I just got off of a teleconference with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne about Nebraska becoming the 12th member of the Big Ten.
There are so many subtopics to discuss in the coming months, but here's a bit more about what we know now:
Further Big Ten expansion: It definitely could happen. Delany and Simon both said the league remains within its 12- to 18-month time frame to study expansion and could act again depending on the climate. The Big Ten only acted now because of circumstances with the Big 12 and Nebraska. Delany admitted the league might not have been ready to act three months ago. The Big Ten now will return to "the slower tempo sort of game" with expansion, but Delany said the league is prepared to act quickly again. "We have two-thirds of study period left to go and we’re real anxious to work with Jim and others around the next step," Simon said. Added Delany: "If we can be as successful with a 13th or 14th member as we were with Nebraska, that would be great."
Championship game: Delany has never been rah-rah about them, but he expects the Big Ten to begin playing a championship game in football in 2011. Venues and locations haven't been discussed, but Big Ten associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner and others will begin examining the possibilities. Feedback from athletic directors and coaches will be gathered before any decisions are made. "It’s important to get it right, and there’s no silver bullet," Delany said. "There will be different views on it."
Division alignment: The Big Ten also must figure out divisions in the coming months. Delany listed three main criteria for sorting them out: competitive fairness, maintenance of rivalries and geography. He stressed that competitive fairness is the No. 1 priority, which I believe to be the correct approach. Geography shouldn't determine divisions. You don't want another Big 12 South scenario.
Scheduling: Osborne hinted that the number of conference games could increase in the new Big Ten. He expects at least three nonconference games and, like many Big Ten athletic directors, wants to keep as many of those at home as possible. The Big Ten's challenge will be figuring things out for Nebraska's arrival in September 2011. "Mark Rudner and Mike McComiskey have done a lot of models," Delany said. "The issue for us it the short turnaround."
Rivalries: Delany has often talked about the intimacy of a league and how vital rivalries are to its fabric. "They're part of who we are," he said Friday. But he added that rivalries have to be evaluated independently to see which ones are worth preserving in an expanded league. "We’re going into this with the idea that rivalries really matter," Delany said. "But not all rivalries are equal."
Timeline with Nebraska: Delany and other Big Ten officials met with Nebraska officials three or four weeks ago to have informal discussions in an undisclosed location (it wasn't Lincoln, where Delany made his first trip Friday, or Chicago). Osborne also had briefly discussed expansion with Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez (a former Nebraska player and coach), both of whom told him the Big Ten was considering the Huskers. The process only really heated up after the Big 12 issued stay-or-go ultimatums to its members. If the Big 12 -- and Pac-10 -- didn't speed things up, the Big Ten would have continued to move along slowly. But Nebraska seems happy with the way things worked out. "We don’t feel like we’re walking into a room of strangers," Perlman said. Added Osborne: "We feel we share a lot of common values with what we know of Big Ten institutions."