met to talk about expansion and other issues. But, the statement read:
"[T]he COP/C would like to reiterate that it will not be actively engaged in conference expansion at this time, or at any time in the foreseeable future, barring a significant shift in the current intercollegiate athletic landscape.
"The COP/C is aware that speculation about the possibility of expansion by the Big Ten Conference continues despite a statement from COP/C Chair and Indiana University President Michael McRobbie on December 5, 2010, indicating that the COP/C believed the expansion process had reached its natural conclusion, that it was pleased with the addition of Nebraska, and that it looked forward to working with its new colleagues in the years ahead.
"The conference has spent the past 14 months actively engaged in incorporating Nebraska, academically and athletically, into the fabric of the conference.
"'We're about as comfortable as we can be with where we are,' said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. 'We've said that we will continue to monitor the landscape, but we have closed down active expansion and have no plans to seek new members.'"
This isn't all that surprising. The Big Ten added Nebraska and is comfortable with 12 teams; there's not a huge appetite for more expansion right now (nor are there overwhelmingly great candidates for such). As I wrote earlier this week, the Cornhuskers are a terrific fit, and the Big Ten should keep that line of thinking when it comes to expansion: better, not necessarily bigger.
But the statement includes the caveat "barring a significant shift" in the landscape. I think the SEC going to 16 teams and the Pac-12 following suit, with the breakdown of the Big 12, would constitute a significant shift. Fact is, the Big Ten has to be ready to pounce if the superconferences come to fruition or it will risk being left with the scraps if it ever does want to expand.
But for right now, the Big Ten is hoping that things don't change that much in college football, and that it can stay at 12 for the time being. We'll see how realistic a goal that is.