One of the leaders at being both first and right in the last round of Big Ten expansion is reporting that the University of North Carolina has an offer on the table to join the league. Where it goes from there is anyone's guess, but it appears that Virginia is also a chip (as long speculated) on the table possibly get in on the action as well.
Reports began leaking out last month that Virginia was next in the pecking order to join the Big Ten, but mostly originated from sources without the track record of Inside Maryland. There has also long been second guessing about the validity of a potential North Carolina offer, particularly in light of the lingering academic scandal still attached to the school's football and basketball programs, and the school's influence within the ACC. If recruiting college athletes is considered to be the silly season, recruiting colleges (especially with lingering legal matters still complicating things) takes matters to a whole another level.
Now that there appears to be some actual hard evidence that North Carolina may be the next domino to fall, the question becomes what happens after that. Virginia would seem like some redundancy given the league's investment in Maryland (which potentially could cost in upwards of $50 million dollars), but the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News and Richmond-Petersburg TV markets combine to form something worth noting. It would also all but seal the Big Ten Network's second tier negotiating prowess in the vaunted Washington DC market.
It's long been thought that Georgia Tech (and Atlanta) have been coveted for not just the large number of Big Ten alumni occupying "the capital of the south", but as a way to announce their presence to the rival Southeastern Conference. Of course Georgia Tech itself doesn't exactly scream "athletic dominance", but with a foothold in the football rabid area, as bleak of a possibility as it may be, the midwest's most prominent conference would at least be able to lay claim to a tiny bit of the territory and lay the ground works for a rather ancillary pipeline north.
And then of course there's Duke. While Duke football has taken decades to return to even fringe prominence, Duke basketball (and academics, despite being a smaller private school) fall far more in line with what the Big Ten seeks to represent. You have to wonder if Duke and Carolina could be a package deal of some sort (assuming interest on both parts and the league's interest in the former).
Where things go from here is tough to say. How much of it is credible is even harder. It certainly won't stop just about everyone from talking about it – up and through when there's actual football to discuss once again.