INDIANAPOLIS – The Big Ten is not having any talk about expansion or realignment.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Oklahoma and Texas are interested in joining the Southeastern Conference, news that rekindled realignment and superconferencing in college football. Newly appointed advisor to the Big Ten, Barry Alvarez, had a simple question when he read the report: “Why?”
“It took everyone by surprise,” Alvarez told a small group of reporters on Big Ten Media Day on Thursday. “It really didn’t strike me one way or another. I don’t know how legit it is. No one has commented on it. The fact that there was no comment on it maybe says something. It’s something you have your antenna for.”
What is the response from the conference? Should the Big Ten Answer? That’s when Alvarez, a former Wisconsin head coach and athletic director, was furious.
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“I don’t know about that,” Alvarez said. “We haven’t even addressed that in any meeting I’ve been to with sports directors. I don’t want to talk about expansion because it’s too early. We haven’t even discussed it. I have nothing more to say.”
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren added an evasive answer on top of that.
“We are always constantly evaluating what is best for the conference,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how that story evolves and where it lands.”
It’s never too early to talk about the possibility of expansion, but don’t count on the Big Ten to react soon. After all, if Texas and Oklahoma do go to the SEC and Notre Dame remains locked in their five-game deal with the ACC, then what do the leftovers look like?
In this case, no action can be the best course of action.
“I don’t know if the Big Ten have to respond until it happens or if it’s a plan they had themselves,” said Howard Griffith, an analyst at the Big Ten Network. “Obviously, it’s sent some shockwaves into college football when talking about two dominant and prominent shows and what they could do for the SEC.”
Where might would the Big Ten go if expansion was a possibility? A quick look at the possible selections:
TCU. That would give the Big Ten a Texas outpost in the Dallas market, but it would be a soccer-only move. The Horned Frogs have only appeared once in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 2000.
Kansas and the state of Iowa. The Hawkeyes have a rivalry with the Cyclones, but what does everyone else get in the Big Ten? Kansas would be an exclusive basketball move and an unnecessary one given the strength of the conference in that sport.
Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Choose your combination of two options. The Buckeyes are in no rush to share that Ohio spotlight with Cincinnati. Pitt and West Virginia would probably be the best bet, but that won’t generate much excitement.
Do the Big Ten want to go after those schools? For not much emotion? Perhaps that is why Álvarez is not in a great hurry to talk about expansion.
The Big Ten added Penn State in 1990, Nebraska in 2011, and Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. Do those fan bases really agree to be in the Big Ten?
It depends on who you ask and when. Remember, the Huskers defied the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the season in 2020. Nebraska, of course, is also familiar with Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 days. Nebraska coach Scott Frost still wasn’t getting the hook.
“I have absolutely no comment on Texas, Oklahoma or any other league,” Frost said. “I think there is a lot of dust flying around, and we will all have to wait and see where the dust settles. If that leads to further realignment, then I feel really good with the position Nebraska is in.”
No comment. Nothing more to say. No response.
In this case, the Big Ten is right to wait and see what happens next.