Wow. For the first time in a while, reports of Big Ten expansion actually happening may be legit. Reports out of Kansas City's 810 WHB, one of the Mid West's largest radio stations, indicate that multiple sources areconfirming that the Big Ten has extended invitations to Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers and Notre Dame to join the Conference. A massive hat tip to Husker Locker for picking this up and to EDSBS for the link.
As I mentioned earlier today, the prospects of Missouri joining the Big Ten got a considerable boost from the sheer volume of subscribers Mizzou would bring in. Nebraska, as previously noted, brought in $75.5 Million in 2008 and a sell out streak dating back to 1962. Both of these schools are prime targets (tho Nebraska is what makes Missouri an option, IMHO), and lends some credibility to this report.
But what takes it over the top for me is that this is the first report of expansion offers that outright states Notre Dame has been invited. We've said this over and over again, Notre Dame is the ultimate target of this expansion push. You have to think the Irish would be pretty excited about the cash their new western brethren would bring in, and the prospect of tapping into the New York television market through the Big Ten Network (ala Rutgers). From the 810 report:
It is not yet clear whether the Big Ten will expand to 14 or 16 teams but sources indicated Missouri and Nebraska are invited in either scenario... If Notre Dame remains independent, Rutgers would be the 14th team. The Big Ten would then decide whether to stop at 14 or extend offers to two other schools. If Notre Dame joins, sources say an offer will be extended to one other school making it a 16-team league.
We're still short a school in this equation, but this is the first expansion piece to acknowledge the importance of Notre Dame in this discussion. I have to imagine the fifth school may be at the Domer's choosing as a final enticement to sign on the dotted line.
For the record, I'm still sceptical because Rutgers is involved rather than Syracuse. I'm sceptical because there's no fifth team mentioned in the piece.
But this is as close to reality in a "breaking story" as we've seen in a while. So it's definitely worth following closely.
UPDATE: Per SB*Nation Nebraska and Missouri have denied that there has been any invitation extended.
(For more on our continuing coverage of Big Ten Expansion, click here for a list of our previous Big Ten Expansion stories.)