Big Ten invite not sure thing for Pitt

Expanding TV network in Pa. won't be help

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PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Sunday expanding the Big Ten Network's presence in Pennsylvania is not a factor as the conference explores expansion.

That could mean Pitt, long considered a candidate for Big Ten expansion, might not receive an invitation.

Delany declined comment after a meeting of the conference's presidents and chancellors when asked if the conference was considering Pitt, saying the Big Ten always declined to talk about specific institutions.

Seventeen percent of Pennsylvanians do not have access to the Big Ten Network, the largest percentage of any state that is home to a Big Ten university. Delany said last month that expanding the reach of the network was one of the biggest factors as the conference explores expansion.

Delany's comments Sunday came after a four-hour meeting with the Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors, the majority of which was spent addressing expansion. And they came on the heels of a week in which other conferences began posturing for the effects of Big Ten expansion.

The Big 12 issued deadlines to Missouri and Nebraska, potential Big Ten candidates, to state whether they plan to remain in the conference or whether they plan to leave for the Big Ten, according to multiple media reports Sunday.

The Pac-10 is exploring expansion plans aggressively and could offer spots to six schools in the Big 12, according to reports. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was given the OK from conference presidents and chancellors to explore expansion.

Lou Anna K. Simon, the chair of the Big Ten Council and president of Michigan State, said the time line for expansion -- originally set in December at 12 to 18 months -- could be "altered."

The Council has final say in any expansion plan, and at least eight of the 11 council members must approve a new institution. The Council started the explosion of expansion talks in December when it asked Delany to explore the possibility.

"What's obvious in following all of the news that you write is that our announcement in December has caused institutions as individual institutions to consider their future and conferences to consider their future," Simon said. "As a result of that, that has had an impact on our deliberations."

Simon said the Council, not scheduled to meet again until December, could vote by computer or phone if necessary. No vote about expansion took place Sunday, and no schools have applied for membership.

Simon also defended the conference against accusations that expansion was driven by money, saying the Council identified four criteria for expansion -- academics, competitiveness, institutional fit and fiscal responsibility.

"Academics ... is purposely top on the list," she said.

"You all may have settled on your wish list," she said, "but we have not."

The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday that Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee and Delany have e-mailed one another about Texas' potential candidacy. Delany said last month the population growth in the Sun Belt, which stretches from southern California to Florida, is worth noting as the conference studies expansion.

But Delany declined to tip his hand any further Sunday.


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