Magnifying the Expansion Part 5: And the Winner Is…

So who all will fit in the glass slipper that the Big 10 is dangling out in front of the college football landscape?  In our series, we talked about how the traditional Big 10 aims to scratch their expansion itch and what could happen to every conference around them when they do.  Today we look at the candidates either actively or inactively campaigning to be ones who get the golden ticket of an invite.  There are oddball choices as well as solid, sensible choices in this competition.  Not all will be covered, but we’ll see the ones that matter.  Then after that, the swimsuit competition!  On with the show!

First and foremost, we can’t go over every whisper and message board post stating that some school no one thought of before is now rumored to be in the race.  This would waste everyone’s time.  There’s no traction in discussing in discussing whether or not Georgia Tech or Wyoming might have an outside chance of getting an invite.  The only whisper we’ve heard that seems legitimate is Colorado jumping ship to the Pac 10 but that’s conditional on not even in the same conference.  That said, here is our big list of contenders.

  1. Syracuse:  Syracuse enjoys a happy little mascot as well as a basketball team that just recently came back to national prominence.  Their school struggled every year after they canned Paul Pasqualoni and hired former Longhorn and Kansas City Chief coach Greg Robinson.  They have the television market for New York.  They also have a long tradition of being academically strong.  We’re not sure how they fit with football rivalries but the program can only go up from here and now.
  2. Rutgers:  With the New York market still on the tip of our tongues, we now take a look at Rutgers.  We recently profiled the Scarlet Knight and along with that learned that Rutgers enjoys the longest tradition of college football in the nation.  They are based in New Jersey, which makes them ripe for New York believe it or not.  Once again, they enjoy academic superiority.  The football team is on the upswing, so even though they again to have a good fit for a rivalry, they could create their owns by beating the big boys.
  3. Pitt:  Still staying in the Big East, the Pittsburgh Panthers already have their rivalry with Penn State.  Once again we profiled Roc the Panther and learned that Pitt has just as long of a tradition of football as the rest of the Big 10 teams.  There’s no footprint here as they are in the same state as Penn State.  We do, however, enjoyed the moustached tough guy head coach in Dave Wannstedt.  Wannstedt alone makes a good fit as a Big 10 head coach.
  4. Missouri:  This is the biggest candidate so far, in Kansas City and around the nation.  They have the AAU membership the Big 10 wants, even though US News & World reports ranks them at a tie for 102nd.  Many fans around the area, as well as state governor Jay Nixon, want the Tigers to jump ship to the Big 10.  Head coach Gary Pinkel did a great job of creating a solid football program.  They fit well with Iowa and could enjoy a rivalry game with them or Illinois.  The footprint is pretty massive with both the St. Louis and Kansas City market on the table, even though Illinois has a chunk of St. Louis and Kansas/Kansas State has a chunk of Kansas City.
  5. Nebraska:  The most populated place in the state on Saturdays ends up being Memorial Stadium when the Cornhuskers play.  The tradition and national recognition Nebraska has is only smaller than the egos of their fans.  There’s barely a footprint within the state, but being a national brand can only help the Big 10.  Nebraska also has the AAU membership the Big 10 covets so much.  The Cornhuskers, led by state hero Tom Osborne,  seem to go against most of the league votes in the Big 12 and seem ready to jump if not for the cash but for the competition on the football field.
  6. Texas:  As crazy as it sounds, the Longhorns are tossed in as a legitimate candidate.  They were the ones talking with the Big 10 when the Southwest Conference blew up in the 1990′s and now some people believe that Texas is now looking to dump the Big 12.  Texas is the 2nd largest state geographically in the union and they have all of the televisions sets to prove it.  If one of the doomsday scenarios play out, they may be left with a destroyed conference and need a new home.  They make the most money in the nation for athletics.  They also have a national brand.  If it weren’t for the rumored Longhorn Network being tossed around, this one would be way more serious.  Well, that and the fact that travel costs would explode.
  7. Notre Dame:  The darlings of college football.  Sure the last 10-15 years have not been too kind to the Fighting Irish in college football, but when you mention college football to a random joe on the street, chances are they will think Notre Dame.  This is the tradition of traditions, with movies made and stories told.  The boycott of their football team by the Big 10 way back when led them to their golden pot of fame.  Currently, they enjoy a fat NBC contract but could also stand to make more if they join the Big 10.  There’s no geographical footprint but more so than Nebraska has national recognition and a national broadcast deal.  The Big 10 could bring in the Fighting Irish and the Big 10 Championship game on NBC.  The only problem is that Notre Dame will die independent if they have to.

These are your main candidates.  With all of the posturing and media misdirection, there could be others not even the radar.  For the Big 10 to be successful in its expansion conquest, one of these teams must be considered.  Who will the Big 10 pick?  Will it be 1, 3, or 5 more teams added to the Big 10?  Jim Delany still wants to keep the timetable, but with the ultimatum on the Big 12 candidates June 1 at the Big 12 athletic director and coaches meetings, the decision could come alot sooner.  Tomorrow we’ll go over how the fans will be affected by these moves, around and the nation and in Kansas City.  After that, we’ll give you our picks.  We promise no skimpy swimsuits either.