Sick of seeing conference realignment spread the Big Ten into the Atlantic Ocean?
Not to worry: Illinois State Representative Michael Connelly has proposed a bill to create a commission that would study the feasibility of adding another Illinois public school to the Big Ten. The bill passed the Illinois State Senate this week and will move on to the House.
On the surface, Connelly's argument makes sense. From the Naperville Sun:
"This is something that has been under the radar but is now getting a much stronger drum beat," Connelly said. "I've got three kids that are college age and we know that there are a lot of kids with 34 ACT scores and high class rank that are rejected by the University of Illinois and wind up going to places like Kansas and Indiana and other states. Michigan has Michigan and Michigan State - two Big Ten public schools - and we thought why not do a feasibility study to see if we could do the same?"
However, anyone with Google or a basic understanding of college athletics knows that this is not even remotely feasible, for a number of reasons.
1. The State of Illinois has absolutely no control over the Big Ten. It might want the Big Ten to add one of its schools, but I'm sure the State of Alaska would be cool with the University of Alaska-Anchorage joining the Big Ten and its massive TV contracts. The Big Ten simply has no reason to add another Illinois school.
2. Athletically, none of the candidates stack up. As much as the addition of Rutgers might make you think the Big Ten has stopped caring about athletics, prowess on the field/court is still important. Connelly mentioned Southern Illinois as a good option, because the school is close to St. Louis — which, first off, LOL — but the Salukis don't even play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. That seems like a small detail that Connelly conveniently left out. The only Illinois public school that plays in FBS, other than the Illini, is Northern Illinois. The Huskies' football team has been good in recent years, but obviously, the conference is not short-sighted enough to only look at the last couple years.
3. Academically, the rest of the Illinois public institutions would really struggle to fit in with the Big Ten. No Big Ten school has a US News ranking worse than 101st — NIU and SIU are tied for 177th. Every current Big Ten member other than Nebraska is also a member of the research organization called the Association of American Universities, and AAU membership status has played a part in the Big Ten's expansion considerations. Neither NIU nor SIU is a member.
Connelly at least acknowledges that nothing is going to happen overnight, but it would be a safer assumption to say this won't happen ever. One of the bill's co-sponsors, Napoleon Harris, is a former Northwestern football player who should know better.
It's a good thing Illinois isn't tremendously in debt or anything; otherwise, spending money to create a nonsensical commission would really hurt.