Big Ten in expansion mode again

Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Kansas.

Take your pick. These are the teams the Big Ten is now targeting as possible new conference members.

That abundant bit of speculation has been running rampant all over the internet and in newspapers from the midwest through ACC country the last couple months -first about UVA and UNC, then GT and finally UK in the last little while.

It also leads right in to the obvious conclusion that the Big Ten is cranking it up to be the first in line as one of the ultimate four 16-team ”super” conferences that most of those in the know say is where college football is headed.

Like one person noted, for the Big Ten in any expansion, ”first comes football: Penn St,/Nebraska; next comes TV markets: Maryland/Rutgers; then comes basketball: Kansas/UNC.”

To me, that’s a pretty shrewd strategy if you can pull it off, and reportedly the Big Ten has intensely redoubled its efforts to do just that lately to secure the third piece of the puzzle to finish off its ”big picture” of expansion.

And other than when Penn State joined the Big Ten in the 90s, if this newest expansion move turns out, all the rest will have taken place in five years -Nebraska a couple of years ago, Maryland and Rutgers sometime next year and then the final two additions in what looks like sooner than later now.

Still, nothing is set in concrete yet -and may not be for quite a while or it could be next week, next month, next year or even further down the road. Plus, you really can’t believe all the rumors, but you know more conference expansion is probably coming – and relatively soon. So the Big Ten is taking the first pre-emptive step to get who it wants before the big scramble for schools ensues.

I really didn’t have any problem with the Big Ten adding Penn State or Nebraska strictly from a football standpoint. But after that, I wondered when and where the Big Ten would be going next. Maryland and Rutgers were a little bit of a surprise, but stretched the conference from the heartland all the way to the East Coast.

Now apparently, the big move is south, something I really didn’t figure on, and down the Atlantic coast. It’ll be interesting to see what eventually happens -who the Big Ten decides it wants and, more importantly, who wants to be in the Big Ten.

Again, solely from a football angle, Virginia and UNC are average or maybe a little above, Kansas is down right now, but Tech is usually pretty good. So the big selling point to the Big Ten would be basketball with all four, but especially with the Tar Heels and Jayhawks’ strong programs, large followings and national reputations.

But schools from North Carolina and Georgia I never thought I’d see in the Big Ten. Yet as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said: “You have to decide on a strategy on how to position yourself for the next decade or half-century. It’s a long-term play.”

And so be it, and get used to it, because that’s probably the way college sports are heading in the not-so-distant future.

Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at