I meant to post this last week but got bogged down with other stuff, so excuse the tardiness. Amid all the Big Ten expansion hoopla, I asked ESPN.com national writers Pat Forde and Ivan Maisel to weigh in on two questions.
1. Should the Big Ten expand? Why or why not?
2. If so, which institution should be the 12th member?
Here are their responses.
I'm not a huge fan of conference championship games, but the fact is, they've worked in college football -- for the SEC and Big 12, especially. Given that, it's time for the Big Ten to get over the fact that it's not the way Bo and Woody would do things and embrace change. Go for it.
Obviously, Notre Dame would be the ideal 12th member, but it would require a change of longstanding philosophy by the school to accept an offer to join a conference in football. I don't think it happens. Given that, the most logical candidates would be Missouri, Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh. All offer some large television markets and solid, broad-based athletic programs. All of them also come with drawbacks.
Missouri makes sense geographically and as a state university of similar academic profile to most of the league. It brings along St. Louis and Kansas City TV markets. But it has been a member of the Big Eight/Big 12 for so long that there probably would be some resistance to change. And Missouri does not bring excellence in any of the revenue sports (which may be viewed as a plus by schools trying to avoid making the league any more difficult than it already is).
Syracuse and Rutgers get the Big Ten into the New York market. But they're a long distance from everyone else in the league, which would make travel -- especially in non-revenue sports -- arduous. Pittsburgh would give Penn State a partner on the eastern frontier -- which might be part of the problem. It's not hard to envision Penn State blocking a Pitt entrance to the league, since the Nittany Lions already have dropped playing the Panthers in football. Pitt also is a different type of school, more urban than any other in the Big Ten.
I'm not convinced that the Big Ten needs to expand to regain ground it has lost in the football wars. Playing later would help. The league has moved back one week to include Thanksgiving. It could spread farther out with 11 teams and play on the first Saturday in December, too. The Pac-10 and Big East do a nice job of scheduling that week without a playoff.
But if they expand, Missouri makes the most geographic sense, Syracuse connects the most dots. I say that because I don't think Mizzou makes the leap. Syracuse brings tradition in both major sports and just as much presence in New York as Rutgers would.