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Big Ten ready to explore expansion

The Big Ten released its much-anticipated statement regarding expansion, which would add a 12th school.

Here's the key part of the statement from the Big Ten:

The COP/C (Big Ten Council OF Presidents/Chancellors) believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion. As a result, the commissioner was asked to provide recommendations for consideration by the COP/C over the next 12 to 18 months.

The Big Ten last expanded in 1990 when Penn State was added as the 11th school. But it's clear that the Big Ten needs to move the conference into the present.

The Big Ten finished its regular season the weekend before Thanksgiving. Next season the Big Ten will conclude its regular season on Thanksgiving weekend, a week later and better for the conference to remain relevant around the country. But while that move helps, the Big Ten will once again be an afterthought as the SEC, Big 12 and ACC play their title games after that, usually on the first Saturday of December.

Splitting the Big Ten into two divisions and playing a conference championship game would likely be a huge financial success. Plus, it would keep the Big Ten competitive with the Big 12, SEC and ACC schools in terms of rankings and BCS positioning.

So, which school will it be? Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Missouri will likely be in the mix.

Pittsburgh would become a natural rival for Penn State.

Rutgers gives the Big Ten a presence in the New York market.

Syracuse is a traditional power in football and basketball.

Louisville would make sense geographically, and the basketball program is usually among the elite.

Cincinnati has built a strong football program, and the Bearcats could become the in-state rival for Ohio State.

Notre Dame has long been mentioned as a possible addition to the conference, but I don't see the Irish giving up their NBC contract.

Missouri is an intriguing possibility. And the school is interested, according to this story from NBCsports.com.

New York Sports