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Jeff Eisenberg

Big Ten commissioner's expansion news conference is a letdown

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Jim Delany ended his silence on expansion at Wednesday's BCS meetings as promised, but the Big Ten commissioner somehow managed to say nothing important during his long-anticipated news conference.

Instead of identifying which schools the Big Ten will target or even revealing how many programs he hopes to add, Delany merely said the conference is still exploring all of its options. About the only concrete information he offered was that the Big Ten's timetable for making a decision remains 12 to 18 months and that it could add one or more new members.

"There are no announcements here," he said. "There are no notifications here."

The news conference was a major letdown considering the buildup it received the past few days. With all the BCS commissioners gathered and talk of an accelerated timeline for Big Ten expansion, the expectation was that Delany could begin notifying schools this week that the conference is interested in adding them.

The heavy focus on the Big Ten's plans is because the deep-pocketed conference will likely emerge as the lynch pin for what could either be minor or massive realignment. Since the Big Ten's $22 million per-team TV revenue is significantly more than any other conference, the theory is that it will have its choice of geographically logical teams aside from perhaps Notre Dame.

If the Big Ten opts to add as many as five new schools to in order to infiltrate a bevy of new TV markets, the result will be a chain reaction in which the conferences get raided target other schools or risk extinction. If the Big Ten merely adds one school or maintains the status quo, then reports of future turmoil will seem greatly exaggerated.

The biggest problem for basketball fans is that hoops pedigree will play only a minor role in most expansion decisions. The Big Ten and other conferences will be looking first and foremost to gain footholds in new, lucrative TV markets, with geography, academics and football fan bases also playing a role.

It's extremely unlikely Delany will make his move here, but eventually, he'll have to contact his fellow commissioners and inform them of the Big Ten's plans.

Until then, the speculation will be rampant and the rest of us will have to remain patient.

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