Big Ten has evaluated Vanderbilt as potential conference expansion target

The Vanderbilt Commodores mascot performs in the first half of their game against the Kentucky Wildcats in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament at the New Orleans Arena. (Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

The Vanderbilt Commodores are an appealing target for potential Big Ten expansion. (Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

When the ACC approved a “grant of media rights” through the 2025-26 season, the money grab that had become conference realignment and expansion was supposed to have come to an end for the foreseeable future.

The Big Ten and Jim Delaney, who have already added Nebraska and will be welcoming Rutgers and Maryland in 2014, seem to be far from finished with expansion talk. In fact, the way Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald (via SB Nation) sees it, the game of dominoes have barely even been given a reprieve.

The trendy instant reaction Monday to news that members of the Atlantic Coast Conference agreed to a “grant of rights” clause for its television and media was that it would halt realignment. …

Several old friends in the business of college athletics I talked to Monday said they wouldn’t bet their own money on that.

These people — from conference offices and major-college athletic departments — all agreed that any number of lawyers would be delighted to challenge those deals in court.

Maryland is currently set to go to court over the conference’s $50 million exit fee. The Terps have proven that the school, as well as its new conference, are not afraid of a little litigation.

Delaney, along with the Maryland program it has already landed, was rumored to be coveting such ACC schools as North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech. All three offer the traditionally Midwestern conference a new television market to break into (Tech being in the heart of the massive Atlanta market, for example), as well as prestigious academic reputations.

But those aren’t the only three schools in the country that possess strong academic inclinations and can trot solid sports programs onto the playing field.

That’s right, the SEC has one school that fits the bill in Vanderbilt, a school nestled in the big-time market of Nashville and possessing one of the hottest football programs in the nation under energetic coach James Franklin.

Vandy’s location and academic reputation has not been lost on Delaney and the rest of the Big Ten. Along with Oklahoma and Kansas (although the Big 12  possesses the same media grant of rights deal as the ACC), the B1G has already done its homework on potentially trying to swipe the Commodores out from under the noses of the SEC.

As a sidenote, two sources have told The World-Herald that the Big Ten has done prior “homework” on Oklahoma, Kansas and Vanderbilt among other schools who might some day be expansion targets. The Big 12 grant-of-rights deal didn’t stop a look-see for OU and KU.

Obviously, bringing in the likes of Vanderbilt would immediately boost every part of the Big Ten’s reputation it is looking to boost.

That being said, let’s be real here. The SEC is launching its own television network in 2014, so whatever dollars the Big Ten is raising above and beyond the SEC, Vandy’s current conference will be making up in the coming year.

Further, in terms of athletics, Vanderbilt has something no other school can offer: A great academic institution in the nation’s most prestigious football conference.

Stay tuned — or not, as Vandy is almost assuredly staying put.

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