Alvarez: Big Ten to push for 12th team

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez says the Big Ten will soon make a more aggressive push toward adding a 12th member.

Speaking to Wisconsin's athletic board on Friday, Alvarez, the former longtime Badgers football coach, said the conference already has investigated possibilities for expansion "from all over the country." And though he places no timetable on the search, Alvarez thinks conference commissioner Jim Delany will respond to a group of athletic directors and coaches who want expansion.

"I have a sense he is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it," Alvarez told the board. "I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators."

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has been the most vocal advocate of a 12th Big Ten team, and he has support from several of his fellow coaches.

A 12th team would allow the Big Ten to split into divisions and hold a conference championship game. The Big Ten typically ends its football season two weeks before the other BCS conferences, though the addition of a permanent bye week in 2010 will shrink the gap by a week.

"We're irrelevant for the last three weeks of the football season because we're not playing," Alvarez said Friday.

Paterno has stumped for expansion several times, but Delany -- who was unavailable for comment -- told ESPN.com this spring that the league has no immediate plans to add a 12th team.

"There's not an obvious move," Delany said in May. "There might be to some coaches, including Coach Paterno, but it's not as obvious to the university presidents and to the athletic directors.

"There are a lot [of schools] that could take a lot away, but there aren't a lot that could bring so much to make the choice an easy one. You have to have a lot to make something go like this, and it's broader than really a championship game or a basketball tournament."

The Big Ten most recently expanded with Penn State, which began competing as a league member in football in 1993. The league has made runs at Notre Dame but hasn't had serious discussions for several years.

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com