Big Ten Discussing Expansion to 14 or 16 Schools

The Big Ten already has 11 teams. Could it soon be expanding to 14 or 16?

Representatives from the 11 schools were planning to meet this week in Washington to discuss that exact question, according to the Chicago Tribune.

If the schools agree to expand, conference commissioner Jim Delany could take the first steps in that process next week at the annual Bowl Championship Series meetings in Phoenix, the article said.

On Dec. 15, Delany stated that he would notify the commissioners of any affected conferences before "engaging in formal expansion discussions with other institutions." That means the Big Ten would have more than a month to negotiate with schools before the conference’s presidents and chancellors meet in Chicago during the first week of June.

The Big Ten, which is also discussing changing its name, would then have until the end of June to make any expansion official. If it wasn’t official by June 30, the last day of the fiscal year, nothing could go into effect until 2011.

Some of the schools in which the conference is rumored to be interested are Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and Notre Dame.

"I don't think 16 [schools] is scaring anyone off, as long as you can find [five] that are a good enough fit," one source told the paper. "They're looking long-term, across the horizon. What gives them the best shot at keeping value at a high level?"

Notre Dame is the top target, the article said. By joining the Big Ten, the school could increase its annual television revenue from $15 million to $22 million, gain a national platform for sports other than football on the Big Ten Network and decrease travel costs.

Notre Dame’s interest in joining remains unclear, though. In March, athletic director Jack Swarbrick told the media that "it’s not hard" to envision "a scenario that would force our hand."

But then a week later, he told USA Today, "The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more [schools] than Notre Dame … the big change. I don't see that happening."