Big Ten Conference football coaches don't get a vote in expansion, but they can see where this is leading. "In college athletics, as in most things, status quo doesn't last forever,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.

Big Ten Conference football coaches don't get a vote in expansion, but they can see where this is leading.

"In college athletics, as in most things, status quo doesn't last forever,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.


Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany announced in December the league would explore expansion, and Notre Dame acknowledged impending Big Ten expansion and other conference realignment may impact the school's status as a football independent. With geographical advantage in the middle of the country plus a big money maker in the Big Ten Network, the league plays from a position of power.


The Big Ten hasn't changed since inviting Penn State to join in 1989. The Big Ten is investigating the possibility of adding more than one team, according to published reports, and the Chicago Tribune said the league would investigate the financial background of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Missouri.


"Expansion is coming,'' Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "There's talk about the Pac-10 trying to get two or four teams. The trend is that it's going to be bigger conferences.


"Do I know what I'm talking about? Who knows. It would appear to be with the television situation and the great impact it has on exposure and what it does for recruiting, we better start thinking about where we're going.''


More than one-third of the Big Ten's payout of $22 million to each member school last year -- through the league's TV deals and bowl agreements -- came from the Big Ten Network, which earned each school $8 million. Only the SEC can rival the Big Ten in the overall payout.


While other league's scramble to catch up with the Big Ten's ability to market and sell the conference, the network not only helps recruiting athletes but might also recruit potential league members.


"The thing that really jumped out at me is that the Big Ten Network and now much that is helping us in recruiting coast to coast,'' Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "It's beyond a head coach's mentality, but I've got a little marketing major in me that tells me that could have an effect (on expansion).''


Conference expansion now often becomes more of a question over how many TV sets a prospective school brings as much as a championship pedigree.


It's likely that any prospective schools "have to come up with the money to buy into it'' and the Big Ten Network became "a bigger thing earlier than anyone expected,'' Illinois coach Ron Zook said.


Minnesota coach Tim Brewster just wants a Big Ten championship game in football, but Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was the only old-school traditionalist "who's not one to say we have to keep up with the Joneses.'' Paterno admitted changes will likely come after he's retired, but he gave a warning.


"When you get married, you better marry someone you love and appreciates what you do,'' Paterno said. "One of the reasons we got into the Big Ten so easily and quickly is that we were a comparable institution.''


The Big Ten should also check for comprehensive athletic programs, not just consider what football and basketball brings to the negotiations, Paterno said. While Paterno said he'd like another Big Ten member from the East, the fit is the most important,


"Can you find one, two three or four?'' he said. "I don't know. That's outside my realm.''


But league coaches expect expansion. They just don't know how many and when.


John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.