The “Big Ten” moniker has been due for a change for almost 30 years now, and with fourteen members, that change can’t come soon enough.
The Big Ten has had more than ten teams since 1990, when Penn State joined. Since then, three more schools have joined the Big Ten: Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers. Perhaps the Big Ten thought of this outcome when it made the current logo. When you look at B1G, what do you see? Do you see B10, or B16? Personally, I see B16. While there are sixteen teams that play in Big Ten competition (Notre Dame in men’s ice hockey and Johns Hopkins in men’s and women’s lacrosse), I’m talking about sixteen full members. Not only would this make sense with the logo, it would make each division (East and West) have 8 members, allowing for more interesting Big
Ten Sixteen tournaments. I’ve put a lot of thought into this idea, and here are some potential candidates:
The Fighting Irish have had long-standing relationships and rivalries with many Big Ten schools. These being Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, and Northwestern. This combined with the geographic location of South Bend, makes Notre Dame an obvious choice for addition to the conference. And let’s not forget that Notre Dame already plays in the Big Ten for men’s ice hockey. The Fighting Irish are already connected with the Big Ten in a multitude of ways, and adding them to the conference only makes sense. The only question is what division they would join— which all depends on the second addition.
The Cyclones are certainly an option, but a weaker one at that. This addition would bring the Cy-Hawk Series inside the Big Ten, but would push Notre Dame into the East Division, making the Big
Ten Sixteen East even more stacked than it already is, which probably isn’t a good thing for the conference. It would, however, be fun for Iowa, historic arch-rival of Iowa State.
The Pittsburgh Panthers, historic rivals of both Notre Dame and Penn State, could certainly be an interesting choice. The addition of Pitt would push Notre Dame into the West Division, making the West a lot more competitive. Regular season rivalries are, in my opinion, what make college athletics that much more entertaining than professional sports, and this addition—allowing for two more regular season conference rivalry matchups— would make watching collegiate athletics that much more fun.
The Orange are a less conventional pick, but is definitely one to think about. Not only would this addition push Notre Dame to the west, and allow for regular season rivalry matchups with Penn State, it would also increase the competition conference-wide— especially in basketball. Syracuse has a very strong basketball program, which would definitely help the conference. In last year’s tournament, the Big Ten proved to be the deepest conference, with the most teams selected to the tournament. These eight teams, seven of which made it through to the second round, could represent a new wave in the Big Ten. A new wave pushing a very football-centric conference more towards basketball. The addition of a program like Syracuse could turbocharge this movement towards basketball, perhaps making the Big Ten a new powerhouse conference in men’s basketball.
While none of this is for sure, it’s definitely fun to think about. Personally, my preferred option would be Notre Dame and either Pitt or Syracuse. As a life-long Michigan fan, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Big Ten. And I’d love nothing more than to see the conference become more fun and more competitive as it ventures into the future.