NEW YORK – The Big Ten’s guideline for conference expansion is “inactive, but alert.”
The league unexpectedly transformed the landscape of major college sports again last month when it announced Rutgers and Maryland would be joining. As usual with conference realignment, the move triggered others and speculation more could be coming.
“I would describe our position as being inactive, but alert,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday after he appeared on a panel with Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive and Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco. The discussion at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum was sponsored by SportsBusiness Journal.
“Monitoring the landscape is overused, so we’re trying to figure out what’s the most apt way to describe where we are,” Delany said. “One hundred percent moving toward integration of the 14 [members] – with schedules, branding and divisional alignment.
“We assessed staying where we were and thought there was some risk to that long term,” he added. “We also understand that there’s risk when you expand because you could get brand dilution.”
The Big Ten’s move tipped the dominoes that led to the Atlantic Coast Conference turning to Louisville to replace Maryland.
Losing Rutgers and Louisville forced the Big East to add Tulane as a member in all sports and East Carolina for just football, then Conference USA had to make moves to replace those two schools.
Slive said the SEC doesn’t feel compelled to react to the Big Ten’s latest expansion. He said he sensed that after Notre Dame announced in September it was moving from the Big East to the ACC, while keeping its football program independent, the shuffling would stop.
“I think each of us have to understand what our own respective needs are,” he said. “I did think we were probably stable for a while. My reaction was more that there’s not as much stability as I thought there was.”
“We’re comfortable at 14, but I would never say never.”
Aresco said the Big East is trying to stay prepared for anything. The conference has undergone a massive overhaul in the past two seasons and is trying to re-invent itself as a coast-to-coast, 12-team football conference, with Boise State and San Diego State entering next season. The Big East also is trying to land a new TV contract. The negotiations were stalled when Rutgers and Louisville announced they were leaving. Aresco said they have started up again.
“I’d like to see consolidation finally take hold so people can begin to build on what they have,” he said.
“It’s not an enjoyable part of the job, dealing with [realignment],” he added. “In the end we have to go about our business. We don’t know whether there will be a period, a long period, of stability. No one knows.
“Uncertainty isn’t good. We decided we’re going to move forward. If something happens down the road, you adjust. We think the model is a viable model.”
The SEC doesn’t have a problem with stability. The conference has been working on launching its own TV network, similar to what the Big Ten and Pac-12 have started.
Slive said he hopes the league will have an announcement about the network in January.