Big Ten eyes further expansion

NEW YORK -- The Big Ten recently announced it would increase to 14 members, so can a 16-team Big Ten be far behind?

"There are some advantages to 16 (teams) compared to 14," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told ESPN on Wednesday. "Fourteen is clumsy. We're not out looking for two teams, but basically we will continue to survey the landscape."

Hollis, attending the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum at the Marriott Marquis, said whether the Big Ten expands is dependent to "what happens in other areas" in the country.

There are some advantages to 16 (teams) compared to 14. Fourteen is clumsy. We're not out looking for two teams, but basically we will continue to survey the landscape.
Michigan State athletic directorMark Hollis

"We don't want to get outflanked," Hollis said.

Last month, Maryland and Rutgers announced they were leaving the ACC and Big East, respectively, for the Big Ten. They are expected to join the Big Ten in 2014.

North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow said she wasn't happy that the Terps, a charter member of the ACC, left the league.

"Maryland will be on a plane to play Wisconsin in the middle of the winter," Yow said. "Hope that money is really, really good."

It will be.

The Big Ten, already the richest conference in the nation, will be negotiating a new media rights deal in 2017, and it is expected to pay each school more than $40 million annually.

With 16 teams instead of 14, the Big Ten also would be able to provide more "inventory," or games for the Big Ten Network, increasing its value "as long as it wasn't in the league's current footprint," sources said.

As far as future Big Ten members, speculation has swirled around the league pursuing ACC programs such as Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina.

Hollis would not name candidates, but said if the league expands "what we'll look for is does it fit? What impact does it have on the current membership? If after (an) evaluation, you see any upside, then there is a reason to grow."

"It won't be tomorrow," Hollis added jokingly.

One factor that could impact whether the Big Ten expands in the future, specifically if it targets ACC teams, is whether Maryland will be required to pay the ACC's $52 million exit fee.

The ACC has filed a lawsuit to guarantee the Terps pay the entire amount. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said Wednesday he doesn't think the exit fee is enforceable.

While Hollis said a 14-team league is "clumsy" as far as football and basketball scheduling, a 16-team league is easier to schedule with two, eight-team divisions.

If the Big Ten did expand, it could set off a domino effect in other leagues. Would the SEC also want to get to 16 teams? Would the Big 12 expand beyond 10? How would the Pac-12 and ACC react? What would all those moves do to the future of the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA and others?

The possibilities are endless.

"I don't think (conference realignment) is over," Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said. "There's more coming."

College football fans: You've been warned.

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