Apparently PSU, Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers weren't enough. In the ever-changing world of college athletics, where the driving force has shifted from tradition to dollars, According to multiple sources, the B1G is looking to add storied programs USC and UCLA to the conference footprint. Or, more cynically, the conference is looking to add the LA TV market money to the Big Ten Network coffers. This would be (by my count) the seventh conference expansion after the additons of Indiana/Iowa, OSU, MSU, PSU, Nebraska, and Maryland/Rutgers. If I'm wrong on the count, feel free to correct me in the comments.
Later reporting, which I'd embed if my workplace allowed for Twitter access, adds speculation around other schools being added with a (rumored) goal of getting to 20 teams. Even Notre Dame was mentioned on KFAN as a potential conference joiner as the writing about money is too clear for even that school to ignore much longer.
As to my thoughts, I'm a huge traditionalist when it comes to college sports. I wasn't in favor of any of the last four schools joining, though I have a soft spot for Maryland and I have nothing personal against the other three schools. I admire the USC & UCLA programs, and think USC is on track to be a national power again. It isn't about the schools joining the conference.
Every time, though, we add more schools we dilute the longer-time rivalries. I know we didn't play Indiana or MSU every year, but they at least have been around long enough that they have the full breadth of tradition right down to non-corporate trophies. There is also a very strong feel of growing financial corruption of sports, and while that's been going on a while it's more explicit, and feels more final. My own affection for local professional sports has waned dramatically, and the more like professional sports that college sports become, the less I am enthusiastic about, say, college football or basketball. This is not even mentioning the competitive landscape which turns against teams like the Gophers, Purdue and Illinois with every one of these moves.
There are some pluses - if the U manages the funds appropriately (i.e., they don't just over-invest in football and cry poverty on the non-revenue sports) it could benefit student athletes across the board. It would be fun to watch teams from SoCal come here in late November. A fall trip to LA would be nice. And the names are significant. Our program would get greater exposure out in talent-rich California (so...no pressure PJ, but you better be winning.)
No, my issue is that they're just not Big Ten schools. Geography and tradition should matter, but they increasingly don't. I feel bad for PAC-12 traditionalists seeing their conference all but disappear into what will likely be one of two super conferences when all is said & done.
So while I'll still be a fan of the Gophers and still want them to do well, I'd prefer this not go through. The ship probably sailed, and I'm not going to tilt at windmills or complain ad infinitum. But for now I'm going to remember fondly and nostalgically the days when college sports at least pretended to not just be about the money and buying teams, and when you knew year-in/year-out the players on the teams you were playing for the conference title and geography allowed for a little big of all-in-good-fun hatred of an opposing school. And I don't begrudge anyone who feels differently.
So what are your thoughts?