The recent news of the Association of American Universities (AAU) admitting six new member institutions has significant implications for the Big Ten. Notably, at least three of these newly admitted institutions – Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Miami – are potential targets for the Big Ten in the upcoming conference expansion. As the Big Ten looks to expand its membership, the AAU status of universities becomes a crucial factor in their selection process. This article explores the significance of AAU membership for the Big Ten and how the inclusion of these new AAU members expands the possibilities for the conference.

The Importance of AAU Membership

The Big Ten has maintained a stringent policy of only admitting universities that are AAU member institutions. While Nebraska was an AAU member when it joined the Big Ten in 2010, its status was later terminated in 2011. The conference has consistently focused on universities with elite academic and research standing, and the AAU membership serves as a reflection of this commitment.

In recent rounds of expansion, the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, followed by UCLA and USC as members scheduled to join the conference. All four of these institutions are AAU members, further emphasizing the conference’s emphasis on academic excellence.

Prospective Expansion Candidates

With rumors swirling around the Big Ten’s interest in adding four more universities, the new AAU members present intriguing expansion prospects. Notre Dame, long linked to the Big Ten, remains a strong candidate for future inclusion. The conference has also reportedly considered Oregon and Washington from the West Coast, both of which are AAU member institutions. Now, with Arizona State’s AAU status, the university enters the picture as a potential candidate, either alongside Oregon and Washington or as a separate addition in a western pod of five programs.

East Coast Presence and Florida Market

The news about Miami joining the AAU holds particular interest for the Big Ten. Analysts speculate that the conference may be looking to bolster its presence on the East Coast in the next expansion round. Florida has caught the attention of the Big Ten, which aims to gain a foothold in the state. Miami’s strong football history and position in a top 20 media market make it an attractive addition for the conference.

ESPN analyst Greg McElroy believes that while the SEC is less likely to expand, the Big Ten may be open to further growth. Expanding into the state of Florida aligns with the media rights interests of major broadcasters like NBC, FOX, and CBS, all of whom hold media rights for the Big Ten.


The recent inclusion of six new AAU members has set the stage for an exciting future for the Big Ten conference. As it looks to expand its membership, the conference has traditionally sought elite academic and research institutions, and AAU membership serves as a strong indicator of these qualifications. With Notre Dame, Arizona State, and Miami now AAU members, the Big Ten has expanded its options for the next round of expansion. The potential inclusion of universities from the West Coast and the desire to establish a presence on the East Coast, particularly in Florida, make for an intriguing and dynamic expansion landscape. As the Big Ten’s ambitions grow, the conference is positioned to elevate its status as a premier collegiate athletic conference.