The Big Ten currently has 15 schools in the conference, but the potential of getting to a nice round number of 18 total schools could be beneficial to the conference by having more of a balanced schedule in across all sports. In the landscape of conference expansion over the past decade among power 5 conferences, it is becoming the battle of the fittest.
And right now, the Big Ten is getting a good amount of wins.
At this point, the Big Ten is centered mainly in the Midwest of the United States, but recently the conference has collected a couple of new teams along the east coast such as Maryland Terrapins, Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (lacrosse only) and Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
But it is key to note that the Big Ten doesn't add schools just for the sake of it.
Right now, 14 out of the 15 schools in the Big Ten are affiliated with the AAU. The AAU is the Association of American Universities. The AAU is about maintaining a strong emphasis and execution in academic research and education. In the United States, 60 schools - both public or private - are in the program.
The Big Ten has the most schools affiliated with the AAU at 14. I bet you are wondering out of the 15 schools, who is the one school in the Big Ten that is left out? The answer is the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
In June of 2011, the Cornhuskers were dropped from the AAU due to not meeting the requirements to stay with the association with competitive research in financing being one of the causes according to NYTimes.com. Now that sequence of events with the Cornhuskers being dropped from the AAU happened after the Cornhuskers were selected as an additional Big Ten school.
Being part of the AAU is one of the main requirements of being in the Big Ten. Of course, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been a school that the Big Ten has tried to obtain for a long time and the Fighting Irish are not part of the AAU program. However, the Fighting Irish are the exception to the rule.
With that in mind, let's take into account the schools that would be a viable candidate for the conference:
Conference Expansion Candidates
The Yellow Jackets are part of the AAU program - just five schools in the ACC are part of the AAU. The intrigue in the Yellow Jackets would be the Big Ten obtaining the Atlanta Market which is a hot bed in recruiting for basketball, football and TV ratings.
The Tar Heels have been a school that has been linked to the Big Ten for quite a while now, but with no real interest from the school to make a move. The Tar Heels obviously have a historic basketball program and with their affiliation with the AAU, the Tar Heels would provide a stranglehold along the east coast that the ACC would not be able to survive it.
Still, despite the great potential of the addition of the Tar Heels, the recent academic issues involving the athletic department could make them a difficult sell to many. It would be an acquisition that the Big Ten would have to think long and hard about if they ever got to that point.
The Cavaliers are another AAU team from the ACC and adding them would complete the control the Big Ten would have over the Baltimore/Washington D.C. market.
Along with this, adding the Cavaliers, Tar Heels and/or the Yellow Jackets would restore old rivalries with each other and with the Terps. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.
Think about it. If these three schools were in the fold, how many conferences in the country could say that they have legitimate say in the Baltimore/Washington, Atlanta and Chicago markets? Nobody other than the Big Ten.
Let's face facts. The Texas Longhorns are pretty much the main school that is keeping the Big 12 as a conference from collapsing. Even though the Longhorns are not expected to leave the Big 12 anytime soon, why would the Jayhawks want to wait and see if the conference collapses or not?
The Jayhawks being added to the Big Ten would provide an additional boost for the conference in college basketball and for recruiting which would pretty much have the Big Ten in full control of the mid west.
Who Should Be Added?
To me, ironically in this discussion, none of the schools that I named will play a role in terms of going out of their way to be added to the Big Ten. I think that in order for a snowball effect to occur with a Big Ten expansion, the Florida State Seminoles and the Clemson Tigers would have to have a say in the matter.
But having said that, I do believe that the Tar Heels, Yellow Jackets and the Jayhawks would provide the most realistic and most logical additions to the Big Ten.
The Tar Heels would add the Charlotte market to the conference along with their historic basketball program and the Yellow Jackets would allow the Big Ten to have a say in the Atlanta market in college basketball. With the Cavaliers, they would certainly have a shot of being added to the Big Ten. And even though the school doesn't really have control of the Baltimore/Washington D.C. metro area the way the Terps do, it doesn't hurt to have full control of that market.
And besides, with the Blue Jays only competing in college lacrosse in the Big Ten, the conference would need a balanced schedule. Adding four schools is a good number.
So with the fourth team in mind, I think that the Jayhawks could be a solid addition to the Big Ten. Adding the Jayhawks would pretty much grant the conference full control of the Midwest in college basketball.
Seriously. If the Big Ten can add the Tar Heels, Jayhawks, Cavaliers and the Yellow Jackets, the conference would have the title as the best conference in college basketball on lock down. It wouldn't even be close. And the conference would have 18 out of the 19 schools in the AAU program. So it really could be the best of both worlds.