Two Illinois Republican senators are looking into making a third Big Ten School in Illinois to join schools like University of Illinois and Northwestern University.
Senators Michael Connelly of Naperville and Matt Murphy of Palatine plan to find a former athletic director, former professor or another higher education faculty that will do a study to see what it takes for a public Illinois university to become part of the Big Ten.
“Two years ago, one-third of the University of Iowa freshmen class was from Illinois,” Connelly said.
The overall goal is to keep Illinois students in the in-state colleges and universities. The senators believe either ISU or Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville could improve enough academically and athletically to meet the standards of Big Ten with some state assistance. However, all public universities in Illinois are being considered.
The senators must first report back to the general assembly and then receive votes from the Senate and House of Representatives. This is still a few months away but there are still high hopes for the vote.
“We’re hoping the study finds that one of the schools meets the requirements and they tell us what we need to do next,” Connelly said.
Many Big Ten Schools are also a part of the Association of American Universities (AAU). This association consists of public and private universities in the United States and Canada that are leaders in research. There are currently 62 colleges and universities in this association including ivy-league schools like Harvard and Brown University.
Connelly said that the criteria AAU upholds closely mirrors that of Big Ten’s so transforming a public university will be a bit of a challenge.
“We have to figure out what the existing expansion policies are in Big Ten,” ISU Athletic Director Larry Lyons said.
Lyons said that unless these policies are known, there is no way of predicting whether ISU or any Illinois public university will become a part of Big Ten.
One of the obstacles that could prevent ISU from joining Big Ten is the fact that Hancock Stadium is smaller than the current smallest Big Ten stadium at Northwestern University. Students also believe that athletically, ISU just is not ready.
“I don’t think ISU has a chance of being in the Big Ten because overall our sports teams wouldn’t compete well against the other schools,” Adrian Gracia, freshman computer science major, said.
“I think the baseball team would have a good chance but other sports like basketball and football should stay in the Missouri Valley Conference.”
Despite the hesitation on bringing another Illinois public school into the Big Ten, Senators Connelly and Murphy are working to at least begin a study and go from there. More progress is hoped to be made in the upcoming months.