No other universities were seriously considered for Big Ten admission when the conference voted to accept Rutgers and Maryland last month, the University of Illinois chancellor says.
The Big Ten presidents and chancellors discussed the two schools at their meeting in October, with no dissension, and last month's vote to approve them was unanimous, said UI Chancellor Phyllis Wise.
Wise said she is aware of talk that the conference may expand to 16 schools but doesn't think the Big Ten is poised to add any more "in the near future."
"These things are always fluid. I don't know of any conversations right now," she said recently.
"We're not looking for a huge amount of expansion, just looking for opportunities where it might help us and might be really worthwhile for them, too," she said.
Maryland and Rutgers are "a little bit farther" than other Big Ten universities, but Maryland and New Jersey are contiguous to Pennsylvania, home of Penn State, she noted. "It was a natural expansion in that direction."
Much of the analysis of the decision centered on the sports audience and market share that the two schools can bring to the Big Ten, but Wise said academic fit was the initial consideration.
"First and foremost, I think we really want to have teams from universities like ours to be in the Big Ten," Wise said. "We would never have gone to thinking about whether or not the viewership would increase if that first element were not true.
"Then, of course, you look to see how you can expand your brand and get it to an audience that you really want to get it to, and you want to make sure that our students are not traveling all over the place."
When the announcement was made, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney said the driving force was not a new foothold for just the Big Ten Network but the conference itself, as it competes for students, athletes and research dollars.
"What drove us to go someplace else was just the fact that there's a paradigm shift and that institutions that get together for academics or athletics have got to be cognizant of the fact that they are competing for students, they are competing for student athletes, they are competing for research dollars, they are competing for the best levels of collaboration," Delaney said in a teleconference following the Rutgers announcement.
He said other conferences had begun to expand beyond their natural geographic boundaries, and the Big Ten had to act, too. The conference first explored expansion through collaboration with the Pac 12, but "it didn't work," Delaney said following the Maryland announcement.
So it turned East to adjacent states with major research universities, in a "corridor rich with people, great political institutions, great media institutions, great financial institutions, great high schools" and more than 500,000 Big Ten graduates, he said.
"It's a longterm play," Delaney said. "But I will tell you, I believe that these institutions and our conference will look different 10 years from now in a very positive way as a result of this."
The commissioner did not directly address what other schools were considered or whether further expansion is likely, according to the teleconference transcripts.