Monday, December 28, 2009

Big Ten Expansion, Part IV

Jeff and I started discussing the possibility of Big Ten expansion by email. Over the next several days we will debate this back and forth over email, and will post our exchanges here, for your reading pleasure. Late in the week it appeared that based on his research, Jeff had changed his tune slightly.  We continued discussing other topics within this topic anyway.  This email exchange took place last week, but due to work and Christmas festivities I didn't get a chance to post it.



We seem to be in agreement that the Big Ten expanding is a good idea.  So now the question is, should they expand just to 12, or to 14 or 16?  It appears that they are exploring all 3 possibilities. 

Let’s assume that the league is expanding to 12, and let’s assume that Notre Dame is NOT going to be that 12th team.  Who do you want to see the Big Ten add?



Before we get to who the 12th Big Ten team should be, let's talk about whether 12, 14, or 16 is the right number. BamaHawkeye over at TRE had an interesting take about the Big Ten going REALLY BIG with either a monster program as the 12th team, or even an expansion to 14 or 16 teams.

He has some good points about the Big Ten really needing to make this worth their while, which is why they're not going to just add any school if they go to 12 (I agree and we'll get into that in a minute), and might even add three teams to push the league to 14 teams, or even go crazy with five more to go to 16.

Even BH admits 16 teams just could not work for football unless you went to a quasi-playoff, and as cool as that idea would be, as he says, it's not going to happen. So 16 is out because it's just too many for football.

14 teams? Part of me thinks it's still too many. IF we stick with eight conference games, you'd be playing the other six in your division, plus two more in a cross-over, meaning you'd be playing only eight of the 14 teams in the conference or barely half!. I'm sorry, but what's the point if almost HALF of your teams won't even play each other in a given year? It's not even close to a true conference title in that scenario. Sure 12 isn't perfect either, but playing 75% of the teams every season is a lot better than barely 50%. Then again, if the Big Ten could grab Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri to create a true east/west, I think maybe I'd put up with so many teams not playing each other. And good lord would the level of basketball improve too with Kansas and Missou joining.

Still, I think it'll only come down to adding one team. The Big Ten has been the most conservative conference in the country, and while BH's argument has merit, it just seems to me like too big of a jump for the old-school Big Ten to make. I mean, hell almost had to freeze over just for them to decide to add Penn State, and that one was a no-brainer!

So IF the conservative ol' Big Ten adds just one team and it can't be Notre Dame, who should it be? I'm going to tell you who it likely will be, and also who I want it to be if we can't have the Irish. Texas would be a dream, but as BH and others have mentioned, it just doesn't make any sense for them to leave. They get a bigger piece of the revenue pie than anyone else in the Big 12, and even though the Big Ten might offer more money in TV deals, I'm still not sure they'd make more because they'd have to split everything evenly. Plus their road trips are fairly short. As much as a boon as it would be for the Big Ten to grab Texas, the other 11 schools aren't going to offer them the same concessions and disproportionate revenues they're getting in the Big 12.

Let's get rid of the other candidates and get down to who it will be and who I want to be the 12th team: Rutgers and Syracuse make no sense whatsoever. You're not grabbing the New York City market with either team because it's a pro sports town whose only interest in college sports is in basketball. Yeah Rutgers grabbed a few eyeballs when they almost won the Big East a few years back in football, but that's really the only success they've had. Syracuse would be a nice addition for basketball but their football program is a long way from being anything, and even when they're winning they're too far away from NYC to be considered New York's team. Boston College has the same problem, as Boston is a pro sports town and only a small percentage of people there care about BC.

Pitt would be interesting in a rivalry standpoint for Penn State and for adding a really, REALLY good basketball program, but otherwise adds nothing else. The Pittsburgh market isn't going to add much unless the Panthers start winning like the Tony Dorsett Era, which isn't going to happen as long as Dave Wannstedt is coaching. You're also more likely to see Santa Claus come down your chimney than see Penn State approve Pitt, as they have no interest in putting a state rival on equal footing with them.

Which brings us to a few Big 12 schools: Iowa State is not happening because who the hell cares about the city of Aimes, Iowa? That's all you'd be adding for television ratings because the rest of the states care only about the Hawkeyes, and the Cyclones bring absolutely nothing in football or basketball. Kansas only makes sense if you're expanding to 14 and bringing a few more Big 12 schools with you. Expansion is clearly a football issue and as great as KU is at basketball, they add virtually nothing for football (no offense to Turner Gill, who I think should do a great job there).

Which leaves us with the likely choice of the Missouri Tigers. They're good enough academically, makes sense geographically, as they're already rivals with Illinois and could be a new one for Iowa, have had a pretty good football team the last decade or so, and would also add the St. Louis market for TV. This would not be a huge splash, but would certainly be logical, and is probably the most likely choice as of now.

But the team I want the Big Ten to add is Nebraska. Sure, they haven't been "NEBRASKA" on the field since Tom Osborne retired in the late 90's, but their name still carries a ton of clout in the college football world, and current coach Bo Pellini certainly seems to have them going in the right direction. While Nebraska is not a hugely populous state, the Huskers still garner a national following, so for TV revenue, you'd be adding much more than just the state of Nebraska.

I'm obviously not a Huskers fan, but I see them being willing to leave too. Since the Big 8 turned into the Big 12, they lost their biggest rival in Oklahoma, as the two don't even play every year anymore. Colorado was supposed to replace the Sooners, but the Buffs have been in a nose dive this entire decade, and I just don't see Nebraska having any big rivals they'd hate to lose in that conference. They'd be a much bigger deal in the Big Ten (maybe I'm wrong, but they seem to get lost in the shuffle with all of the Big 12 South teams getting more publicity), and there'd be some great midwestern rivalries to build. Plus I have to think their fans would fit in better in the midwest than they do in a southern conference.


No comments: