If the Big Ten Conference follows through with its belief that it ought to expand, it begs two questions, nationally and locally.
Nationally, what will Notre Dame do?
Locally, where does Iowa State go should the Big 12 disintegrate?
The Big Ten announced in late 2009 that it was considering adding at least one university, and possibly more, to include a league championship game in football and broaden of its cable television network.
The conference pays its members an estimated $22 million annually, much more than the Big 12 Conference members receive. Two Big 12 teams, Missouri and Nebraska, have been rumored in about one out of every 3 sports in the past weeks to be joining the Big Ten.
A Missouri spokesman said last week the university "will not respond to speculation about conference realignment." The spokesman also did not deny anything about realignment.
The stories also have the Big Ten asking Notre Dame, with it's national following and tradition (and TV revenue), to join the league of 11. Whether the Irish join the league could determine how many teams the Big Ten decides to take in. With ND, the Big Ten takes fewer schools. Without the Irish, they may take more to reach 16 teams, say some reports.
New Irish coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday that he enjoys ND being an independent. But Kelly won't be making decisions about his school joining a league.
Iowa State officials are not saying a thing about realignment, according to an article in Sunday's Des Moines Register.
Could Kansas, because of its basketball program, also be a target of the Big Ten? Rumors also say Colorado could look at an expanded Pac 10 Conference on the West Coast. And, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Okie State could be added to the Southeastern Conference.
If this worst-case scenario (from ISU's vantage) comes to fruition, where do the Cyclones go? It could mean the nation's top football programs are in one of four new expanded leagues: Big 10, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern and Pac 10. Such a scenario would gut the Big 12 and Big East.
Does ISU form with K-State (if the Wildcats aren't locked up somewhere) and form with other Texas schools (TCU, Baylor, etc.)? What about going east with leftover Big East teams? Louisville or even Pitt> Or ISU could go west and join the Mountain West Conference (which, however, could lose it's marquee schools BYU and Utah to the Pac 10)? Who knows.
Go independent? Interesting, but it wouldn't be good for ISU.
While living in the Big 12 is not the best for ISU (Texas runs the show and the best football schools are on TV the most and get the lion's share of TV revenue), all or most of the teams could still remain in the conference. That's if you listen to statements in the news last week.
Oklahoma University president David Boren said Thursday he expects the Sooners to remain in the Big 12.
"We're very happy with the Big 12 Conference and we certainly expect to stay in the Big 12 Conference," Boren said in an Associated Press story. "I was sort of shocked to read speculation that OU might leave the Big 12 Conference. Certainly not.
"And I really think that the likelihood of any of the schools leaving the conference is really being blown out of proportion. I think the conference will stay intact."
Wealthy Oklahoma State booster T. Boone Pickens believes his alma mater should stay in the Big 12.
Speaking Wednesday in Oklahoma City, Pickens said he doesn't think Oklahoma State should move to another conference "before you're required to make that decision."
Pickens believes, however, that recent improvements to OSU's football program and last year's second-place finish in the tough Big 12 South would make OSU a target for another league.
"I think we're attractive," he said in an AP story.
One hopes that soon all of the realignment has been set in motion, and ISU is in a position that's good for the Cyclones. But who knows. Keep your fingers crossed, however.