Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We debate Big Ten Expansion, Part II

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.

I am going to work backwards through your backwards comments and start from the beginning...or something.

I definitely think the golden goose is in danger of being slaughtered. From what I've seen and read from Big Ten people this week, they are upset about exposure and money, and not necessarily in that order. I have not seen definitive proof from anyone in these arguments that the Big Ten would make more money from a conference championship game while getting only one team in the BCS instead of keeping it the way it is and getting two. And even IF you were still able to get two teams into a BCS game with the regularity the Big Ten has this decade, you'd then be splitting the payouts 12 ways instead of 11. I just don't see how this makes them more money.

The exposure debate is ridiculous. They're acting like a bunch of fatcats who buy a Benz and show it off to their friends, only their fatcat friends from Georgia and Texas both get a Bentley and a Ferrari, and suddenly no one's interested in the Benz anymore. Deal with it. You want exposure? Remove your antiquated and archaic rules that say no night games in November (a rule that makes absolutely, positively no sense whatsoever. The Saturday night primetime games get better national ratings than day games do, so why would you take yourself out of that equation?) AND that conference games can't be played past the weekend before Thanksgiving. Neither of these make any sense whatsoever.

And don't even think of using the words "tradition" and "ruined" in the same sentence. People who want more exposure are willing to water things down with a 12th team and a championship game but are not ok with moving games back a weekend or two? There would be some griping about ruined tradition and whatnot, sure, but it would vanish as soon as folks realized that yes, playing regular season games late into November and early December keeps the Big Ten relevant and talked about just like everyone else.

The argument I cannot make is against your divisional alignment of north and south. It would indeed keep every meaningful rivalry intact, and also maintain competitive balance.

Finally, I also disagree that this would make the conference more competitive. Our national image problem is not going to be fixed by adding more teams to our conference. The complaint now is that play no one and can't win any big non-conference or bowl games. Adding a 12th team isn't going to change that. What WILL fix it is when the quarterback play and the skill position talent improves (things are looking up for 2010. I know I said that last year, but come, it HAS to get better, right? Right? Please?) and we get more high-profile guys up for national awards. As completely and totally overrated as the Best Quarterback or Running Back Stiff-Arm Award (aka the Heisman) is (I mean really? Ndamukong Suh is the best player in the country by a mile, but because he plays defense he finishes fourth?), it generates attention for the conference- and since Troy Smith won it a few years ago, there hasn't been a quarterback or running back who even entered the discussion.

Bottom line is fans and Big Ten folks want more money and more exposure for their conference, yet I remain unconvinced adding a 12th team does either- and in fact could further hurt our reputation. Get with the 21st Century and allow night games in November and December and an extra bye week that pushes the conference schedule back into late November and early December and you'll get your exposure and maintain a steady stream of two teams into the BCS. Oh, and it would also help if we'd start winning some of those BCS bowls and actually producing some skill position talent that was watchable.

Ok, feel free to backwards and forwards your way through those comments, and I'll throw this at you: does anyone else but Notre Dame make any sense if we did add a 12th team? If so who? And what do you think of having Michigan and Ohio State in the same division (a la Oklahoma and Texas) so they're only playing once a year instead of twice?



I’m just going to work through, not backwards or forwards on this one. 

First of all, some assumptions.  I agree that this discussion needs to throw “tradition” and “ruined” right out the window.  The only tradition that matters is winning.  I also agree that pushing games beyond Thanksgiving and allowing night games all season would be helpful for the league.  Let’s put those issues aside as I think they are secondary.

I still don’t see how having a 12th team and a Championship game means that we won’t have 2 teams in the BCS picture.  Take for example this year and say we had two divisions with just the existing 11 teams utilizing the North/South split that I proposed.  Iowa would have won the North, OSU would have won the south, and they would have met in a Big Ten Championship game.  The winner clearly goes the Rose Bowl, and I have a hard time believing that the loser wouldn’t still be going to a BCS game.  The Big Ten gets two teams in the BCS because the conference is competitive and we draw fans… I don’t see adding a 12th team changing that.

To your exposure point, I get it, the coaches shouldn’t be complaining about that.  But let’s assume that the teams that play in the Big Ten Championship both make the BCS… doesn’t having one more highly televised, highly exposed, highly competitive game late in the season help both of these teams heading into bowl season?  If the conference is going to get a better reputation on a national level it has to start in BCS games.

Now, as far as splitting the payouts 12 ways instead of 11, I see your point.  However, I think a Big Ten Championship game trumps that.  You’ve already got major cities in the Big Ten conference that would be great venues for this game (Mpls, Chi-town, Indy, Cincy, Cleveland) on a rotating basis and depending on which team you add, you can also rotate in Pittsburgh or Kansas City.  There’s zero doubt that a Big Ten Championship Game would sell out every single year and bring in a ton of money (the SEC clears about $12m/year after operating expenses just on the SEC Championship)… which the conference schools get to split.

Lastly, for the record, I like Missouri as the 12th team for many reasons… and so do their fans...


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