Reports: Big Ten commissioner Petitti authorized to ‘explore expansion’

The Big Ten seems to be giving the green light toward additional conference expansion. 

Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti was authorized Thursday to “explore expansion” by conference presidents, and among Petitti’s first tasks will be to return information on whether Oregon and Washington will be members of the Big Ten, according to Pete Thamel of ESPN

The authorization comes after Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday that the Big Ten has been in “preliminary talks” to add up to four programs from the Pac-12: Cal, Oregon, Stanford and Washington. 

The Pac-12 remains in limbo amid both conference expansion and its own media rights agreement. Colorado already has announced it will depart for the Big 12 beginning in 2024, and more schools could join the trio that includes UCLA and USC’s decisions to jump into the Big Ten. 

Additionally, Thamel reported that Notre Dame’s independent stance is unlikely to change while the Big Ten considers further expansion. 

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported that after Petitti was authorized to explore expansion, conversation has “centered” on the Ducks and Huskies.  

Thamel also reported that there is potential for the Big Ten to expand and include more West coast programs but “the moves don’t offer the current Big Ten schools any additional money” and “Oregon and Washington would also have to come to terms with not getting a full share.” 

The Big Ten agreed to a historic new media rights deal with CBS, FOX and NBC in August 2022 that is reportedly worth upwards of $7 billion. 

Whether the conference decides to continue adding more programs and progress toward nearly 20 schools, the Big Ten has some intriguing options in play.