Big Ten expansion could affect rest of NCAA

Past conference expansions in the NCAA have led to a “ripple effect.”

Michael Rietmulder

While the Big Ten is unlikely to announce any decision on conference expansion in the near future, other conferences around the country are keeping a watchful eye on its actions. Last week, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive told The Associated Press that while the conference is not considering adding new teams, it is internally examining the pros and cons of expansion in the event of a âÄúsignificant shift in the conference paradigm.âÄù Rumored targets of the Big Ten include Big East schools Rutgers University, the University of Connecticut, Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as several Big 12 teams, including the University of Texas and the University of Missouri. University of Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi is aware that any move the Big Ten makes could have a significant effect on the landscape of college sports. Maturi said last month that that effect is one of the many considerations for the conference before it reaches a decision on expansion. âÄúOthers might [be] concerned [with] what weâÄôre doing, if weâÄôre going to take a team from their conference, and how âĦ that positively or negatively impacts the whole climate of intercollegiate athletics, and I think weâÄôre sensitive to all those things,âÄù Maturi said. Losing member universities to another conference can be devastating. Former Southwest Conference Commissioner Kyle Kallander had a front-row seat for the conferenceâÄôs dissolution after losing four schools when the Big Eight, now the Big 12, expanded in 1994. Three years after the University of Arkansas abandoned the SWC for the SEC in 1991, it was announced that the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University and Baylor University would leave to join the newly formed Big 12 in 1996. Kallander, currently the commissioner of the Big South Conference, came to the SWC as an assistant commissioner in 1992 and served as commissioner in its final season. He said that at the time, conferences were beginning to develop their own television packages, and schools left seeking more television revenue than the SWC could provide. After ArkansasâÄô departure, the eight remaining SWC schools were all in Texas, limiting its television footprint. âÄúIt became all about the number of households and ratings, and the Southwest Conference was in an unenviable position of being a one-state league âĦ so the leverage at the bargaining table was pretty limited,âÄù Kallander said. He said there was little talk of trying to save the conference, and the issue was determining the next step for the four remaining schools: Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Rice University and the University of Houston. But historically, other conferences have not always sat idly by as another conference poached its members. In 2003, the Big East filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference, which had extended invitations to three Big East schools âÄî the University of Miami, Virginia Tech University and Boston College âÄî to join the conference. The suit alleged that the ACC conspired with Miami and Boston College to weaken the Big East by stealing its top football programs. A separate suit was filed against Miami, Boston College and its director of athletics, Gene DeFilippo. DeFilippo declined to comment for this story. A settlement was ultimately reached, but the Big East wanted to deter members from future departures. As a result, it established a loyalty clause requiring departing members to pay $5 million to the Big East Conference in exchange for their release. In 2005, the Big East turned to Conference USA for replacements, plucking the University of Cincinnati, the University of Louisville, the University of South Florida, DePaul University and Marquette University from its ranks. Conference USA in turn added six new members from the Mid-American and the Western Athletic conferences to fill its vacancies. Kallander said a similar âÄúripple effectâÄù occurred when the Big Eight expanded and the WAC added three former SWC members. While itâÄôs unknown what the Big Ten will do, Kallander said any expansion could have a far-reaching impact. âÄúIt depends on who allâÄôs involved âĦ but if itâÄôs a dramatic shift, then it could affect everybody in college athletics at the Division I level in the country,âÄù Kallander said.