As the Big Ten continues their study on expansion, commissioner Jim Delany says that they are nowhere near a conclusion on whether or not to expand. The league’s presidents and chancellors will meet next month and there will not be a vote on the issue at the meeting. Also, no invitations have been extended to any potential new members.
“There will be no vote,” Delany said. “That’s not in our time frame. … We’re months away.”
The conference announced on December 15 that they were conducting a study to assist with expansion possibilities and a 12-to-15 month timetable was given as the duration. The Big Ten is looking at previous expansions by other conferences, as well as potential candidates. Reports have circulated that the process has accelerated quite a bit, but Delany insists that they are still just gathering information.
“[The timeline] continues to be roughly 12-18 months,” said Delany, who added that the league might choose not to expand. “Could it be 19 [months]? I hope not. Could it be 11? It may. But 12-18 months makes sense.”
Delany said that a conference football championship game is not the main focus of the possibility of expansion, but other factors are the driving force behind looking into it. The national population shift to the South in the last 20 years is one and the formation and success of the Big Ten Network is the other.
“As far as the shifting population, that is reason, by itself, enough, to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “In the last 20, 30 years, there’s been a clear shift in movement into the Sun Belt. The rates of growth in the Sun Belt are four times the rates they are in the East or the Midwest.
“You do want to look forward to 2020 and 2030 and see what that impact would be on our schools.”
All 11 schools in the Big Ten are members of the Association of American Universities and this organization is a big part of the conferences fabric. Delany neglected to comment on any schools considered for expansion but candidates such as Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers and Pittsburgh are all members of the AAU. Many factors are being explored in the study which include fiscal, operational, and academic factors and there is a significant number of schools included in the analysis according to Delany. He will though notify the commissioners of the conferences that are affected before discussions begin with any institution.
“Prior to the time membership is offered or applied for, I’ll give someone a heads-up,” Delany said. “They will know it. Schools would have to apply, and then they would have to receive eight votes [for admission]. But I would presume that nobody would apply without knowing they were welcome to apply. We’re not interested in embarrassing ourselves, embarrassing anyone else. So the process of due diligence is a long one, but the process of formal conversations about it is a shorter one.
“The heads-up anyone would get would be before a public announcement, but probably not months before a public announcement.”