Big Ten Expansion
News today dropped that Oklahoma and Texas have officially requested to become members of the SEC, and are seeking to become full members starting July 1, 2025 (or sooner!). This was part of the developing story that broke last week that the two schools were seeking to leave the Big 12, which was reported by the Houston Chronicle, and immediately it created a buzz about the shifting landscape of college football. If the Big 12 conference were to fold, it would be in a similar situation as the Big East, when Miami and Virginia Tech joined the ACC, and the conference could not compete due to lack of marketable brands. The remaining 8 schools have met and discussed the future of the conference, but there are already reports of some of the schools looking to join other conferences. Nothing is official until it is official, but the Power 5 conferences could become much different in the next few years.
This then of course leads to the Big Ten, who has the brand and the financial power that rivals the SEC, and could be looking to add to its conference as well. When asked about the possibility of teams being added to the conference, during Big Ten Media Days, Commissioner Kevin Warren indicated that he wants to evaluate the situation, do whats best for the student-athletes, and trust the Big 10 presidents and chancellors. He also appointed Barry Alvarez to the position as a special advisor for football, which would include the potential for expansion. There are a few teams that come to mind who could be good candidates to help with the brand, and compete with the SEC’s “super conference”. Based on the criteria from expansion before, the Big Ten places value in AAU (Association of American Universities) schools, which 13 of the 14 schools are members.
The idea of expansion is fun, and brings its own set of questions such as which schools? How many should be added? Should there be divisions? Who gets to play who? For this article, we will just touch on the top 5 school combinations we think the Big Ten should pursue, or consider for its expansion.
1. Notre Dame and Pitt
The golden egg if you will of teams that would be a great school to add to the conference. Notre Dame values their independence, and in the one season it did join a conference, it aligned with the ACC due to its 6 game contract, as well as the decision of the Big Ten to postpone the football season initially. Notre Dame is in Big Ten territory, has storied rivalries with Michigan, Michigan, and Purdue. They are not an AAU member, but their fan base and donors alone match what the top schools of the conference are already bringing in annually. Also, Notre Dame could make more money even with shared revenue with the Big Ten when when contracts are renewed in 2023. Pitt and Penn State are a storied rivalry, and are opposite sides of the state. Unfortunately, Penn State might be similar to Ohio State where they would want to be the only state representative in the conference. Pitt would bring in a different market with the Pittsburgh area.
2. Iowa State and Kansas
The Cyclones are an AAU team, have an established rivalry already with Iowa, and are in the Big Ten footprint. They do not hold they same brand power as Notre Dame, but they are competitive in their athletics, and one of the top 25 basketball schools. If Matt Campbell were to remain at Iowa State as well, that would add a name value to the conference coaches. If there needed to be a second school to add the the Iowa State deal, Kansas seems to be the next best choice, as they are an AAU school, with a rich basketball history. These brands would not add much value to the Big Ten, but it would help with some of the television markets.
3. Duke and North Carolina
Yes, Coach K is leaving after this season, but Duke would add value to the basketball side of athletics, and Duke is a member of the AAU. With adding Duke, it might not be hard to also try and get AAU school North Carolina as well as part of a package deal so that the schools can maintain their rivalry. Also, with the addition of these schools, that will give a potential “pod” scenario with the Big Ten conference what could bundle with Maryland and Rutgers, two other former ACC members.
4. Oregon and USC
We know, 1 million uniform combinations and 0 national championships, but Oregon itself is an AAU school with a rich track and field history, as well as is supported by Nike, who is the jersey sponsor for nearly all Big Ten schools. Also, having that West Coast market would be huge for the brand. Top that with USC with the LA market, and the Big Ten could have a Coast to Coast Conference that could compete with what the SEC is doing with its current partners in Fox.
5. West Virginia and Cincinnati
This combination would be great for the basketball side of athletics, but not expand market too much. These two schools though are on the up for football, but Ohio State might not let Cincinnati in. It would be interesting though to see these programs be part of the Big Ten and create some interesting match-ups.
What schools would you like to see be added to the Big Ten