The Big Ten’s big issues in expanding to 12

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and other league officials will have plenty of logistical obstacles to overcome in the coming months.

(Left to right) Penn State head coach Joe Peterno, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne at the Big Ten Media Days conference in Chicago in August.

Mark Vancleave

(Left to right) Penn State head coach Joe Peterno, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne at the Big Ten Media Days conference in Chicago in August.

John Hageman

CHICAGO âÄî The biggest news coming out of the Big TenâÄôs expansion to 12 teams? That thereâÄôs still more news to come. The obvious big-ticket item at the annual Big Ten Media Days on Monday and Tuesday was the addition of Nebraska to the conference, which wonâÄôt officially happen until July 2011. But Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and other league officials will have plenty of logistical obstacles to overcome in the coming months, some of which he shed light on Monday. NebraskaâÄôs addition to the conference gives the Big Ten enough teams to institute a season-ending football championship game, but it also means the conference will have to split into two divisions, and just how the Big Ten plans to do that is a major topic of debate. Delany said he expects to hammer out a divisional structure within the next 30 to 45 days, and that heâÄôll weigh competitive balance, preservation of rivalries and geography into the decision. Calculating competitive balance could be a murky and certainly daunting task, but Delany mentioned possibly using data points like non-conference records and composite BCS rankings dating back to Penn StateâÄôs first season playing in the conference in 1993 to divide up the conference from a competitive balance standpoint. âÄúWe moved from 95 to 85 scholarships back in those years. It was the beginning of the [Bowl] Coalition, [Bowl] Alliance, BCS Continuum,âÄù Delany said. âÄúAnd we think thatâÄôs sort of the modern Big Ten. So weâÄôre looking at that 17-year stretch and trying to assess where institutions fall out, what theyâÄôve accomplished and using that sort of as the basis to determine what would be a balanced and fair, competitive segmentation of divisions.âÄù There has been a lot of speculation on a potential Big Ten Championship game, which Delany expects to take place in December 2011, the first season with Nebraska in the conference. ItâÄôs still unclear what site will host the lucrative game each December. Several Midwest sites, including DetroitâÄôs Ford Field and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, have expressed interest, and rotating the game between a few sites like the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 do also appears to be a viable option. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday that heâÄôd prefer to have the game indoors, like the Southeastern Conference does in the Georgia Dome. The Metrodome, which is interested in hosting the game, is one of three indoor sites (along with Ford Field and Lucas Oil Stadium) currently vying for the event. Delany said that with all the Big Ten has on its plate in the coming months, he may ask the athletic directors and presidents of the conference to choose one site in 2011, and explore other potential sites in the spring. âÄúI just think that the selection, the philosophy, the economics around a championship venue may require more focus, more focused energy than we have right at this moment,âÄù Delany said. The Big Ten has kept its name despite having 11 teams for 17 years, and Delany doesnâÄôt expect there to be any change when it adds a 12th. âÄúI think the Big Ten is the Big Ten regardless of the number,âÄù Delany said. With most of the logistical concerns falling under Delany and the league officialâÄôs jurisdiction, many of the conference coaches didnâÄôt express a preference for how the new Big Ten should operate or how the divisions should line up. But each has their own opinion on how expansion will help the Big Ten. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said he loves the addition of Nebraska because it will increase recruiting opportunities to the West, while Illinois head coach Ron Zook said it makes the Big Ten more competitive. But even with all the expansion speculation and hearsay over the past few months, the Big Ten may not be done stretching its borders. Long-time Penn State head coach Joe Paterno said if the Big Ten expands further, it should look east, citing potential TV revenue and national exposure as the advantages to such a move, but admitted that it is in the hands of Delany and league officials. âÄúObviously, if we decide that theyâÄôre going to âÄî that itâÄôs in the best interests of the Big Ten âÄî I would hope we would be looking at a couple schools maybe in the east,âÄù Paterno said, âÄúbecause it would certainly âĦ be a good move for us.âÄù Notre Dame has come up in discussion for further expansion for the Big Ten, but Delany said he is confident that they want to remain independent in football and is committed to the Big East Conference in other sports. But the Big Ten is just six months into a 12-18 month study of expansion, and Delany has not ruled out other possibilities. âÄúWeâÄôll pause but we are not necessarily turning our back on expansion,âÄù Delany said.