A meeting of seven Midwest university presidents on January 11, 1895 at the Palmer House in Chicago to discuss the regulation and control of intercollegiate athletics, was the first development of what would become one of organized sports' most successful undertakings. Those seven men, behind the leadership of James H. Smart, president of Purdue University, established the principles for which the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, more popularly known as the Big Ten Conference, would be founded. Eleven months after the presidents met, one faculty member from each of those seven universities met at the same Palmer House, and officially established the mechanics of the "Intercollegiate conference of Faculty Representatives", or "Big Ten Conference" of "Western Conference." Those seven universities were: University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin. Indiana University and the State University of Iowa were admitted in 1899. Ohio State joined in 1912. Chicago withdrew in 1946 and Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) was added three years later in 1949. After a 40-year period of constancy in membership, the Conference expanded to 11 members for the first time. On June 4, 1990, the Council of Presidents voted to confirm its earlier decision to integrate Pennsylvania State University into the Conference.

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