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Delany says more TV exposure, money reasons for expansion

CHICAGO — If the Big Ten decides to expand, commissioner Jim Delany said the league hopes to get some southern exposure. A few more eyes on the TV would be nice, too.

Delany said gaining a foothold in the South and extending the reach of the league’s lucrative television network are the two biggest factors as it decides whether to grow.

He also said the Big Ten is not “looking to achieve a championship game” in football even though it could mean millions more for a conference that already pays each member about $22 million. A title game like those held in the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference would also shorten the lengthy bowl-game layoff for some teams, which has been a point of contention for at least a few of the conference’s coaches.

“That’s not the motivation,” Delany said Tuesday at league meetings in Chicago. “If it was, we could have done that many times over the past 20 years.”

The conference grabbed the attention of everyone in college sports when it announced that it was considering whether to add to its current 11 members, a move that could lead to a domino effect in other leagues. Delany said the Big Ten is basically sticking with the timeframe he laid out in December, when he said the league would explore its options over the next 12 to 18 months.

“Could it be 19? I hope not,” he said. “Could it be 11? It may.”

But Delany insisted this is “not as much about conferences as it is about institutions finding the right fit for themselves.” He said the league wouldn’t expand “unless it was fiscally sound, unless there’s a great academic fit and unless there’s a competitive fit.”

He would not identify any front-runners or say how many teams the conference would add if it expanded. He did say there would be no vote when school presidents meet June 6, though the issue will be discussed.

“We’re exploring, trying to do it the right way,” Delany said. “We’ll either decide to act or not decide to act. The only thing I can tell you is we’re months away from that decision.”