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Big Ten Football: If the Conference Expands, Which Teams are Candidates to Join?

Could the Big Ten consider expansion to 16 teams?

Could the Big Ten consider expansion to 16 teams?

The SEC’s addition of Oklahoma and Texas has scrambled college football’s offseason, and all of the power conferences are considering what’s next for expansion and realignment. Uncertainty reigns in the Big 12, but the Big Ten sits in a good spot. The conference doesn’t necessarily need to add just to match the SEC. While expanding to 16 teams might be preferred, any added programs have to bring value to the conference and not decrease the overall pool of revenue to each team. Notre Dame is the obvious and best fit for the Big Ten, but there are obstacles to adding to the Fighting Irish.

There’s no guarantee the Big Ten expands to 16 members to match the SEC. But what if the league considers expansion? Athlon Sports details the best fits as members for the conference:

Big Ten Football: If the Conference Expands, Which Teams are Candidates to Join?

The No. 1 Choice

Notre Dame
Outside of pulling off a surprise raid from the ACC or Pac-12, the Fighting Irish are the only team that brings significant value to the Big Ten. But there’s a catch with Notre Dame’s availability for the conference: The Fighting Irish are tied to the ACC through a grant of rights through 2035-36.

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The Next Tier

Iowa State
Adding Iowa State doesn’t necessarily bring anything new in terms of media markets or territory, but the Cyclones would be a perfect fit in the Big Ten’s West Division. Joining the conference would turn the annual matchup against Iowa into a conference game, as well as reunite Iowa State with old Big 12 foe Nebraska. Iowa State has good leadership atop the athletic department and brings a passionate fan base to the table.

The strength of Kansas is no surprise: Basketball. The Jayhawks don’t bring much in football value right now, but new coach Lance Leipold should help to change the fortunes of this program in the coming years. Kansas is also a new media market for the Big Ten Network. The program also holds membership in the AAU – a key designation for potential candidates.

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Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State and West Virginia are the best programs available among the eight remaining Big 12 members. Oklahoma State is certainly a better fit in terms of geography than the Mountaineers but lacks the AAU membership that the Big Ten values for potential additions.

Extending the Big Ten’s reach into Texas would appeal for recruiting, as well as value for the conference’s television network. TCU doesn’t have AAU membership, however.

Tier II Choices

TCU ranks ahead of Baylor here due to the difference in media market (Dallas compared to Waco).

Kansas State
The Wildcats are a longshot to land a spot in the Big Ten without AAU membership. Also, in-state rival Kansas would likely rank ahead in the pecking order from teams from the Sunflower State.

Texas Tech
If a revamped Big 12 doesn’t work out, Texas Tech would be a perfect fit for an expanded Pac-12.

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