College Football Expansion: Big Ten’s Quest far From Over

By Brandon Cavanaugh

If the Big Ten expands to 14 teams by bringing in the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights, listen to what conference commissioner Jim Delany says and do so carefully. When the Nebraska Cornhuskers became members in 2011, the conference filled out to 12 teams and would remain at an even number with the potential new additions, but this money grab can, and likely will, turn into a power grab sooner than later.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are back in the picture as a football power thanks to Brian Kelly. Their stock couldn’t be higher. Even if they don’t reach the BCS National Championship Game, Kelly has proven he’s no Charlie Weis.

With Notre Dame’s new-found affection for the ACC and college football’s future playoff’s specifics finally getting hammered out, programs and conferences have to look at their futures both short and long-term. It’s no secret the Big Ten wants the Fighting Irish among its ranks. It has for decades, but it finally has something to offer that Notre Dame doesn’t have: a guaranteed road to the big show if  the Irish can hack it.

No special provisions required, less hoops to jump through.

Should they romp through a Big Ten schedule, they don’t have to concern themselves about random teams losing later in the year before their first kickoff. They’d control their own destiny from day one, and that’s likely pretty enticing right now as the conference isn’t having its best run on the football field.

Quite frankly, the jokes are deserved. The Ohio State Buckeyes have printed Leaders division title t-shirts even though they’re barred from going to either the conference championship or bowl game. That sentence alone is hilarious on multiple levels.

The good news is that college football remains cyclical and Delany’s setting his conference up for even bigger paychecks when it rebounds. Notre Dame knows about making major bucks. It’s given the nation a clinic on how to market a brand.

If Delany approaches the Golden Dome with figures showing that the Big Ten is pulling in $30-35 million per school annually thanks to the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, the lure may be too enticing to pass up. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted a total of $24.6 million of shared revenue per school last year. Bringing that number to South Bend, IN. isn’t impossible by dipping into the Mid-Atlantic markets.

The Cornhuskers’ entry into the Big Ten brought with it a new logo. Some remarked that the “1G” in the “B1G” logo looked almost as if it could one day be turned into a “16,” this author included. The idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched today, but who would join Notre Dame?

If the Big Ten does expand to 16 teams, watch for the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 to follow suit. Then the brass that rules over college football’s new playoff system will get to sit down and revise the rules all over again. It’ll be worth their time, though.

There’s literally millions to be made.

Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation.

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