Big Ten Expansion

Suggesting Four More Schools For Big Ten Expansion

On June 29th, 2022, the next step in the Big Ten expansion emerged. They were approached by a pair of prestigious Pac-12 schools and they unanimously agreed. The Big Ten, as it stands when the dust settles in 2024, is at 16 teams with the inclusion of USC and UCLA.
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What motivated this (and the previous) episode of Big Ten expansion? Money. Now, the conference is looking to compete with the SEC as the top dogs in College Football. Will the riveting battles between Rutgers and UCLA do that? Probably not, but who can blame them for expanding their base.

Big Ten Expansion: Four More Schools to Add

There are two things that motivate the conference to expand: money and Association of American Universities (AAU) membership. 13/14 current Big Ten (15/16 when the dust settles) are AAU members with just Nebraska as a non-member. Their standing as an academic-first conference is extremely important. If/When the next wave of Big Ten expansion happens, most if not all of the new schools will be AAU members.

Popular suggestions include schools like Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia. Each of these schools is an AAU member and each would just add to the gauntlet that is already Big Ten basketball. Admittedly, adding any or all of those four would be phenomenal, but let’s take a different approach.

University of Oregon

First question: is Oregon an AAU member? Yes.

With USC and UCLA jumping ship, Oregon is the top Duck in the Pac-12. That will change. Oregon has been a top program in various sports for a while now. Across all team sports, Oregon has brought home 34 National Championships, most recently in 2021 with the Men’s Indoor Track & Field.

In football, they’ve won their conference 13 times (PCC four times; Pac-10 five times; Pac-12 four times). Oregon has won the Pac-12 North Division each of the past three years and walked away with two conference championships. They made the BCS National Championship in 2010 (lost to Auburn) and were in the inaugural College Football Playoff where they beat Florida State but ultimately lost to Ohio State.

In men’s basketball, they’ve made five Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights, and a Final Four over the last ten years.

Oregon may not bring with it a major market but what it does bring is Nike. All of that Nike money has to be enticing for the Big Ten expansion efforts now.

Football Record vs Big Ten (as of 2021, including USC/UCLA):
Purdue: 2-1
Iowa: 2-1-0
Indiana: 2-1-0
Illinois: 4-3-0
Wisconsin: 3-3-0
UCLA: 31-40-0
Michigan: 2-3-0
USC: 22-39-2
Minnesota: 1-3-0
Penn State: 1-3-0
Nebraska: 2-6-0
Ohio State: 1-9-0
Northwestern: 0-1-0

University of Washington

Are the Huskies AAU members? Yes, so let’s move on.

The next “logical” addition would have to be the Washington Huskies. UW has also been a top Pac-12 school for a while now and would be bringing plenty of success to the Big Ten. As a unit, Washington has 10 team National Championships, most recently in 2019 in Women’s Rowing.

The Huskies football team has won two National Championships, most recently in 1991. Plus, they’ve taken home 17 conference titles (PCC four times; AAWU three times; Pac-8 once; Pac-10 seven times; Pac-12 twice). They made the College Football Playoff following the 2016 season but lost to Alabama in the semi-finals.

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There should be a pair of notes regarding both Oregon and Washington. First, it’s been reported that the pair of schools have already reached out to the Big Ten. The conference is reported to be holding off for the time being to gauge Notre Dame’s plans. Honestly, they shouldn’t hold their breath. Notre Dame enjoys their place as an Independent and enjoys the attention of outsiders fighting for its services. Plus, they aren’t an AAU member, so their academics don’t quite stack up. Sorry, Marcus Freeman.

Secondly, both Oregon State and Washington State have reportedly approached their respective state legislatures in an attempt to keep Oregon and Washington.

Football Record vs Big Ten (as of 2021, including USC/UCLA):
Wisconsin: 4-0-0
Rutgers: 2-0-0
Northwestern: 3-0-0
Maryland: 1-0-0
Purdue: 7-2-1
Michigan State: 2-1-0
Illinois: 7-4-0
Iowa: 3-3-0
UCLA: 33-40-2
Nebraska: 4-5-1
Minnesota: 7-10-0
Michigan: 5-8-0
USC: 30-52-4
Indiana: 1-2-0
Ohio State: 3-9-0
Penn State: 0-3-0

University of Utah

Is Utah an AAU school? Yup.

At this point, there are four former Pac-12 schools in the Big Ten. They could end there, but it would make more logistical sense to make it five (more on that later). Utah has been an up-and-coming school of late. Prior to 2011, Utah was a Group of 5 school, dominating the Mountain West. As a school, they have 24 National Championships, most recently this past year in Co-ed Skiing. The Utes have won four of the past six titles in the sport!

For football, Utah has made its presence known. The last time we saw them, they lost a Rose Bowl classic against Ohio State. In their history, they have 25 conference titles (RMAC eight times; Big Seven five times; Skyline five times; WAC twice; MWC four times; Pac-12 once, in 2021).

Football Record vs Big Ten (as of 2021, including USC/UCLA):
Iowa: 1-0-0
Michigan: 3-1-0
Indiana: 3-1-0
Minnesota: 1-1-0
UCLA: 8-11-0
USC: 7-13-0
Wisconsin: 1-2-0
Northwestern: 1-2-0
Ohio State: 0-2-0
Nebraska: 0-4-0
Illinois: 0-1-0

Southern Methodist University

Now it’s spin zone time. If admitted, SMU would be the first Group of 5/Non-AQ team admitted to the Big Ten, not including the FBS Independent Penn State in 1993. Additionally, SMU is not an AAU member. However, they are a private research university and are considered to have “High-Research Activity” for an R2 Carnegie rating.

Objectively, this inclusion would be about money. SMU is located in Dallas, Texas. With SMU, the Big Ten would have a hold on at least six of the top seven media markets in the country. Even then, the one they’re excluded from is Houston, which is just a three-ish hour drive southeast.

SMU would likely take a while to catch up to the high-end Big Ten teams but they’ve fielded some exciting teams of late. The offensive showdowns would be worth the price of admission alone. Plus, they claim three National Championships for football. That’s more than Maryland (two), Purdue (one), Rutgers (one), Wisconsin (one), and Indiana (none)

SMU’s home conference has been picked clean of its top talent with Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati leaving for the Big 12. If college football is heading towards super-conferences, they’ll be swept up sooner rather than later. The Big Ten wants to get in on the Dallas market before the Big 12 further cements its presence.

Football Record vs Big Ten (as of 2021, including USC/UCLA):
Northwestern: 1-0-0
Indiana: 1-0-0
UCLA: 4-1-0
Illinois: 1-1-0
Purdue: 0-1-1
Penn State: 0-1-1
Nebraska: 0-1-1
Ohio State: 1-7-1
Wisconsin: 0-2-0
USC: 0-2-0
Rutgers: 0-1-0
Minnesota: 0-1-0
Michigan State: 0-1-0
Michigan: 0-2-0
Maryland: 0-2-0

Down With Divisions, Up With Pods

After this Big Ten expansion, it’s the Big Twenty. Re-branding will likely be needed, but that’s a discussion for another day. At 20 teams, the current divisions will need to be scrapped and replaced with four smaller divisions, or pods. Considering football is the money-maker for the conference, any discussion had regarding Big Ten expansion will be wholly centered around how the new look will operate on the football field

The new pods could look a little like this:

1 2 3 4
Oregon SMU Northwestern Michigan
Washington Nebraska Purdue Ohio State
USC Iowa Illinois Penn State
UCLA Minnesota Indiana Maryland
Utah Wisconsin Michigan State Rutgers


These new pods would have to be sorted geographically because no fan, student, or coach should be subjected to yearly flights from sea to shining sea. Each pod will play every other team plus one other pod of the remaining teams on a rotating basis.

For example, USC’s Big Ten schedule would be Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Utah, SMU, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in year one. You could have the same pods face off in consecutive years, just swap home and away. Or, they can just move on to the next.

Of course, there will be issues. Pod 4 will result in Maryland and Rutgers never sniffing success in football. Pod 3 could be the weakest of the four by a long shot. The obvious one would be the fact that a conference of 20 teams is ridiculous and some teams will go years without playing on the field.

With this, you’d have to protect inter-pod rivalry series like Michigan-Michigan State. Ideally, the Big Ten would think ahead and just schedule two out-of-conference games. This allows for a Pod Playoff®. Move B1G Rivalry Week up by one and replace it with a brand-new Pod Playoff. Seed the top four teams in the pod 1-4 and have the higher seeds host. Then, the winners will get to face off in Indianapolis for the official Big Ten Championship (or a more central location, of course).

What about the other 16 teams? Match them all up by their placements (2v2, 3v3, 4v4) and the pod they played the previous year. Ie. if Pod 1 and Pod 2 faced off in the regular season, the second-best Pod 1 team could face the second-best Pod 4 team, etc. That way, all teams get to play an equal amount of games.

Does that create an issue with 10 conference games played? Sure, but the Big Ten already plays more conference games than eight others and a 20-team conference is a logistical nightmare, so bear with me.

Super Conferences Incoming

College Football is changing. It looks like it is heading towards a system of two or three super conferences and anyone who can’t keep up will be left in the dust.

The complaints are that college football just isn’t competitive anymore. To that, you can say that it hasn’t been in a long time. Since Nick Saban took over at Alabama, the SEC has won every title but four. Those four were Clemson (twice), Ohio State, and Florida State.

Clemson runs the ACC and Ohio State has run the Big Ten. The Pac-12 and Big 12 have had parity but they can’t stack up with the monsters of the SEC. There is no parity either way, so why not make money while we are at it?

The Big Ten expansion discussion has been crazy. They aren’t done, either. We can either roll with the punches or get knocked out in round one.

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