Commentary: Making Sense of the Big 10 Report

Monday's radio report created excitement throughout the college ranks when it was stated Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska and Notre Dame were already offered membership to the Big Ten. It is the latest report of something happening in the Big Ten expansion plans, but was quickly dismissed by principals involved in the expansion as being inaccurate. So, how does one make sense of what is happening?

There have been stories about what the Big Ten is going to do, and there will be stories about what the Big Ten is going to do.

When major shifts in the landscape of college athletics are promised, and in an age where trying to be the first to report things often comes with at the price of a reduced rate of accuracy and accountability, things get hairy quickly.

In the case of Big Ten expansion, everything suggests the report out of Missouri may be premature. While it may turn out to be accurate, there appear to be enough folks close to the process to say, in a nice way, is not accurate.

The suggestion here is for everyone to take a deep breath, count to 16 (the number of years Rutgers was left out of the Big East when then-athletic director Fred Gruninger turned down the original invitation) and view what is really going on.

Yes, WHB 810-AM radio in Missouri reported offers were already extended to Rutgers, Nebraska and Missouri to join the league, as well as Notre Dame. And, the report said, if Notre Dame accepted the bid, the Big Ten would turn into the Big 16. Or, the conference could expand to 16 teams anyway.

The issue, though, isn't whether this will happen. It is the report that Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska and Notre Dame were already offered.

That means the offers would come before the Big East was made aware Rutgers was being actively recruited, which the Big Ten said it would do for any school and its conference. Rutgers, for its part, basically delivered a "no comment" when asked about the report.

However, when the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star asked Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Harvey Perlman about the validity of the report, he said "none whatsoever.'' And Nebraska's public relations department issued a statement saying "the University of Nebraska has not been offered any opportunity to move from the Big 12."

The Kansas City Star reported Missouri officials had internal discussions about the Big Ten, and quoted a source saying "there's nothing there at all'' in regards to the WHB 810-AM report. A mass denial from every corner is not how the media world operates.

Of course, every athletic department in Division I athletics better have held a "what-if" discussion about Big Ten expansion. If not, their athletic director is doing the school a tremendous disservice.

For some schools, it means figuring out whether would bolt their current conference. For others, it means how they could re-position themselves when the Big Ten expands.

So it goes back to the latest report to cause fervor. And make no mistake about it, it is the latest report to cause fervor.

Remember a few weeks back when passions were stirred after the Chicago Tribune reported the Big Ten was moving on an accelerated path toward expansion, and a few days later Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney said the timetable remains the same --- 12 to 18 months for making a decision?

Get used to this because there are a bunch of theories out there, and certainly some definitive plans.

Some include Texas, Nebraska, Rutgers, Missouri and Syracuse going to the Big Ten, and some include Notre Dame, if it wants to go, as the only addition.

The only thing I am willing to say is every plan I've heard so far – from sources in the midwest, in the east and on the west coast – has Rutgers being invited to the Big Ten, providing Notre Dame isn't the lone addition. But that does not mean other plans cannot materialize.

When the Big Ten does decide to expand, someone will claim to be right, and point to a report it wrote months before it happened as proof. But just because something is reported now and happens later doesn't make it accurate.

It is exciting, which these days outshines the truth all too often for the media, but also can be confusing and frustrating.

So, the question becomes: How will you know which report is accurate, and when to truly get excited or stress?

Well, it's like a recruit wondering when the right time is to commit to a school – you'll just know.

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