The Big Ten Conference is talking about expansion again. Wisconsin AD and former football coach Barry Alvarez is planning to amp up the 11-team conference’s charge to find a 12th member, which would allow the league to split into two divisions and host a championship game.
“We’re irrelevant for the last three weeks of the football season because we’re not playing,” Alvarez said Friday. –ESPN.
Alavarez and proponents of expansion face an uphill battle in bringing another mouth to feed. Notre Dame, with their lucrative football TV deal running through 2015, seems to be out. I’ve heard arguments for Missouri and Pittsburgh being natural fits, but only in a football context. That’s great, but the faculties of the conference’s current member schools won’t care. Fortunately, there’s a better, more mind-blowing option for a 12th school that has a much better chance of making everyone happy.
Is it an ideal fit? Maybe not, but the possibility of Vanderbilt defecting to the north is a conversation that needs to be had. The school has ties to the Big Ten (Ohio State president Gordon Gee most recently held that same post at the Nashville institution), plus a burgeoning academic reputation among the best schools in the nation. Its recent disbanding of its athletic department could indicate that Vandy wants to get away from the hyper-competitiveness of the SEC, and joining a new conference for a change of scenery might be of some appeal.
Geographically, Vanderbilt is not ideal for the Big Ten, nor vice versa. Even as the SEC’s second-northernmost school, the longest Big Ten road trip by bus (Minnesota) would be 13 hours. Which is longer than the 9-1/2 hour bus trip that the women’s basketball team would face heading to Gainesville each season, but still a far cry from the 23-hour road trip that the ACC’s Boston College would take if it drove down to fellow conference member Miami.
Vanderbilt joining the Big Ten is more than simple food for thought. It might be the only school that has a chance of being ratified by the Big Ten’s faculty. And their Nashville TV market wouldn’t upset the Big Ten Network, either. Besides, the football people just need a warm body to beat on for three months. Vandy fits the bill for everyone.