The new Big 12? Not likely says Big Ten commissioner

By Jason Grodsky

CHICAGO – With more coverage and publicity provided by the new Big Ten Network, there have been rumors flying about the possibility of the addition of another school to the Big Ten conference.

The rumors and speculation made the expansion of the conference a hot topic at Big Ten Media Day on Tuesday in Chicago.

However, according to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, the possible expansion of the conference is just that – speculation – and there hasn’t been any serious talk about adding another school to the conference.

“We expanded in 1990 and with the exception of Notre Dame we really haven’t had any conversations with anyone, nor do we have plans to have conversations with anyone,” Delany said.

While the Big Ten is not currently in talks about adding a 12th team to the conference, Delany said the conference does look into expanding every three to five years.

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If the conference were to expand to 12 schools it would not only look at its athletic programs but also its academic reputation and marketing qualities.

Delany was also emphatic in saying that the addition of a new school would not be for a possible Big Ten football championship game to determine the conference-winning school.

“We’re not looking for a championship game,” Delany said. “If we were looking for a championship game we would’ve had one 15 years ago. We’re looking for a stronger conference and conference that works better for all 11 members.”

However, while the commissioner said a championship game would not be a deciding factor in adding a 12th team, he did address the issue of having a season-ending championship game.

“There are obvious financial and marketing opportunities to having a championship game,” Delany said. “But the negative is that they tend to minimize season-ending traditional games. They also create a loser and possibly affects your bowl lineup as a conference.”

Illinois head coach Ron Zook backed the commissioner’s thoughts on the addition of a championship game if the conference added a new school, stating that it adds the possibility for a team to be knocked out of national championship contention or a premier bowl game.

“If you do have 12 teams and do decide to have a championship game, it makes it a little tougher,” Zook said. “It’s one more game you have to play and, if you have an opportunity, to possibly get knocked out of a BCS game.”

Whether or not the Big Ten chooses to expand, the success of the new Big Ten Network could have a big influence on the decision, and could ultimately attract or deter the conference from expanding.

“With the Big Ten Network we have more hours to produce games and more room for content, but that makes people believe we’re on the cusp of expansion, but that is not an accurate characterization. It’s not a front burner issue, but it’s always possible.”