By Paul Sykes
Watch your back.
The Big Ten Conference is officially looking to expand again, with the aim of increasing its ranks to 12 schools. The reasons are obvious: An annual conference football championship game and more green for its already bloated coffers.
Missouri, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers are the schools most often mentioned as possibilities. Louisville has been included in the field by the Chicago Tribune. Even Cincinnati, with the most fickle fans in the nation, has been floated as a candidate.
Notre Dame is not in the picture this time, having consistently resisted conference overtures. The superiority complex doesnâ€™t help either, nor does the fact that the football program is losing its luster. The Knute Rockne tradition can only get you so far when losing has become a habit.Â When their network deal isn’t renewed and they have to settle forÂ a cable deal or whatÂ Directv offers, maybe they’ll change their position.
Great for Louisville to be mentioned among the possible candidates. But the odds of it happening are remote. U of L has it good right now in the strongest basketball conference in the country. On the football side, Big East teams have demonstrated they can hold their own and they have the poll recognition to prove it.
Can you imagine the good old boys at land grant schools like Michigan and Ohio State acknowledging U of L or Cincinnati as equals and welcoming a municipal university into their ranks? Without getting into the academic debate, the best argument for Louisville would be basketball where U of L is consistently ranked as the most profitable program in the nation. The expansion of Papa Johnâ€™s would be a definite plus.
Perhaps the best thing about the Big Tenâ€™s action is that it may force the Big East to finally become proactive in expanding the number of conference football teams in the conference. The scheduling issues have been ignored too long and are a threat to financial stability.
Schools like East Carolina, Memphis and Central Florida are viable candidates because they take their football seriously. Their fan bases are not insignificant and they would strongly support BCS-level football.