Iowa's Mason: Big Ten Expansion On Hold 'At This Time'

By Scott Dochterman, Reporter

University of Iowa President Sally Mason talks with Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz during a ceremony to unveil a new sign for Evashevski Drive Friday, Sept. 3, 2010 outside of Kinnick Stadium on the University of Iowa Campus in Iowa City. The street which runs around Kinnick Stadium has been renamed for Evashevski who coached the team from 1952 till 1960 and won two Rose Bowls. (Brian Ray/ SourceMedia Group News)

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By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany often uses punctuation — usually a period or a comma — to describe his league’s status on expansion. Now a semicolon seems more appropriate.

The Big Ten Conference will move forward in 2014 with 14 members, but officials acknowledge the number could change depending on the college environment. Hence, the semicolon could shift to either a comma or a period with a slight alteration.

“(Delany) is always monitoring the landscape,” said University of Iowa President Sally Mason, who also serves as chairwoman for the league’s council of presidents and chancellors. “It’s hard to know exactly this will all shake out in the years to come, especially in the near-term future. But I would say, as I’ve said previously, we are feeling very good about the future of the Big Ten Conference and certainly the conference partners we have right now. There just isn’t any active discussion for further expansion for the moment.”

The league announced in 2009 it would consider expansion, and Nebraska was accepted as new member in June 2010. Last fall, Maryland and Rutgers became the 13th and 14th Big Ten members and both will begin play in 2014.

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers altered the foundation of college athletics. Rutgers and Louisville — which replaces Maryland in the ACC — will leave the Big East, which since has imploded. Amid speculation that the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC has interest in plucking some of its members, the ACC’s 15 schools formally adopted a grant of media rights last week. If any member leaves the ACC, its future television revenue would remain with the league through 2027.

“Since the Maryland and Rutgers additions, we’ve been working full speed ahead on administration, financial and academic integration,” Delany said Sunday on BTN. “We’re going to continue to do that. I think that each conference — whether it’s the Big 12, the ACC, the Pac-12, the Big Ten — all of us are alert and aware to what’s going on. I think different entities, conferences, whether it’s the ACC or the Big 12, adopt positions to protect themselves, as they should. Our position really hasn’t changed. We were active, but we’re not active. We’re always alert to what’s going on and watch it.”

Membership in the Association of American Universities, a prestigious consortium of research institutions, remains a primary tenet to Big Ten future expansion. Thirteen of the league’s 14 schools are AAU members. Nebraska was expelled from the AAU shortly after it was accepted into the Big Ten in 2010.

“I certainly would have to think long and hard about the merits of something like that,” Mason said of admitting a non-AAU member into the Big Ten. “We’ve been pretty clear about the quality of institutions that we have thought are appropriate to be a member institution of the Big Ten Conference.”

Sunday, the Big Ten’s council of presidents and chancellors voted to realign the football divisions geographically in 2014 and add a ninth league game in 2016. Delany said on BTN expansion was not on the agenda and discussed during the meeting.

“I think we feel like we’re in a pretty strong position right now,” Mason said. “What we want to focus on for the moment is making certain that our new conference members — whether it’s Nebraska, Maryland or Rutgers — that they’ll all integrated well into the Big Ten Conference. There really isn’t any ongoing active discussions about further expansion at this time.”

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