It turns out that Barry Alvarez was just letting the cat out of the bag a few days early. Before I was out the door this morning, I saw a story on the Chicago Tribune's website about growing support for Big Ten expansion. Then, a conference spokesman confirmed that an announcement was forthcoming, Soon enough,
The Big Ten is looking to add a 12th member to the conference, the league announced today. Its Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) "believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion," the statement said. "As a result, the commissioner (Jim Delany) was asked to provide recommendations for consideration by the COP/C over the next 12 to 18 months."
I for one, am not looking forward to an unbearable, endless cascade of rumors and speculation.
If something actually happens on that front, fine. Until then, I'm not going to sit around and pine for an awful football conference that happens to have a lot of ill-gotten money (i.e., Jim Delaney is standing directly in the way of a playoff, and the Big Ten network is a giant middle finger to fans, designed to directly capture more of their entertainment dollars). The Big Ten obviously brings (unwarranted) financial stability, and (unwarranted) great bowl bids to the table. Notre Dame is the only program that's a natural match in terms of geographic footprint and unwarranted hype, so they'll undoubtedly get the first call. Rutgers is probably the next most attractive expansion candidate, even though there's no reason to rehash why at the moment. Tim Brewster told Steve Politi that he liked Rutgers as a candidate a while back, you'd think that Joe Paterno is probably on board, and that's just for starters.
It's not a slam dunk though. As inept as the Big East leadership is, and even considering how Rutgers usually draws the short end of the stick when Providence has anything to say about anything (re: UConn angling its way into the Pizza Bowl in Birmingham, and proceeding to sell 6,000 less tickets than Rutgers did last year), accepting an invite to what is, let's not mince words, a cartel would be soulless and wrong. In a just world, the trio of Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse could have put their petty differences aside back in the day, and we'd actually have conference affiliations that made geographic sense.
The lesson from that, and similar debacles, is that Rutgers can't stand idly by, and it can't be Joe Paterno's lapdog either. It has to make the decisions that are in the best interests of Rutgers. Unfortunately, with the money at stake, that would likely mean holding our noses and accepting any invitation if it ever comes to that, even taking account how plain boring and overrated Big Ten football has been in recent years. Even putting aside all the other, very sound reasons why making a jump would be a bad idea. All Rutgers fan should be filled with disgust and contempt at the Big Ten conference. We despise you. Now give us your money.