Nebraska: Mind if we join you?
Big Ten: Sure. How does 2011 sound?
Geez. That was easy. And no matter what Jim Delany or anyone else associated with the Big Ten says, I think there’s going to be more, and pretty quickly.
When Jim Delany talked about adding Nebraska to the conference Friday afternoon — something the Big Ten did just a couple hours after officials at Nebraska voted unanimously to seek a spot in the conference — he said some interesting stuff about how the conference would be structured as it adds its 12th team. And he also said a bunch of stuff I don’t believe for a minute.
Nebraska will start conference play in 2011, and Delany said there would likely be a conference championship game as soon as that season. He apparently was a little nonchalant about a title game, at one point saying this:
“We won’t expand for the sake of expansion … We’re not looking to achieve a championship game. That’s not our motivation. If it was we could have done that many times over the past 20 years.”
But when you think about the money involved in a Big Ten championship, it’s a little hard to take Delany’s nonchalance seriously. Yes, Nebraska is a good fit academically and athletically, but the Huskers are the newest members of the Big Ten because it allows the conference to hold a title game, it expands the footprint of the Big Ten Network, and it gives the Big Ten a license to print money.
I was more interested in a couple other things Jim said Friday afternoon, for what they reveal about how things might look down the line. He said the conference will take three things into account when it splits its teams into divisions, in this order: Competitive fairness, maintaining rivalries and geography. I like the top priority, because I’ve had a hard time coming up with scenarios that make the two divisions appear balanced, even with the addition of Nebraska.
I really like what he said about the conference’s rivalries. He said existing rivalries would be evaluated independently, to determine which ones matter most. “We’re going into this with the idea that rivalries really matter,” he said. “But not all rivalries are equal.” I’m assuming he would agree that Ohio State’s rivalry with the School Up North would be one of the ones worth preserving.
Finally, Delany said the conference would try to slow down the process, sticking a little more closely to the year to year-and-a-half schedule he had set at the start of this whole thing. He did leave the door open to quicker action, and I think that’s what we’ll see. Texas A&M is said to be considering ditching its former Big 12 cronies and taking a shot at the SEC, and if the SEC gets involved with this, all bets are off. Assuming the rest of the southern Big 12 schools follow through with a move west, the SEC wouldn’t have anywhere to go for new members but the Big East, and I really doubt that the Big Ten would let that conference crumble without taking a couple of its schools as well.
And don’t forget Notre Dame, boys and girls. They’re still talking tough, but if the Big East dissolves, they’re going to need a partner. And the partner that would make the most sense would still be the Big Ten.