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Who should be in and out in Big Ten expansion

Jim Delany receives a packet of clips each morning that contains the latest speculation, opinions, breaking news and attempted breaking news regarding conference expansion.

The Big Ten commissioner reads them. All of them.

"Just an immense amount of information," he said Sunday.

And now I'm adding to it. With the prospect of expansion taking shape next week (thanks to a Big 12 ultimatum), here's my take on what's best for the league of Bo and Woody: Expand to 14 with Notre Dame, Rutgers and Nebraska.

I don't like 16 because it could lead to cumbersome four-team pods, and schools could go a decade or more without playing each other. That's one way to kill the conference cohesion Delany brags about.

So why Notre Dame, Rutgers and Nebraska?

Let's start with a school not on my list, Texas. I think there's a better chance Delany strikes oil in Chicago than the Longhorns agree to come under his wing. It makes no sense because of the travel (and cost) involved, the so-called "Tech problem" (the Big Ten has no interest in taking stepchild Texas Tech) and the fact the Big Ten is a crummy baseball league.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, would fit like a hot dog into a poppy-seed bun. As one Big Ten source told me, if the league really is determined to get the Big Ten Network onto expanded basic in New York, Notre Dame (which plays Army at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 20) trumps Rutgers.

The geographic fit is perfect. The academic fit is ideal. So what will it take to convince the school's Board of Trustees finally to take the plunge? If the Big East implodes and Irish officials fear the potential loss of an automatic BCS bowl qualification (currently top eight in the standings), that might be enough to end this interminable courtship.

Sources are split on what path Notre Dame will take.

There's no doubt Rutgers would love to join, if for no other reason than the revenue gap between the Big Ten ($20 million per school) and Big East ($6.3 million). Rutgers is a giant, public institution that dominates its state (think Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota). Nearly 9 million people live in New Jersey, a fertile recruiting ground (hello, Ron Dayne and Corey Wootton) that's a river's crossing to New York and Philadelphia.

Rutgers recently poured $102 million into its 52,454-seat football stadium and has a yet-to-be-financed proposal in place to go north of 70,000. It also can play occasionally at the new Jets/Giants Stadium that will seat around 82,500.

Rutgers is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (like all 11 Big Ten schools) and its football team posts elite APR (Academic Progress Rate) numbers because coach Greg Schiano recruits willing students and insists they sit in the first three rows of class.

True, the Scarlet Knights lack the football tradition of Nebraska. Rutgers beat Princeton in the first college game ever played, in 1869, and then basically disappeared until 2006. But this decision, in Delany's words, is about the next "50-100 years" -- not the past.

And speaking of Nebraska, who would not want to be associated with a program of Heisman Trophy winners (Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier, Eric Crouch) legendary coaches (Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne) and rabid fans, 77,936 of whom flocked to the 2010 spring game, second only to Alabama's 91,312?

Nebraska would give the BTN a boost by creating a new slate of marquee football games: Nebraska-Iowa, Nebraska-Wisconsin, Nebraska-Ohio State, etc. Yes, it's a state of just 1.8 million people, but big markets are not the only way to expand the reach of the BTN. Compelling programming is another weapon.

So who's not here?

Pittsburgh does not add much TV value, and there's lingering ill will from old-school Penn Staters. Syracuse is in a tiny market with bad football facilities and a basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, who has said he does not see a fit "with Iowa and Illinois." I agree.

Missouri is decent in every criteria (football, academics, geography), spectacular in none. Adding the Kansas City TV market and fortifying St. Louis should not be enough to prompt another Big Ten revenue pie-cutting.

Connecticut is not an AAU member and drew 2,500 for its last spring football game. Maryland's pull in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore is intriguing, but that's where the appeal ends.

Notre Dame, Rutgers and Nebraska are the "hr" picks, in my world. That's "home run" in Delany's.

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