Expansion timetable still 12-18 months

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany ended his self-described "silent phase" Wednesday at the BCS meetings, saying he had no news to report concerning his conference's expansion plans.

Amid rampant speculation he would use the meetings to inform other conferences of his intentions to poach one or more of their teams, Delany said there have been no changes to his 12- to 18-month timetable announced in December.

"There are no announcements here and there are no notifications here," he said.

Delany went on to refute reports the conference had hired a firm specifically to vet potential candidates.

"In this case, the financial firm that was identified [Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Company] has done some things for us but not vetting candidates, not vetting institutions," he said. "To be honest, the function that they've done is create some evaluative tools to help us understand our own value."

Delany said the expansion process remains in an early phase. He said it's too early to tell whether the 11-team conference would add one or as many as five teams. He said his thinking wasn't being heavily influenced by a desire to hold a conference championship game in December. He also said he doesn't know how quickly an expanded league could be put together.

He would not deny, however, that programs are being evaluated for their potential fit in the Big Ten.

"I didn't say we weren't at that phase," Delany said. "I said we are not at the phase of any need to provide notice to an institution, that we were in formal discussions with an institution."

Expansion is not a topic on the BCS meetings' official agenda, but it's clearly the hottest subject of the three days at the Royal Palms Resort, with other commissioners jesting with reporters about their own curiosity over Delany's ultimate intentions.

The jesting, of course, covers the real concern that Big Ten expansion could cause major ripples across college football.

"It's made for some anxious moments for everybody," Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson said.

Delany wouldn't agree there was tension at the meeting. He called it "interest."

He also admitted that his 30 minutes chatting with reporters mostly amounted to telling them he had no news.

"There's nothing earth-shattering here," he said.

Ted Miller covers college sports for ESPN.com.