Big Ten authorizes commissioner to explore expansion; focus on Oregon, Washington: Source

The Big Ten’s presidents authorized commissioner Tony Petitti to explore expansion Thursday and seek more information on Oregon and Washington as potential additions, a source briefed on the meeting confirmed to The Athletic. ESPN first reported the news.

The Athletic confirmed Wednesday that a subgroup of four Big Ten university presidents met virtually as part of exploratory discussions about potentially expanding membership by two or four teams.

Washington’s Board of Regents has a special board meeting scheduled for Thursday night. It will be in executive session “to discuss with counsel present pending or potential litigation.”

Two sources briefed on Wednesday’s call reiterated that discussions were in the early stages and very preliminary, and that the Big Ten could decide to stay at 16 members and not expand further. Cal and Stanford were said to be under consideration in addition to Oregon and Washington if the conference sought to expand by four teams. All four schools are current members of the Pac-12.

“The Big Ten Conference is still focused on integration of USC and UCLA but it’s also (the) commissioner’s job to keep conference chancellors and presidents informed about new developments as they occur,” the conference said in a statement Wednesday.

One source noted Wednesday that the Big Ten would likely not act until it sees what happens with the Big 12 and the Pac-12. The Big Ten does not want to be the one to cause the death of the Pac-12 Conference.

“It’s a discussion, but it’s a wait-and-see,” the source said.

The second source said that ongoing evaluation is not a new concept, and that it is the responsibility of the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors to continue discussions from last year about the conference landscape.

This story will be updated.

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(Photo: Jeff Hanisch / USA Today)

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