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Big Ten Might Be Getting Bigger

Expansion of the Big Ten Conference from 11 to 12 teams is once again a possibility, the league and its Council of Presidents/Chancellors announced Monday.

A 12th team would allow the conference to form divisions in football and have a championship game - a scenario viewed as inevitable since Penn State was voted in as the 11th school in 1990.

As recently as May, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said expansion was a back-burner issue.

University presidents and chancellors had a change of heart at meetings this month.

"In 1993, 1998 and 2003 the (Council) . . . reviewed the issue of conference structure and expansion," a statement issued by the Council and conference said. "The (Council) believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options."

The Council's timetable for Delany to provide recommendations is 12 to 18 months. There was no mention of schools to target, but Delany has said a school must be the right fit academically.

Notre Dame rejected a Big Ten offer in 1999, choosing to remain an independent in football. Nearly all of its other teams are in the Big East.

"Our independence in football is really important to us," Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick said. "It's a priority, and we want to maintain that."

Penn State coach Joe Paterno said in May that he'd like to see Rutgers, Pittsburgh or Syracuse of the Big East join the league. He was not in favor of revisiting Notre Dame.

"There's some pressure, I would suppose, to maybe go back to Notre Dame and ask again, which I would not be happy with," Paterno said. "I think they've had their chance."

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