The rumor mill is churning and it's picking up speed...the word on the street, and by street I mean Twitter and Pitt's message boards, is that on February 4th there will be a press conference announcing that Pittsburgh will join the Big Ten Conference.

The arguments for why Pitt would be a good fit for the Big Ten have been made over and over again, but to rehash them quickly:
  • Pitt is a great fit academically, which is very important to the Big Ten
  • Pitt would provide an in-state foe for Penn State, reviving a big rivalry of the past
  • Pitt has a rich tradition in football and is steadily building a good basketball program
  • Big Ten would take control of the whole state of Pennsylvania, plus Pittsburgh is a big city
The Big Ten recently announced that it was going to explore the idea of expansion, but it was supposed to take 12-18 months...and this announcement was just a month and a half ago. If this rumor is true, the Big Ten conference certainly moved very fast. Conference expansion is really all about the money, so that may have pushed the presidents and chancellors to move more quickly. Adding Pitt would mean a very profitable conference championship game in football and the additional TV revenue.

What will be most interesting to see, is how the conference decides to split the teams into divisions. This has also been written about a lot, but with a team added in the east, an East/West split seems most logical. This could make the league imbalanced however, if OSU, PSU, Pitt, and Michigan were all in the East. A North/South split would be tricky too. I'd recommend a split like this:
Division 1:
  • Ohio State
  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Purdue
Division 2:
  • Penn State
  • Pittsburgh
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Northwestern
To me that is fairly balance and keeps most of the rivalries intact.

Personally, I would like to see a the Big Ten drop a team (Northwestern). But since expansion is inevitable (and maybe coming sooner than we thought), Pitt sounds like a good choice to me from a fans perspective. I really enjoyed the Pitt game in 2008, though the 1 point loss really stung, and I'm looking forward to Pitt's return trip to Iowa City. I think too that the Panthers would compete for a Big Ten title every few years and would be a good representative in bowl games (though I guess they don't travel too well). I think the rivalry with Penn State will be great too. Maybe not to the level of Ohio State/Michigan, but definitely up least I know I'd watch that game.Well I'm talking about this like it's already happened! It's just an internet rumor for now, but it's going to be a hot topic until the conference or Pitt officially denies it. I will be waiting...

UPDATE: This turned out to be just a rumor (not too surprising). Both the university and the Big Ten have denied it. We'll just have to wait until the next rumor.