After launching its expansion study in December, the Big Ten hasn't been too forthcoming with information about the process, at least with media members.
Maybe two U.S. senators from Iowa will have better luck.
Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin are asking for expansion answers and other details from the Big Ten in a letter dated June 10 to league commissioner Jim Delany. Grassley and Harkin are trying to find out whether the Big Ten's push for potential expansion -- and the possible repercussions for the rest of college athletics -- jives with the league's status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
In the letter, the senators write:
"According to its Form 990, the Conference's primary exempt purpose 'is to regulate intercollegiate athletics as institutional activities to encourage sound academic practices for student athletics, and to establish harmonious relationships among member institutions.' Despite this stated charitable purpose, it appears that the majority of the Big Ten's operations revolve around NCAA athletics and the marketing, promotion, and revenue generating activities affiliated with those athletic activities. Moreover, most of the discussions surrounding the potential realignment of member institutions from one league to another appear to be designed not to further the charitable operation of the Big Ten."
The senators go on to ask for a bunch of things, including the Big Ten's tax forms, the Big Ten Network's tax forms, revenue collection and dispensation forms and compensation documents for the league's commissioners. Having seen the Big Ten's 990 form from the last fiscal year (thanks to colleague Mark Schlabach), the league earned $221,990,529 in revenue.
Grassley and Harkin also ask for ... drum roll, please ... "All copies of any proposed expansion, merger, or consolidation plans the Conference has considered, developed, requested, or otherwise discussed and explain how the Conference decided on what schools to invite."
Good luck with that one, fellas.
What did the Big Ten have to say about the senators' letter? Not much (big surprise).
Delany could not be reached for immediate comment. Associate Commissioner Scott Chipman confirmed that the conference received the letter.
"The conference has followed up with the senators' respective staffs," Chipman said. "We have no other comment at this time."
This is very interesting stuff, but keep in mind that the letter was written a day before the Big Ten voted to admit Nebraska to the league and at a time when everyone thought the Big 12 would dissolve. The senators were clearly worried about Iowa State, one of the schools left on the outside if the Big 12 broke up.
Since Iowa State is safe in the new Big 12 -- at least for the next few years -- I wonder if the senators still want their answers as badly as they did June 10.