If Big Ten opts to go big, it might not go alone

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — On a day Jim Delany made news by saying, essentially, nothing new about the Big Ten's potential expansion plans, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive let it be known that his league is not about to stand by idly if the landscape of college football dramatically shifts toward the Midwest.

Even before Delany held an informal news conference during a break in Wednesday's BCS meetings at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Slive casually let reporters know that he, too, had some things to say and would be delighted to get together with them later.

While Slive is not a man to actively duck the media, he has never seemed to mind NOT being in the spotlight. So it was noteworthy that he was so eager to take questions when his league — arguably the most powerful in college sports — is the least likely to be effected by anything the Big Ten does.

But a few hours after Delany mostly ducked questions, Slive strolled into a small conference room, took a spot near the head of a long wooden table filled with reporters and — like the good lawyer that he is — gave this attention-grabbing opening statement:

"If there is going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful to make sure it maintains its position as one of the nation's pre-eminent conferences," he said.

In other words, if the Big Ten becomes a 16-team super conference, don't be surprised if the SEC becomes the second.

"I won't sit back and just ignore what's going on around me," Slive said.

What's going on right now is the Big Ten pondering it's next move.

To Delany's credit, he seems intent on making sure that if the Big Ten does take a team or two — or three or four — from another conference, it's not viewed as a hostile takeover.

He says as soon as the Big Ten knows if it wants to pursue another school, he'll let the appropriate commissioner know. Before that, though, expect information about the Big Ten's intentions to come out in very small doses.

Dan Beebe of the Big 12 and John Marinatto of the Big East could very well be getting a call from Delany in the coming months.

Since the Big Ten announced in December that it was going to explore the possibility of expansion, most of the speculation has been about which Big 12 and/or Big East teams would be targeted.

So it was no surprise when Beebe spent 20 minutes with reporters on Tuesday, joking about how he tried to squeeze some information out of Delany by putting the Big Ten commissioner in a headlock.

And of course Marinatto had to meet with the media. His league is danger of getting picked apart for the second time in the last 10 years and it's questionable whether Big East football can survive another mass exodus.

Though just like Beebe, Marinatto was keeping the mood light on Wednesday, begging reporters to cut him off if he started to ramble and saying how his friend called him "the most boring man in America."

Marinatto was anything but boring.

The rookie commissioner talked about how he has often tapped into Delany for advice on how to lead a major college conference.

"He always says to me, 'John, you've got to learn to think strategically about the future. You've got to look over the horizon,'" he said.

Storm clouds could be heading the Big East's way, but clearly Marinatto is gearing up for tumultuous times.

The Big East on Wednesday announced that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue would be advising the conference on television arrangements and other matters.

Back in 2003, the Big East was in danger of being put out of business when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College decided to bolt for the Atlantic Coast Conference. In an effort to prevent something like that from happening again, the Big East implemented a 27-month waiting period for a member to join a new league.

It also will cost the departing team $5 million dollars to relocate.

Of course, the Big Ten reportedly handed out $22 million per member last year, so money won't be an issue.

Before Slive's salvo and Marinatto's musings, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said the Pac-10's exploration into expansion is also moving forward and will be complete by the time the conference starts negotiating new TV deals next year.

And ultimately that is what all this expansion talk is about. Every conference is in the process of trying to expand — or at the least retain and maximize — the market in which it can sell its most valuable product: college football.