I’ve gotten on the train a little bit later than some news outlets not too far from here, but that train — the one with “EXPANSION” written on the side and barrels of money tucked away in the hold cars — is barreling toward Chicago nonetheless. Nebraska appears ready to board.
Obviously, no one is surprised by this. Of the umpteen million purported combinations and scenarios relating to Big Ten expansion, Nebraska and, along the way, Missouri joining sooner rather than later is perhaps the most popular. And if the above report or the dozens like it circling like sharks around the wounded Big 12 are to be believed, sooner rather than later is about to become right now.
Nebraska makes sense on a number of levels. Big state school, tradition-steeped football program, lots of fans and, most importantly, boosters with deep pockets.
So how would this work?
1. The Big Ten must formally invite any team that wishes to apply first. It is unimaginable that the Big Ten would invite anyone with any intention or expectation of being turned down or turning anyone down. So expect an invitation to basically be a pre-acceptance formality.
2. The invitation and subsequent acceptance would have to be voted on by the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents/Chancellors. What we learned, among other things, last weekend in Chicago was that the COPC can vote without being together, either by phone or e-mail. So that restriction does not exist.
3. We haven’t heard as much on Missouri in all this as Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are the big fish. Commissioner Jim Delany said Sunday that the Big Ten could “act, and then act again” with regard to expansion, as opposed to staying put or doing everything all at once. This report from Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune suggests that’s exactly what will happen. So maybe Nebraska (and perhaps also Missouri) now, and who knows what’s coming down the track.
4. So what happens to Notre Dame? Well, it depends on what you believe. There are those who report that the Irish will preserve their independence at any cost, even at the risk of ending up on the outside looking in when all the dust settles. There are others who say Notre Dame would only join the Big Ten if it were the only entrant, not wanting to share dollars or the conference spotlight any more than would be necessary. The second of those now appears untrue. It remains to be seen — and could even take years to decide — whether not joining a conference will marginalize Notre Dame if the dominoes fall in the form of “super conferences” that stretch from the East Coast to Omaha and L.A. to Dallas.
There’s a lot more to this, we could seriously go on for hours. And it’s going to take years to decide once and for all what the ramifications of the coming days, weeks and months will be on the college sports landscape. In the meantime, I’d run down to your local Walgreens and grab a greeting card, the Big Ten family looks like it’s getting bigger very soon.