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Exploratory Discussions Underway for Potential Expansion of Big Ten

A subgroup of four Big Ten university presidents held a virtual meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of expanding the conference by adding two or four teams, according to two sources briefed on the call. This meeting is part of ongoing exploratory discussions and not the first call held in recent weeks.

The sources emphasize that these discussions are still in the early stages and very preliminary. The Big Ten conference may ultimately decide to stay with its current 16 members and not pursue further expansion. However, the four schools being considered for membership are Oregon and Washington, if the Big Ten chooses to expand by two teams, or Cal and Stanford, if expansion by four teams is pursued. Notably, all four schools are currently members of the Pac-12 conference.

The conference issued a statement on Wednesday affirming its primary focus on integrating USC and UCLA. However, it also emphasized the commissioner’s responsibility to keep the conference leaders informed of any new developments that may arise.

One source revealed that the Big Ten is likely to wait and observe the outcomes of the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences before taking any action. The Big Ten wants to avoid being solely responsible for causing the end of the Pac-12.

The source explained, “It’s a discussion, but it’s a wait-and-see situation.”

Another source emphasized that ongoing evaluation and discussions about conference realignment are not new concepts. The responsibility lies with the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors to continue the discussions that began last year regarding the future landscape of the conference.

Illinois chancellor Robert J. Jones, who chairs the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors, confirmed that the possibility of realignment is being considered. He stated that the analysis of the costs and benefits of remaining at 16 teams or expanding is ongoing. The decision will only be made if it brings added value to the current membership of the conference and is not merely a reaction to decisions made by other conferences.

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Current Situation in the Pac-12 and Big Ten

The discussions regarding Big Ten expansion occur during a time of uncertainty and instability within the Pac-12 conference. Recently, Colorado formalized its intention to join the Big 12 for the upcoming 2024-25 academic year. This move came immediately after the Big 12 presidents and chancellors unanimously approved the Buffaloes’ membership. Additional media rights deal options, including a predominantly subscription-based deal through Apple, were reportedly presented to the Pac-12 conference members by Commissioner George Kliavkoff. In response, the Arizona Board of Regents, governing both the University of Arizona and Arizona State, convened a special meeting to address these developments.

While the interest of Oregon and Washington in joining the Big Ten has been assumed since the departures of USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 were announced last summer, the level of interest from the Big Ten remained uncertain. In April, Chancellor Jones stated that expansion was not a priority at that time. Likewise, Commissioner Tony Petitti also refrained from commenting on the matter during the recent Big Ten media days, emphasizing his focus on integrating USC and UCLA into the conference for the 2024-25 season.

Further Insight and Analysis

The ongoing developments in the college sports landscape continue to create an environment of anticipation and speculation. To stay up to date and gain deeper insights into this topic, the readers are encouraged to read additional analysis and reports available on The Athletic.

(Photo: Jeffrey Brown / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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