With the heat index soaring into the triple digits, it's hard to shift focus to fall sports, but the countdown has begun to the college football season as freshmen and transfers reported to campus to begin practice on Wednesday afternoon. The returning players hit campus today and practice officially begins on Friday as the Hoosiers prepare for a season opener that is less than a month away. IU will kickoff the season against Towson on Sept. 2 at Memorial Stadium.
The annual media session for Big 10 teams was last week as coaches from around the league answered questions regarding their teams as the season approaches.
There were a number of hot button topics of discussion that were presented to Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delaney, starting with the expansion of the league and the addition of Nebraska beginning in the 2011 season. The Cornhuskers were added to the league 20 years after the addition of Penn State back in 1990.
Delaney discussed possible future expansion beyond Nebraska and the likelihood of adding teams from the East Coast to the league.
"We had announced a 12- to 18-month study in December of '09. And they said, number one, full-speed ahead with regard to the integration, transition of Nebraska into the Big Ten, prepare the schedules, et cetera," Delaney said. "And, number two, we'll pause but we are not necessarily turning our back on expansion. We said we wanted to study it for 12 to 18 months. And we're only about six months into that study."
Delaney also made a point of discussing the fact that the league is moving quickly towards getting the details worked out regarding a Big 10 championship game for next season.
"I can see those studies taking weeks, maybe not months, but certainly weeks. And I expect when that's done, a championship venue will be identified, a television network that televises the championship game will be identified, a new logo will have been prepared; that we will then come back with our presidents later in the fall and they will then make a determination what, if any, further steps would be taken in that study," Delaney said.
"But we're not actively involved in any expansion initiatives at this point. But they did make clear to me that the 12- to 18-month time period remain the time period notwithstanding the addition of Nebraska. But all of our energies, 100 percent of our energies at the present time, are focused in on helping Nebraska transition into the conference."
With all the talk about setting up divisions within the Big 10, discussions have picked up regarding the natural rivalries within the conference and how they might be protected. Hard to imagine a football season without the traditional Ohio State/Michigan battle or the IU and Purdue game to name just a couple. Delaney also addressed how the divisions and the teams that make up those divisions, might be decided upon.
"As we're looking at these issues, you know, we think that having -- if you're going to have two divisions and the divisional champions are going to get a chance to play for the championship, that divisions need to be as balanced as they can possibly be made. And I think competitive fairness from the perspective of the coach, the player, the fan, media, it's got to be seen in those divisions. But they also have to be constructed in a wise way that does everything we can within that first principle or consistent with that first principle to preserve traditional rivals," Delaney said.
"I don't know how many trophy games. We may have 15 trophy games, rivalry games that are in that same number. We'll need to do everything we can to preserve those. Whether or not we'll be 100 percent able to preserve every trophy game or every rivalry game, I'll tell you we'll go to great lengths to make sure that the tradition and rivalries are respected."
Next on the docket will be identifying a site for a potential championship football game. Lucas Oil Stadium would have to be on the list of suitors for the title game with the central proximity and the indoor facility.
One thing is for certain however, football season is on the horizon and exciting times are afoot for the Big Ten Conference.