Whenever it got juicy Tuesday, Jim Delany pulled the reins.
He wasn’t about to name schools or put a number on Big Ten Conference expansion. The conference commissioner provided an update for Big Ten athletics directors, coaches and faculty who attended the league’s spring meetings this week at Hotel Sofitel.
But the juicy stuff? That might be months away.
“We announced in December that our timeline was roughly 12 to 18 months and it continues to be 12 to 18 months,” Delany said. “Could it be 19? I hope not. Could it be 11? It may. Could it be 13? I think 12 to 18 months made sense then and makes sense today.”
Delany outlined the two major forces driving the expansion study — demographics and the profitable Big Ten Network.
The Big Ten is looking for a competitive, educational and fiscal match (or matches). All Big Ten schools are members of the Association of American Universities. Delany said that’s important, but not a dealbreaker.
Delany thoroughly stamped out the 810 WHB, a sports radio station out of Kansas City, Mo., report that named Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers and Notre Dame as Big Ten invitees.
“There have have been a lot of reports that I think have been premature, would be a kind way to describe the reports,” Delany said. “If you think that expansion has happened or it will happen, it’s not happened.”
Delany seems to be very much tuned into the ettiquette of all of this. He said a few times Tuesday that the conference didn’t want to put itself in a negative light and it didn’t want to other schools in a negative light.
The conference has been transparent with the study. When or if expansion discussions reach “formal expansion discussions,” the transparency will disappear.
“It also seemed to us that given the way expansion is and has been covered, the extensiveness of it and the narratives associated with it, that it was important for us to be transparent about that study,” Delany said. “There’s not much beyond that study that we can be transparent about.
“In an effort to be thorough, respectful and collegial, it’s going to take some time.”
When (or if) a school is approached, Delany said he would give conference commissioners a heads up that the Big Ten is talking expansion with his/her school. But Delany also emphasized confidentiality
“We may not expand, but we may expand,” Delany said.
But 19 months or 11 or 13. Not now.
The Big Ten’s meetings here this week are regularly scheduled, annual meetings. The Big Ten presidents meeting on June 6 is the same. But again, 19 months or 11 or 13. Not June 6.
“You bring the beer, we’ll cook the brats,” Delany said about reporter inquiries on the June 6 meeting. “If you think there’ll be any earth-shattering announcements on June 6, I don’t think you’ll get them.”