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Big Ten coaches discuss expansion issue

The Big Ten held its spring edition of the coaches' teleconference Tuesday, and not surprisingly, expansion was a very hot topic. This marked the first teleconference since the league announced in December that it would explore the possibility of adding a team or teams.

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno reiterated his support for expansion, which would allow the Big Ten to play a championship game in football. Paterno is well aware of the buzz around expansion in college sports, noting the Pac-10's interest in possibly adding teams as well.

"Expansion is coming," Paterno said. "I think the trend is there’s going to be bigger conferences. There’s going to be 12-, 14-team conferences and maybe even 16-team conferences. Do I know what I’m talking about? Who knows? ... We’re naïve if we think that you can sit back and watch everybody else move ahead, because they’re going to move ahead. We better start thinking about where we’re going."

The 83-year-old Paterno admitted that by the time the Big Ten expands, "I'll probably be out of this thing." But he once again advocated for the league to expand toward the East, which would bring in a new TV market.

Paterno previously has mentioned Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh as candidates he'd like to see the Big Ten consider. He said Tuesday that any new member would need to satisfy the Big Ten's commitment to academics and research, as well as broad-based athletics programs. Members of the AAU (Association of American Universities) would be preferred.

"When you get married, you better marry somebody you love, and that means somebody who appreciates what you want to do," he said. "It’s a question of bringing somebody in that can handle the academics, the research, AAU schools preferable, commitment to women's sports, the commitment to all sports programs. Now can you find one, two, three, four? I don’t know. That’s up to some people that are outside my realm."

Several of Paterno's Big Ten colleagues weighed in on expansion and provided different views. Minnesota's Tim Brewster, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema see the benefits of expansion, while Illinois' Ron Zook pointed out that any candidate would need to bring a strong financial profile to the league, as the current TV deal generates excellent revenue.

"I would expect there to be significant discussion about expansion," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said, adding that those decisions are made way above him. "When things are brought forward and there’s a rationale made, and it makes sense, I’m on board with it."

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald made the case against expansion, saying that unless the Big Ten adds another school like Penn State, it's not worth it.

"I'm more of a traditionalist," Fitzgerald said. "I’m not one to say we need to keep up with the Joneses. The Big Ten product is as competitive as it’s ever been."