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Sunday, June 6, 2010
Updated: June 7, 2:02 PM ET
Big Ten unaware of Big 12 ultimatums

By Adam Rittenberg
ESPN.com

PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Big Ten presidents and chancellors took no formal action on expansion Sunday at their annual spring meeting, but they acknowledged that their timetable to explore the topic could be impacted by what happens elsewhere.

The Big Ten outlined a 12- to 18-month period to explore expansion in a Dec. 15 statement, and the league has since reiterated that the timetable hasn't changed. But recent events, such as the reports Saturday that the Big 12 has issued a stay-or-go ultimatum to Nebraska and Missouri, might accelerate what the Big Ten does.

"Our announcement in December has caused institutions to consider their future and conferences to consider their future," said Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon, the chair of the Big Ten's council of presidents/chancellors. "That has had an impact on our deliberations. ... We had targeted a timeline that was as long as 18 months. It's possible that the timeline may be altered, but not the process.

"The actions of others are obviously important to us and they impact us, but the process is as we've outlined it."

The league's presidents and chancellors met for 4 1/2 hours Sunday, and spent a "considerable" amount of time on expansion. The group isn't scheduled to meet again until December, but Simon said a vote on expansion can be taken electronically.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany admitted the conference has been gathering information on expansion since before the Dec. 15 statement.

An applicant to the Big Ten needs at least eight votes from the presidents/chancellors to gain admission to the league.

"There was no discussion of having a vote today," said Simon, who added that the group made good progress on expansion.

Simon and Delany declined to identify potential candidates, but names that have surfaced include Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

Delany said he didn't have any knowledge of Big 12 ultimatums to any schools and wouldn't comment on specific institutions. He also declined to expand on comments Ohio State President Gordon Gee made in an April 20 e-mail to the commissioner regarding Texas and its "Tech" problem, referring to rival Texas Tech. Gee was not available to comment.

"There has been a lot of activity in the last two weeks, as reported in a lot of media outlets," Delany said. "We don't know exactly how that will all play out, but it could affect how we do things."

Simon outlined four criteria that the Big Ten is evaluating for any applicant to the league: academics, willingness to participate in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (Big Ten's internal academic consortium), athletic competitiveness and fiscal responsibility to the conference.

All 11 current Big Ten members are part of the Association of American Universities.

"The academics are top on the list," Simon said, "and purposely top on the list because it reflects the values of the presidents. ... This is not an infinite set of institutions [that fit the Big Ten], and it's not as difficult as one might think for presidents to understand some of the implications of various decisions."

Delany stressed that expansion rests with the individual universities and not with the conferences.

"It's not just a conference making a decision. It has always been and will continue to be about institutions making a choice," Delany said. "For us that would be an application process, an assessment process."

Big Ten bylaws require an application for membership and none have been submitted. Bylaws also state that action, such as offering a university to join the conference, can be done in person, electronically or by telephone -- meaning university officials do not need to reconvene in Chicago to vote or make a decision.

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.