Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany addressed a throng of media, discussing the preliminary exploration of Big Ten expansion during the conference’s annual spring meeting. Here’s what he said: (My comments to follow)
This certainly doesn’t sound like a guy who is playing from a position of strength, as we were all lead to believe over the past few months, with the mighty Goliath, The Big Ten Network, guiding the charge.
“We may not expand, or we may expand,” Delany said. “If we do, it will be the result of a very thorough set of studies that touch on competitive aspects, the educational fit and it would have to be fiscally sound.”
And while we were all lead to believe that schools like Notre Dame, Texas, and a school like Rutgers or Syracuse were in consideration, it’s really the population shift into the Sun Belt that has the Big Ten licking its chops.
“In the last 20 to 30 years, there’s been a clear shift into the Sun Belt, and that has demographic meaning long term, with the economy, jobs, the recruitment of students, the recruitment of athletes,” Delany said.
Ahh.... So it’s the Sun Belt Delany and the Big Ten are after, not teams like Notre Dame or schools in mega-media markets like New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. What are we to believe next, that the Big Ten isn’t interested in a conference championship game?
“We’re not looking to achieve a championship game,” Delany added. “That’s not our motivation. If it was, we could have done that many times over the past 20 years.”
And so the quest for Big Ten expansion is back to its regularly scheduled 12 to 18 month timetable, and we’re left to try and determine what just happened to the Big Ten juggernaut that was about to swallow Notre Dame whole.
As our buddy John Taylor over at CFT mentioned, maybe this means that Delany is targeting Georgia Tech, a school that fits the academic model of Big Ten schools and also would let the Big Ten slide into one of those much needed “Sun Belt” states.
It’s possible that Tech will be the next target for Delany and the Big Ten, but what this all likely means is that Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick stared down the Big Ten and the Integer blinked first.
Now it looks like the balance of power has shifted. After weeks of discussion that had Delany leading a conference that was superior financially, the Big Ten no longer looks like the revenue machine hand picking schools to join in a super conference, but a group of relics looking for fertile land to populate as the states they inhabit go barren.
For Notre Dame fans that are used to assuming the worst in their leadership, Swarbrick’s handling of this entire situation has to be quite reassuring. With the announcement of a revival of rivalry games against Miami and the constant trumpeting of independence by Brian Kelly, the people in charge of Notre Dame football seem to be out in front of the wave, something Swarbrick has made a priority since day one on the job.