If you were anticipating some clarity coming out of the BCS meetings in Arizona this week involving league commissioners from the various heavy-hitters across the college sports landscape, you’ll have to wait a little longer. It was widely speculated that Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany may have used the forum to announce some form of targeted expansion for his conference that could have blown a torpedo-sized hole in the existing structure of major college athletics. Didn’t happen. In fact, according to the commish of the richest conference in D1 sports, a whole bunch of nothing is going on.
There are no announcements here and there are no notifications here.” Delany said the expansion process remains in an early phase. He said it’s too early to tell whether the 11-team conference would add one or as many as five teams. He said his thinking wasn’t being heavily influenced by a desire to hold a conference championship game in December. He also said he doesn’t know how quickly an expanded league could be put together. He would not deny, however, that programs are being evaluated for their potential fit in the Big Ten. “I didn’t say we weren’t at that phase, I said we are not at the phase of any need to provide notice to an institution, that we were in formal discussions with an institution.”
We counted at least five uses of the negative in his two quotes there. Delaney uses two more in another interview with USA Today, where he said the Big Ten is:
“not anywhere near” [approaching or adding new schools.] “We have not accelerated anything” [with respect to the 12-18 month timetable.]
Delany’s manner of speaking reminds us of the old unknown unknown bit from Donald Rumsfeld in the mid-2000s. It wouldn’t have surprised us to hear Delany segue into a similar lecture on what the knowns and unknowns are with respect to conference expansion, all the while dropping double-negatives and enough qualifiers and derivatives to make Goldman Sachs blush these days.
The bottom line is this, though. Missouri, Pitt, Rutgers, UConn and Notre Dame fans can all rest easy now. Until they can’t anymore, which will happen at a time and place known only to Delany and his cronies and will be pushed upon the American people without provocation or consideration. All we ask is that when it comes time to actually add one, three, or five new teams to the Big Ten Conference, Delany doesn’t continue to play this game by telling us that, for example, “Missouri may not be under consideration in the current phase, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t ever under consideration nor does it preclude them from future consideration. It wouldn’t make good business sense to not consider them at some point.” Um, thanks.