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Big Ten Commissioner says conference is not on the fast track to expansion

April 21, 2010 |  2:54 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Speaking for half an hour to reporters Wednesday at the annual Bowl Championship Series spring meetings, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany tried to slow the swirling speculation that expansion in his conference is about to reshape the college landscape.

Delany said Big Ten expansion is still in the exploration phase and that he is sticking to the 12 to 18-month framework he proposed in December.

"There's no change in the timetable, no announcement here, no notification here," Delany said.

Delany also added: "Our presidents have been clear ... this may not happen."

There has been conjecture that the Big Ten might increase by five schools and form a 16-school league that could include Notre Dame, although the feeling here is that the Irish are more likely to retain their football independence.

Officials from conferences that might be affected by Big Ten expansion, however, are nervous. The Big East on Wednesday announced the hiring of former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a strategic advisor in what could be seen as a preemptive and proactive move.

It has been speculated the Big Ten will target several Big East schools, with Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh being mentioned as possibilities.

That could threaten the existence of the Big East as a football conference. The move to hire Tagliabue might mean the Big East will act first, perhaps expanding before the Big Ten has a chance to move.

Delany says the Big Ten has not extended offers to any schools and that the process of expansion takes time.

"Every big project you undertake has a gestation period," Delany said.

Other conference commissioners, however, may act first to protect their interests.

"It has made for some anxious moments for everybody," Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said during a break in the BCS meetings. "You just don't know."

-- Chris Dufresne

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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