Home SPORTS What if the Big Ten were to revisit expansion? Ten teams that make sense.

What if the Big Ten were to revisit expansion? Ten teams that make sense.

by Bioreports
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We were all thrown a little aback yesterday when news broke that Texas and Oklahoma were reportedly kicking the tires around, potentially exploring the option of leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC. It set off a flurry of conversation just in time for Big Ten media days to kick off.

But what does it all mean for the conference? It could mean nothing. Things are clearly changing in the collegiate landscape at breakneck speed. With the folding in of name, image, and likeness rules into the model, along with changes with transfer rules, there are clearly changes afoot. Not to mention, playoff expansion seems to be only a matter of time.

It all makes sense that some more conference realignment and expansion may at least be revisited, and here we are. I mean, it’s no secret that the balance of money and power in big-time college football — the sport that generated the most revenue by far has two main players — is aligned with the SEC and the Big Ten. Those two conferences make more money than any of the others, even the other three Power Five conferences. If you are positioning yourself for a dramatic shift, why not go to the land of consistent milk and honey?

Maybe nothing comes of this new chatter about conference musical chairs. Maybe that’s all it is, chatter. But if something more gets legs and the SEC gets another team or two, you better believe the Big Ten will have some similar conversations and look to position itself in the same market as sweet tea and grits.

Heck, even Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren seemed to leave the possibility open with some comments on Thursday. “We’re at an inflection point in college athletics,” Warren told reporters. “We’re always evaluating what’s in the best interest of the conference.”

So, it got us thinking. IF (emphasized) the Big Ten were to look at conference expansion and realignment once again, what teams would make sense? This is obviously just opinion, but based on what we’ve seen in the past with where the conference looked last time there was a reshuffling of power, we can throw out some options.

Here are ten teams that make sense to cozy up with some brats, cheese, and cold weather if the Big Ten were to look at expansion once again, in really no particular order.

Texas Longhorns (Big 12)

Ohio State now has 3 of top 15 Texas football prospects for 2022

Ohio State now has 3 of top 15 Texas football prospects for 2022

Sep 21, 2019; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns fan poses with University of Texas logo on Bevo Boulevard before game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

Ok. Look. I mean, if Texas is looking, why wouldn’t you go after the prettiest girl that’s potentially ready to break up with her current girlfriend? If the Longhorns are truly looking, then getting a school that generates a ton of revenue and has a slew of alumni makes a ton of sense. It’s basically Ohio State in burnt orange. It would be a slam dunk. It also gets the conference in a new, lucrative market, which is always a big thing when looking at expansion possibilities.

What would hold the move back

How far along are these conversations with the SEC? Nobody really knows, but geographically it does make a little more sense than the Big Ten. Also, would Texas and Ohio State play nice in the sandbox? The Longhorns have their own network and are on the shortlist of schools that have the reach and following of the Buckeye program. Would the flag-bearer of the Big Ten be on board with this move? It’s interesting to think about.

Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12)

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 28: Oklahoma Sooners animal mascots Boomer and Sooner pulling Sooner Schooner Conestoga wagon on the field before the game against the LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Why it makes sense

Similar to Texas, if Oklahoma is looking, then the Big Ten would like to have a word on line two. The Sooner program is one of the blue-bloods of the sport and would add an instant boost to the conference. If you can get both programs, great, if not, go for the hottest girl at the party’s friend who is almost just as attractive.

What would hold the move back

Again, if the Oklahoma brass is already having conversations with the SEC, then this thing may not even get off the ground. Also, if the Sooners and Longhorns are in lockstep and want to go somewhere together, a Texas move to the SEC could be a packaged deal. But who knows really?

Iowa State Cyclones (Big 12)

Jan. 2, 2021; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of an Iowa State Cyclones helmet during the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

Well, if the Big 12 is about to implode, why not take some of the scraps? Getting the Cyclones in the conference would add an instant rival for Iowa and the geographic footprint makes a lot of sense. Also, the program tends to be competitive in both revenue sports as of late, so that’s an added bonus.

What would hold the move back

It’s not exactly a splashy move. It doesn’t really turn more television sets (or streaming devices) on and doesn’t give you a historically great program in either football or basketball.

West Virginia Mountaineers (Big 12)

Top CFB offensive players left in the transfer portal - Buckeyes Wire

Top CFB offensive players left in the transfer portal – Buckeyes Wire

Oct 12, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers offensive lineman Briason Mays (68) over center during the first quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

We might as well stay in the Big 12 since those teams could be scrambling if the conference’s two best programs run to greener pastures. West Virginia shares borders with both Ohio State and Penn State, so it could set up a natural rival for both. There’s not a lot of elite history to bank on with either revenue sport, but both sports are competitive enough with some memorable seasons from time to time.

What would hold the move back

It won’t exactly excite the Big Ten pocketbooks. The state of West Virginia is one of the poorest in the country and the fanbase is relatively small. It would feel like a move just to get another team that makes sense geographically and that’s about it.

North Carolina Tarheels (ACC)

Oct 10, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels mascot in the third quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

This might seem crazy, but if you believe some of the sourced information last time the Big Ten expanded, North Carolina was high on the list. It’s a research institution that fits the genetic makeup of the Big Ten academically, and it does get the conference into another market. The football program is a bit of a sleeping giant that’s beginning to awaken, and having the basketball pedigree of one of the best all-time programs of the sport would be a winning equation.

What would hold the move back

Culturally, it’s a little like forcing the issue. UNC is basketball first and foremost, and while that’s not a deal-breaker, giving North Carolina a seat at the Big Ten table could drive a wedge into decisions going forward with such a high-profile basketball school. Also, the ACC seems to be on solid footing and there are no guarantees Carolina would want to leave a league it is so historically tied to in its culture. There’s also the Duke thing to think about. Would Sonny go on to another career without Cher?

Pittsburgh Panthers (ACC)

Nov 21, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Deslin Alexandre (5) and defensive lineman Rashad Weaver (17) and wide receiver Will Gipson (14) celebrate after defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies at Heinz Field. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

Penn State has always been kind of on an island in the Big Ten with no natural rival. Adding Pittsburgh who is a rival for the Nittany Lions already, would be good for the league. Pitt also has a very underrated football tradition in a city and state that has football ingrained in its way of life. Also, geographically (again) it makes sense, especially if you bring in West Virginia along with the Panthers.

What would hold the move back

It would have to be about more than Penn State. Pitt doesn’t really add a whole lot to the Big Ten from a reach and revenue standpoint and its football glory days are in the rearview.

Cincinnati Bearcats (American Athletic)

Cincinnati Bearcats defensive end Myjai Sanders (21) celebrates after making a tackle for loss in the third quarter during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against the Georgia Bulldogs,

Why it makes sense

There is one team in Ohio and it is clearly Ohio State and only Ohio State. No other program matters for football or basketball in the Big Ten. Adding Cincinnati would put another program in the football-crazed state of Ohio and add an in-state rival to the Buckeyes’ schedule annually. The football team is an up-and-coming one and basketball has a tradition that speaks for itself right smack dab in the Big Ten’s footprint.

What would hold the move back

Ohio State might try to block this one. It’s good to be king of the richest conference in America. Adding another in-state opponent to the conference might be seen as evening the playing field in recruiting a bit for those Ohio kids that want to play big-time college football. And, Cincinnati is not exactly the type of culture fit the Big Ten has looked for in the past. There’s also little natural revenue gain with the move.

USF (American Athletic)

Oct 15, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; South Florida Bulls fans wear Star Wars masks during the second half of a football game against the Connecticut Huskies at Raymond James Stadium USF won 48-27. Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

This is an underrated option that not many talk about. If the Big Ten wants to get into a new market, why not get an institution in population-heavy, football-crazed Florida? USF is also one of those research institutions that have a lot of the same values and culture as Big Ten schools do academically. The south is where it is when it comes to football talent as well, and getting a footprint there could be huge for the entire conference. You know, the whole SEC thing and all.

What would hold the move back

USF has little football or basketball tradition to speak of. That seems to be the biggest hurdle with this one. The school has only been around since 1956 and a part of FBS in football since 1997. The support and facilities would likely need an upgrade to get up to Big Ten standards. There is also a sterile campus feel to everything that might need to change.

UCF Knights (American Athletic)

Aug 29, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights mascot performs for the crowd prior to the game against the Florida A&M Rattlers at Spectrum Stadium. Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

A lot of the same that applies to USF does for UCF. If one looks appealing so does its rival in the “War on I-4” matchup. The I-4 corridor is a much sought-after ratings bonanza. Marrying the Orlando area and all it has to offer with the Big Ten’s reach and money could be a marriage made in heaven. Also, how about all that comes with events that could be held in central Florida for the conference. Sign me up.

What would hold the move back

Again, UCF is a newcomer as well, beginning play in FBS in 1996. It too would likely have to go through growing pains to upgrade facilities and all. There’s not much tradition to speak of, though the program is clearly one of the up-and-coming ones in college football. Also, the move might have to be a package deal with USF or bust. It’s unclear whether the Big Ten would want to bring two schools with little tradition on at the same time.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (sort of, kind of independent)

Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot celebrates the field goal against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Why it makes sense

OK, I know, I know, we’ve been down this road before with a dead-end seemingly at every turn. But with all that’s changing with the landscape of football and even potentially an expanded playoff, this might be the time to get Notre Dame on board in the Big Ten. Clearly, this makes the most sense of any team out there when it comes to joining the conference from a reach, revenue, and culture standpoint. Could another shift in conference realignment finally leave the Irish with no option but to finally join the Big Ten?

What would hold the move back

Everything that has held it back before. Notre Dame believes its football program can stand on its own with television rights, revenue, and support. And even though that’s changed a wee-bit over the last twenty years, the Irish brass still won’t dance with the devil when it comes to all of the changes. It’s a proud institution and even prouder football program that has refused to jump headfirst into joining a conference and is likely still feeling that way today. There’s also the whole weird ACC dynamic at play and who knows where that could go. [listicle id=54085] Contact/Follow us @BuckeyesWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Ohio State news, notes and opinion.

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