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Big Ten staying ‘alert’ for moves

Conference not actively seeking more members

– The Big Ten’s guideline for conference expansion is “inactive, but alert.”

The league unexpectedly transformed the landscape of major college sports again last month when it announced Rutgers and Maryland would be joining. The move triggered others and speculation more could be coming.

“I would describe our position as being inactive, but alert,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday after he appeared on a panel with Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive and Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco.

The discussion at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum was sponsored by SportsBusiness Journal.

“Monitoring the landscape is overused so we’re trying to figure out what’s the most apt way to describe where we are,” Delany said. “One-hundred percent moving toward integration of the 14 (members). With schedules, branding and divisional alignment.

“We assessed staying where we were, and thought there was some risk to that long term,” he added. “We also understand that there’s risk when you expand because you could get brand dilution.”

The Big Ten’s move tipped the dominoes that led to the Atlantic Coast Conference turning to Louisville to replace Maryland.

Losing Rutgers and Louisville forced the Big East to add Tulane as a member in all sports and East Carolina for just football, then Conference USA had to make moves to replace those two schools.

Slive said the SEC doesn’t feel compelled to react to the Big Ten’s latest expansion.

He said he sensed that after Notre Dame announced in September it was moving from the Big East to the ACC, while keeping its football program independent, the shuffling would stop.

“We’re comfortable at 14, but I would never say never,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re active. If your foundation and philosophy is, when leave I want the SEC to be better than when I came, and ensure its financial future, its competitive future. Any thought about going beyond 14 would relate to whether or not it would enhance those two things.”

Aresco said the Big East is trying to stay prepared for anything.

The conference has undergone a massive overhaul in the past two seasons and is trying to reinvent itself as a coast-to-coast, 12-team football conference, with Boise State and San Diego State entering next season. The Big East is also trying to land a new television contract.

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