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Big Ten commissioner to end silence on expansion

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Jim Delany plans to take a break from what he has dubbed a silent phase.

The Big Ten commissioner, who has said little publicly about his league's plans for possible expansion, plans to meet with reporters Wednesday and answer questions about the most popular topic for speculation in college football this offseason.

Of course, just because he's talking doesn't mean Delany will provide much insight.

He and the rest of the college football's power brokers on Tuesday began three days of meetings to discuss various aspects of the Bowl Championship Series at a swanky Arizona hotel.

Expansion by the Big Ten — or the Pac-10, which has also said it's exploring the idea of adding teams — is not officially on the agenda.

But with the commissioners of all 11 major football conferences and Notre Dame's athletic director in attendance, you can bet there will be expansion talk at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, even if it's at the bar instead of inside a board room.

"It would be very unnatural to not ask what's going on with different people and their conference's intentions and so forth," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said, "but I frankly don't think that anybody has decided anything. And that's based on the information I've gotten just a little bit ago."

Delany announced in December that the Big Ten would explore the possibility of expanding over a period of 12 to 18 months.

If the Big Ten decides to add to its current 11 members to widen the reach of its already successful television network and create a lucrative conference championship game, it could cause a massive domino effect across college football.

That's why everyone from fans to commissioners is curious — maybe even anxious — to find out what the Big Ten, the most lucrative league in college sports, will do.

Add one team? Maybe three? How about five to become a 16-team conference?

"I tried him in a headlock, but he's a tough guy," Beebe said Tuesday with a laugh, though this could be serious stuff for the Big 12.

Several of Beebe's schools have been speculated to be on the Big Ten's most wanted list, including Texas, Nebraska and Missouri.

"I expect that Jim, who I have known for many, many years and trust implicitly, that he'll do what he said he's going to do," Beebe said. "If and when the time comes that they're going to do anything — and if that includes any of the institutions in the Big 12 — he'll let me know first."

Other schools that have been talked about as possible Big Ten targets are mostly in the Big East. Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse all fit the profile athletically and academically.

Rutgers and Syracuse, in theory, could help the Big Ten grab hold of the New York television market.

For the Big East, which withstood losing Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference in the last round of conference shuffling, losing even one team would sting. Losing two or more members could make it difficult for Big East football to survive.

"They had to regroup before, they'll do it again," said Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, who is representing the Big East's ADs at these meetings.

And then there is Notre Dame. The Big Ten has tried unsuccessfully before to persuade the Fighting Irish to give up their football independence. AD Jack Swarbrick has said staying independent is Notre Dame's No. 1 priority. Sweeping change, however, could alter those plans.

But the person who matters most in what has become college football's great offseason soap opera is Delany. Until his conference makes a decision, everybody else is just waiting to see what happens.

On a typically warm and sunny Tuesday in the desert, Delany was relaxing with a couple of other college football big shots in the garden of the Royal Palms before lunch and several hours of meetings.

He exchanged a few pleasantries with reporters, but quickly ended the conversation before it started with a promise to see them tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

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