Here We Go Again With Big Ten Expansion And Anonymous Sources

Here's what a South Bend television station said yesterday:

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A source in St. Louis familiar with the situation told NewsCenter 16 Thursday afternoon that Missouri will leave the Big XII and soon join the Big 10. Other schools expected to follow the Tigers are Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers and Nebraska.

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It would be foolish to take this report at face value. First of all, this isn't the first time anonymous sources have reared their heads in the expansion talks. Remember when the Lawrence Journal-World reported that Big Ten was targeting TexasSquashed. And when the Chicago Tribune reported that the Big Ten was operating on an accelerated schedule and that an announcement was imminent? Squashed. And when Colin Cowherd reported that UConn was a lockSquashed.

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So when a South Bend television station (at a school that doesn't even join the conference in this scenario, mind you) purports to have the break on the final expansion picture, well, we owe it to ourselves to find the report dubious at best.

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Further, the wording of the second half of the report--"Other schools expected to follow the Tigers are Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers and Nebraska"--is so vague that it's effectively meaningless. Expected by whom? How is this any different from run-of-the-mill speculation (or, in less polite terms, guessing)?

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This isn't to say that Missouri won't join the Big Ten or that any or all of the other four teams won't follow suit, mind you. If we were to put odds on the different candidates for expansion, Missouri would be near the top, and the other four schools would probably round out the top five. As guesses go, it's relatively safe.

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But there's no way that the report is, at this point, true. The Big Ten just announced last week that the accelerated timetable was bogus and that they were still operating on a 12-18 month timetable. Perhaps someone in St. Louis is certain that Missouri will leave if asked, but there's no way it's a done deal on both sides at this point--not when the conference hasn't even entered into formal negotiations.

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So ignore this report, ignore Tom Dienhart's four-division plan based on "buzz" (nice code word for "other people's speculation"), ignore everything without a name attached to it. Then someday down the road--maybe not until after next basketball season--we'll get word from the conference that there'll be a press conference that Monday. At that point, it's time to listen to reports coming from different press outlets. Until then, be prepared for these reports to crop up every week or two, and prepare for them to mean nothing.

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