The rumor mill surrounding Big Ten expansion is producing unsubstantiated speculation at an alarming rate.
Just weeks after reports surfaced that the Big Ten was accelerating the timetable for expansion, multiple sources reported late Monday that the conference had made formal offers to four institutions: Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Rutgers.
Much like the reports regarding expansion in early April, this particular rumor is being met with fervent denial from all involved parties Tuesday.
However, it just might contain some truth.
Even if no formal offers have been extended at this time, it would make sense for multiple offers will be on the table before the annual Big Ten meetings, which will be held in June.
The speculation surrounding candidates has continued to grow since the initial announcement of expansion surface in late 2009. The popular opinion has the Big Ten looking to add more than one team to promote divisional alliances, opening the door for a conference title game and ushering in even more dollars for what is already the most affluent athletic conference in America.
The identity of the target institutions spreads far and wide, from Syracuse in the Northeast to Texas in the South.
Notre Dame can deny interest as long as it wants, but administrators would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of joining the Big Ten.
The Irish’s television deal with NBC sports is one of the strangest and most misunderstood elements of college sports.
Indiana University grossed nearly eight million dollars more than the Notre Dame in 2009-2010 thanks to the Big Ten’s revenue sharing agreement, which distributes BCS and television earnings among its member institutions.
The other likely targets reside in the Big 12 and Big East Conferences, in the form of Nebraska, Missouri, Syracuse and Rutgers.
Regional expansion would allow the marketing of the Big Ten Network amongst carriers on the East Coast and in Big 12 country. That, coupled with sponsorship from a conference title game, makes the Big Ten a very attractive commodity to prospective institutions.
More details—and rumors—should surface in the coming weeks.
Let’s just get this over with already.