The expansion talk has come back due to nothing other than the Big Ten Network, meaning that the conference's biggest potential boondoggle has brought back one of the big intraconference debates in recent history. It feels like the Imus firing.
With that, onto the short list of potential candidates:
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Positives: Best possible fit of academics/athletics/location; already rivals with Michigan (and to a lesser extent MSU/Purdue/Indiana); would improve national exposure, even beyond the levels created by Big Blue/tOSU/Penn State; possible Fat Weis jokes are, for all intents and purposes, endless; possible Malpractice Weis jokes almost as plentiful; museum-esque stadium rules are positively comical; great road trip every other year
Negatives: Might not want in for a variety reasons (everyone focuses on the money they're making on the NBC deal, but there's a certain amount of "remember what happened to PSU" at play, to be sure); despite all the Ironman echoes in Iowa City, not a real rival for the Hawks; even money chance of being arrested in South Bend; their basketball program is thoroughly Iowa-like, and that certainly won't help the hoopsheads
Prognosis: They're the natural choice if they want it, and the kamikaze flirting between the conference and ND for the past two decades is well-known. I don't think they make a move until their current football contract is up (mGoBlog has it at two years). If the BTN is still alive at that point, the conference might have enough money to finally make this worth their while. Odds are 7:2.
Positives: Geographic and academic fit; another program that is ever-so-slightly south, at least by Big Ten standards; a couple of big media markets (StL, KC) open up; natural rival of ILLINI and potential rival of Iowa; one of the few candidates that would shift the balance of the conference westward
Negatives: When you think about it, don't their athletics kinda suck? This is one of the great maybe-sleeping-giant, maybe-red-headed-stepchild programs in the country; consistently losing players from their own backyard (to OU and NU in football, UK & Rock Chalk in hoops); member of the old Big 8, and might not want to leave that; doesn't have the necessary excitement factor; would leave one less team in the Big XII to ruin ISU's season with a devastating late loss
Prognosis: This one makes a lot of sense, but it's certainly not exciting. Seems that Delaney's goal is to sell cable packages, and I don't know how successful this pick would be at accomplishing that. Odds are 5:1.
Positives: More geographically reasonable than any non-ND candidate; up-and-coming athletic program, with legitimate football and basketball (if you're looking at the last five years, the best football/basketball combo in play); opens up the south, if ever so slightly; free breadsticks at Pappa John's Stadium; they're capable of hiring Rick Pitino and Bobby Petrino; have we so quickly forgotten the beatdown they put on Miami? Let's go to the videotape:
Negatives: While they're a geographic fit, they don't seem to be much of a cultural match for the Yankee Big Ten; might be a flash in the pan, especially with the departure of Petrino; academics are a serious issue; already jumped ship into the Big East just a couple of years ago, and might not be in the mood for another move; they're also capable of hiring John L. Smith; Papa John's breadsticks suck, even if they're free
Prognosis: mGoBlog is right; the academics are a big concern, and the presidents won't get behind a twelfth team if it dilutes the Big Ten's academic standing. Throw in the relatively short history of academic success, and I say probably not. Odds are 6:1.
Positives: Finally gives Penn State a geographic rival; recently strong in basketball; historically decent in football, even if recent results have been lackluster; academically sufficient; would bring former quarterback and TV detective Tyler Palko to the conference
Negatives: Doesn't really bring any new markets to the table (PSU seems to be just as big, if not bigger, in Pittsburgh); based on recent results, this seems to be a basketball-first move for a conference/network that is football-needy; feels like we're bringing them in just to make PSU happy; has more traditional rivals in its current conference; another move to the east; I hate Dan Marino
Prognosis: This just doesn't feel like the great fit that other people seem to think it is. Pitt seems happy in the Big East, with West Virginia on the schedule every year, a constant chance at a conference football championship, and top-tier basketball competition (not to say the Big Ten isn't top-tier, but it's usually not as deep as the Big East). I just don't see this happening. Odds are 8:1.
Positives: I hate to admit it, but they're a legendary football program (and recently strong in baseball); no more a geographic problem than PSU was 15 years ago; probably the program most harmed by the Big XII's TV deal (as already pointed out by mGoBlog); maniacal fanbase on par with UM, OSU, PSU, etc.; take your current stock of ISU jokes, change the names, and you're set for pregame heckling; there is nothing more enjoyable than reading the Omaha World-Herald after a Husker loss
Negatives: While they've been working on the academics, they're still not in the Big Ten's league; no basketball program to speak of (in the words of the Frenchmen from Monty Python, "We've already got one!"); another old-school Big 8 member who might not move (especially if it means they lose games against Boomer Sooner); I don't think Omaha qualifies as a top-notch media market pickup; Lincoln police are pricks
Prognosis: Absolutely my favorite pick, but it seems this process is being controlled by the eastern teams. While adding Rutgers/Syracuse/any other non-ND Big East team would leave Iowa and Minnesota with virtually unreachable conference road games, you would hear far more from PSU/OSU/UM if a team was added to the west. Throw in the academic issues and natural Nebraska adversity to change, and I have a hard time seeing this come to pass. Odds are 10:1.
Positives: Historically good football; always a great basketball program; facilities are good, if drab; not an extremely bad geographic pick (though it would be a real trip from Iowa City); academics are solid to great; Otto the Orange kicks total ass; was the topic of the first post we ever did; great football uniforms
Negatives: They currently suck hard at football, though they are slowly improving; might not be too keen on leaving the Big East
Prognosis: The best way to get east coast exposure without blowing up the travel budget for all programs west of Chicago. That being said, the consensus seems to be that nobody in New York City cares about the Cuse, and God knows nobody west of Buffalo cares, either. There's not a lot to make this a bad pick, but there's not a lot of upside, either. Odds are 15:1.
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY SCARLET KNIGHTS
Positives: Academically sufficient; opens NYC markets; yada yada yada, you've heard it all before
Negatives: Have you looked at a globe? New Jersey is a friggin' hike; nobody in NYC cares about college sports, and the inclusion of Rutgers isn't going to make New Yorkers interested in Purdue/Indiana field hockey; short-term success, but nobody knows how long this will last; the unfortunate return of Vivian Stringer
Prognosis: Negative. I HATE this choice. It makes absolutely no sense geographically, and it brings little to the table athletically or academically. If Delaney's singular focus is getting into New York, well, this is the pick. Let's just ask Gob Bluth what he thinks about that decision:
That's what I thought. Odds are 15:1.
- Texas - Heh. Good one.
- Boston College - Makes about as much geographic sense as BC in the ACC...oh, wait...
- West Virginia - They can't even read.
- Iowa State - See West Virginia.
- Kentucky - Wouldn't leave the SEC if you put a shotgun to their head.
- Cincinnati - Too small.
NOBODY - 2:1