When it was first announced earlier in the week that the Big Ten would be exploring the possibility of expanding from its current 11 schools, it was widely assumed that meant the league would be looking to get to an even 12.
However, the conference may have its sights set on a bigger number of member schools. Much, much bigger, in fact.
According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, and citing multiple Big Ten sources, almost nothing has been ruled out when it comes to expansion, up to and including expanding to 14 or even 16 teams.
About the only thing that has been ruled out, the Tribune reports, is expanding to an odd number of schools as the league has now.
First of all, and at first blush, it would seem that the Big Ten would have the exact same chance of expanding to 14 or 16 schools as they do in landing Notre Dame — almost nil.
Secondly, where would these three to five schools come from? It’s going to be a daunting proposition to get just one school to switch allegiances, let alone a whole gaggle of them.
Would a combination of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, West Virginia and Louisville bolt the Big East en masse? Would Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa State do the same to the Big 12?
While we don’t doubt that any and all options will be on the table and available for discussion, it would seem highly unlikely that the Big Ten goes beyond 12 teams. That’s provided, of course, that they decide to expand at all after their 12-18 month exploration.