The Big Ten expanded to 11 schools by adding Penn State in 1990, but this did not yet meet the NCAA's requirements for holding a conference championship game (that the conference have 12 teams with two divisions). A few other times during that period, there were talks between the Big Ten and other schools (namely, Kansas, Missouri, and Rutgers, and later Notre Dame ) which might have led to the possibility of a conference with two divisions of at least six teams and a conference championship, but for various reasons, nothing came to fruition.
It was not until December 2009, when Commissioner Delany announced that the league would explore the possibility of adding one or more institutions, that the wheels were set in motion that would lead to the Big Ten adding a school for the first time in 20 years. Less than a year later, on June 11, 2010, Nebraska applied for membership and was unanimously accepted by the conference's 11 member schools. Its membership became effective on July 1, 2011.
In 2010, the Big Ten Conference added the University of Nebraska, bringing the membership total to 12 teams. Thus, the conference was able to meet NCAA requirements. On August 5, 2010 Big Ten Conference Commissioner James Delany announced Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis had been chosen as the possible site for the inaugural championship game. The league office began a 30-day period to negotiate a one-year agreement with Indiana Sports Corp and Lucas Oil Stadium to host the game. Delany also announced that once the 2011 agreement was in place, the conference office would conduct a thorough process over the next year to determine the location of the Big Ten Football Championship Game in 2012 and beyond.
On September 1, 2010, Commissioner Delany revealed how the teams would be placed into the two divisions. On December 13, Commissioner Delany announced that the two divisions would be called Legends and Leaders. The scheduling arrangement for the schools was that they would face each of the other schools in their division, plus three crossover opponents, one of which would be permanent. The permanent crossover opponent would be used to ensure that long standing historical rivalries would continue.
On November 17, 2010, the Big Ten Conference announced a media agreement with Fox Sports to serve as the official broadcast partner for the 2011-16 Big Ten Football Championship Games. A source at the time stated that the six-year agreement with Fox Sports would be worth between $20–$25 million per season, making it one of the most valuable conference championship games in college football. In the league's press release, it was confirmed that the 2011 event will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The events will be played in prime time. Because Fox is a majority partner in the Big Ten Network, this may allow for the possibility of more involvement by the Big Ten Network in the event, including the use of Big Ten Network staff in the game coverage.
On August 4, 2011, the Big Ten Conference announced that there would be a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2017, allowing schools to play four crossover opponents. However, the Big Ten and Pac-12 later announced a multi-sport scheduling agreement that provides for each member school to play one non-conference football game per year against an opponent from the other conference, and with this announcement, the Big Ten backed away from the nine-game conference schedule proposal.
On September 1, 2011, the Big Ten Conference announced the divisional tiebreaker procedures that will be used to determine the representatives in the championship game. Division standings are based on each team's overall conference record, excluding teams ineligible for postseason because of sanctions. In the event that two teams are tied, the head-to-head results between those two teams determines the tiebreaker. Unlike the Southeastern Conference, whose rules were established before NCAA overtime and has provisions in case the two tied teams' game is either cancelled or tied because of inclement weather (NCAA rules permit drawn games if, after three periods have been played, a game is tied when the game is called off because of inclement weather, including reaching curfew), the Big Ten does not have a policy in case the head-to-head result is a tie because of inclement weather.
In November 2012, the Big Ten announced that Maryland and Rutgers would join the conference in 2014, which brought conference membership up to 14 schools.
On June 5, 2014 the Big Ten Conference announced via press release that the Big Ten Football Championship game would continue to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium through the 2021 season.
Following the 2014 entry of Maryland and Rutgers, the "Leaders" and "Legends" divisions were set aside and replaced by geographic divisions, with the schools in the Central Time Zone plus Purdue forming the new West Division, and the remaining members forming the East Division. In addition, the conference adopted a nine-game schedule beginning in 2016.