Friday, June 25, 2010

The Arguement FOR a Geographical Big Ten Realignment

Earlier in the week E! Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg addressed the central question in Big Ten realingment: what to do with Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska?

The four neighbors share borders, values, rivalries and would seem to make perfect division mates. Nebraska is the fourth winningest college football program of all time, while Wisconsin and the dirty Hawkeyes have strong programs who in the last 20 years have won a Big Ten title, played in the Rose Bowl, and seem to make regular trips to New Year's Day Bowls. Iowa and Wisconsin have a strong rivalry building, as the two have met 85 times, the first in 1894. The Huskers and Hawkeyes are neighboring farming states who absolutely, positively eat, sleep and breathe Nebraska and Iowa football, and despite the two border states having played so little over the years, there's still a healthy rivalry brewing between the fan bases. Wisconsin and Nebraska have almost no history, but considering they share the same colors, and their fans share many of the same values and passions, them meeting annually would be a most natural fit.

Minnesota? Um yeah we were good like 50 years ago, and our sucktitude of late, especially in games against the three schools, have us bordering on irrelevance in the minds of their fans. But, the one trump card we have to play is that the Gophers have more history with these three programs than any other school in the country:

- The Gophs and Badgers have Division 1's oldest rivalry, as they've met 119 times, the first in 1890. They've played for Paul Bunyan's Axe- THE best rivalry trophy in sports- since 1948.
- The Gophs are Iowa's oldest rival, as the two first met in 1891, and have played for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy every year since 1935
- Minnesota has played Nebraska 51 times, more than any other Big Ten school, and lead the series 29-20-2. Of course, the Huskers have won the past 14 straight meetings, which includes the Gophs worst lost ever when Nebraska thumped them 84-13, so you can't really call this a rivalry.

Still, if you're going to split the Big Ten into two divisions, these four schools clearly belong together. Add the two neighboring schools Illinois and Northwestern from The Land of Lincoln and it would create two perfect divisions from the standpoint of competitiveness, geography, and maintain rivalries. Honestly, not one fanbase in the Big Ten would be upset if the divisions were split with a simple East/West geographic split. Everyone wins right?

Wrong. The only people who don't like this idea are the ones who drive the bus when it comes to college football- the Almighty Dollar. Yes television execs would not be thrilled to have three of the four highest profile Big Ten schools- Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State- in the same division. For television it'd be fantastic when Nebraska represents the West and would play any of the Big Three east schools. But what happens in the years Nebraska doesn't make it? The TV folks like the odds of splitting these four teams to better ensure they meet in conference championship games more often.

The problem here, besides the obvious fact that what's good for the fans is not being judged as good for the conference, is that this reasoning is flawed. I haven't seen anyone questioning the Big Ten's reasoning for NOT wanting to split the divisions by geography. Hear me out on this one, if you will...

With the addition of Nebraska, the Big Ten now has four strong, nationally recognized college football powers, which includes Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. All four of those schools "move the needle" nationally when they're on TV, which is why the conference obviously would like two of those four to meet in their new conference championship game as much as possible.

I totally get that. I would not argue that those four schools are the four most popular, and that even though Wisconsin and Iowa have excellent programs, they still aren't in that class of the other four for national followin. I also understand that the Buckeyes, Wolverines, and Nittany Lions have won or shared the past eight straight Big Ten titles, and have been extremely successful over the years.'s Stewart Mandel gave his opinion on what Big Ten realignment should look like, and was the first to use actual records to back up the claim that the Big Three shouldn't be in the same division. Mandel looked at the records of the 11 current Big Ten schools since the conference added Penn State in 1993, and looked at the Husker's record since the Big 12 was formed in 1996. Here's the chart he came up with:

1. Ohio State 106-29-1 (.779)
2. Michigan 94-42 (.691)
3. Nebraska 75-37 (.669)
4. Penn State 86-50 (.632)
5. Wisconsin 79-54-3 (.581)
6. Iowa 71-64-1 (.522)
7. Purdue 63-70-3 (.463)
8. Michigan State 63-72-1 (.463)
9. Northwestern 59-77 (.434)
10. Illinois 45-90-1 (.331)
11. Minnesota 44-92 (.324)
12. Indiana 33-103 (.243)

That right there is some good information. Despite Michigan's recent struggles, as well as the recent strong play of Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska (all three schools should start 2010 ranked nationally in the top 10), it shows over two decades how good the "Big Three" and Nebraska have been.

Now I could argue that there's no guarantee Michigan will return to its Lloyd Carr glory days (how ironic- and TRUE- is that statement for Michigan fans?), but Mandel gives a pretty clear view of exactly what conference Commish Jim Delany and company will be looking at: that based on these stats the Buckeyes, Wolverines, Nittany Lions, and Huskers have been, and will continue to be, the four flagship programs for the conference.

Fine. So just to be clear, maximizing TV dollars for your title game is the ultimate goal for the Big Ten, right? They are hoping to get the biggest ratings year and year out for the next decade for that game, and the best way to ensure that happens to have as few championship games as possible that DON'T include at least one of the Big Four, and hoping to have as many as possible that would include at least two of those four?

So if that's the case, I have one simple question: wouldn't splitting these four up actually HURT your chances of doing that?

Splitting them two-and-two just means a BETTER chance of not having any of them in the conference title game and giving you worse ratings. While it seems like Ohio State would win any division every year for eternity based on the way they've played under Jim Tressell, they did have some "struggles" under previous head coach John Cooper (I use finger quotes around the word "struggles" because it was a span that 95% of college football fanbases, including Minnesota, would kill for) where they played in the Rose Bowl just once between 1986-1998, when the BCS was then created.

As mentioned earlier Michigan is down now and there are zero guarantees Rich Rod, or the next coach, quickly get them back to an elite program. Penn State is great now but from 2000-2004 were just 26-33. Nebraska, once the most dominant program in the country, are still awaiting their return to glory since legendary coach Tom Osborne retired after winning a share of the 1997 national championship. Frank Solich took over, and in hind sight had a good run going 58-13 from 1998-2003, but because he didn't win the Huskers national titles and ONLY averaged nine wins a season, he was run out of Lincoln on a rail. The next four years under Bill Callahan from 2004-2007 were the definition of average with a record of 27-22. Bo Pellini looks to be getting things back to a championship level with a 10 win season in 2009 and the school's first national ranking since 2005, but again, all of the recent history for our Big Four schools show dominance is never permanent. So to split these four two-and-two almost guarantees less meetings between them in a conference title game.

Having Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in the same division means you're almost guaranteed to have one of those three in your conference title game every year- and just having one of those three automatically means bigger ratings because of their national following. Sure playing the Huskers would give you a ratings bonanza, but even against Iowa or Wisconsin the numbers would be very strong because of the success of those programs. And when Northwestern or Illinois has a sneaky season and represents the West, you still have a much better chance of getting good TV numbers because you'd have a much better chance of one of the Big Three representing the East to offset a less "popular" program being in the title game.

By my count, a simple geographic split of the Big Ten would keep All of the key rivalries intact, current and new ones would be strengthened, the divisions would be very competitive AND TV execs would have a much better chance of maximizing revenues for the Big Ten championship game by keeping Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in the same division. Sounds like a real win-win for everyone. Now if only I could convince the Big Ten of this.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Some thoughts on divisional split

Everyone is talking about how the divisions will be split once Nebraska joins the Big Ten fray... so why should I be any different?

Rittenberg today made his grand entrance into the discussion, with a proposed divisional alignment that, in my opinion, is just way too complicated.  I get that divisions need to maintain a competitive balance, and they need to maintain rivalries, and that geography is really the last thing on anyone's mind, even though it does enter the discussion.  But I don't think you can just ignore geography completely.

OSU, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska are generally accepted as the "traditional powers" when discussing division alignment, and you'll get no argument here.  So let's consider that the top tier.  Then let's lay out two more tiers...

Tier 1: OSU, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska
Tier 2: Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State
Tier 3: Minnesota, NWestern, Purdue, Indiana

We can all argue about how Northwestern is on the rise, and we can argue about how Illinois is down but are generally competitive, and that Purdue is on its way back, and we can bring all of the historical records we want to the table... fine.  This is just one man's argument.

If the tiers listed above hold true, in a 12 team conference, we of course want 2 teams from each tier in each division.  This, in theory, should take care of the issue of competitive balance.

To continue the formula that the Big Ten has mentioned, the next two most important factors, in order, are rivalries, followed by geography.

Now, I've seen only two arguments about this.  The first is that an East-West divisional split makes sense because of geography, while still maintaining rivalries, and manages to do a reasonable job of maintaining competitive balance.  The other argument is Rittenberg's, that the East-West split doesn't get competitive balance close enough, so let's completely ignore geography and only focus on balance and protecting rivalries.

What I haven't seen is anybody arguing for a different kind of geographic split besides the obvious East-West option, so I decided to look at the possibility of a North-South split that accounts for geography and hopefully also maintains rivalries and balance.  In my mind it would look like this:

Tier 1 teams: Nebraska, Michigan
Tier 2: Wisconsin, Michigan State
Tier 3: Minnesota, NWestern
Tier 1 teams: OSU, PSU
Tier 2: Iowa, Illinois
Tier 3: Indiana, Purdue

Clearly each team would play their 5 other divisional opponents every year, followed by a combination of a protected rivalry (you've seen them all over the internet, I'm not going to rehash them here), and a round-robin of teams from the opposite division.

You are still going to have protected rivalries across divisional lines, which is a given, but in this scenario you have natural protection of some rivalries, and can still easily protect many others across divisional lines.

For example, Minnesota would play each of these teams EVERY year:
Wisconsin (rivalry)
Michigan State
Michigan (rivalry)
Iowa (protected rivalry)

From here there are options...
1) Two more conference games on a rotating schedule of the other 5 schools from the Big Ten South, and still schedule 4 non-conference games.
2) A second protected rivalry (Iowa would still want to play Wisconsin every year and you'd probably like to see Nebraska play Iowa and OSU/PSU, etc), bringing the list of conference teams you'd play every year to 7.  This would then mean that the final conference game would be rotated among the remaining teams in the other division.  The unfortunate thing would be that you'd only see those other teams once every 4 years (i.e. Minnesota would only see Ohio State every 4 years).
3) A second protected rivalry game and drop the number of non-conference game to 3 (like the Pac10 has been doing for years).  In this scenario Minnesota would see Ohio State at least every two years.

There's going to be flaws with every system, and some of you have maybe already tuned me out (Jeffrick) because I have Ohio State and Michigan in separate divisions.  Personally, I like the idea of having Michigan and Ohio State in separate divisions.  Assuming Michigan regains its composure and joins the national power discussion in the coming years, I can't bring myself to envision a Big Ten where Michigan and Ohio State would NEVER play for the Big Ten title.  I realize that by protecting rivalries and then having them in separate divisions that means they may play twice a year, and possibly on consecutive weeks, but again, I just can't envision those two never being able to play in the Big Ten title game, which would be the case if they were in the same division.

Personally, I would like to see geography come into play with these divisions.  The Big Ten is already a regionally proud conference and I think there's merit in maintaining regional flavor when splitting divisions.  I also realize how difficult that is, which is why I set out to look at another option.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Texas Now STAYING in the Big 12?!?!?

You've probably seen the joke already: you know it's a strange time in college football when the Big Ten has 12 members and the Big 12 has 10.

But it could get even stranger if Chip Brown of is right: Texas has now decided to STAY in the Big 12.

How is this possible? Well honestly this should have been a plausible option all along because it's an option that looks to give the Texas Longhorns the most money AND most control over their product. And that's what this whole thing has been about from the beginning.

According to Brown, a former beatwriter for one of the Dallas papers and a guy who seems to be more informed about expansion than anyone else covering it, Big 12 commish Dan Beebe made a late pitch to the Horns claiming a ten team Big 12 could still command a TV deal that would pay each member about $17 million a year (the same as the SEC), AND Texas would be free to pursue their own TV network, which would apparently make them an additional $3-$5 million a season. Add to that the reportedly $20 million in fees Nebraska and Colorado would owe the conference for leaving, and you can see how this still looks plenty appealing for Texas.

And of course if it's appealing for Texas, you know the rest of the Big 12 lackeys will be on board since they either a) have to go where Texas goes or b) is better than the alternative of being without Texas either in the MWC or who knows where else?

Well at least it's appealing for eight of the nine other current members whose colors aren't burnt orange: the lone dissenter remains Texas A&M, who also according to Brown have an invite to the SEC if they want it and would have a 6-3 vote from their Board of Regents to accept it if the vote was held right now.

Tough call for the Aggies: stay with what you know, continue your 100 year rivalry with Texas, and continue to cater to the Horns every whim. Or leave for a much tougher conference, but one with more prestige, more money (by adding the Aggies the SEC would add the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio markets, which would assuredly push each team's TV payout north of $20 million a year), and would get them out of the shadow of the Longhorns. Perhaps A&M uses this as leverage to demand a bigger payout from the Big 12, or to balance the TV revenue a little so Texas doesn't get more than everyone else.

While every school is trying to do what's best for them and makes them the most money, this entire process revolves around Texas and everyone has to follow. So I find it interesting that for the second time in a month, the Horns have managed to push the onus and blame onto someone else for what happens to the Big 12, knowing full well that regardless of the outcome Texas will still come out better than anyone else.

Stay tuned. E! is still saying this morning that Texas, OU, OSU and Texas Tech are bound for the Pac 10. I tend to trust Brown's reporting on this a lot more than E!SPN's, but until an official announcement is made, we'll hear a lot of differing opinions on what will happen.

We do know there will be Board of Regents meetings at Texas and Texas Tech tomorrow, A&M regents meet Thursday, and the Texas Legislature has called a hearing for Wednesday to try and get attention- I MEAN to work for the best interests of their wallets- I MEAN to work for the best interests of the state universities and their tax payers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Some Expansion Questions to Ponder

With Colorado officially off to the Pac 10 and Nebraska's "official" announcement about moving to the Big Ten expected today, college football is in a state of flux that we haven't seen in...well probably ever. So many scenarios, so many possibilities, so many different takes on what could happen. After reading a LOT of informed opinions this morning with the opening match of the World Cup on in the background, I have a few expanded related questions...


Unless I'm missing something, the answer is unequivocally NO. The Big Ten made a solid addition with Nebraska and will now be able to get their coveted championship game with 12 teams. Without question they are stronger now than before, and are the most stable, profitable conference in all of college football. So for me, it makes no sense whatsoever to continue expanding if it doesn't include Notre Dame or Texas (and for some reason, I am growing less and less enamored with the idea of UT joining us. More on that in a bit). If Texas goes to the Pac 10 and takes the rest of the Big 12 South with them, why does that force the Big Ten to expand?

Let the other conferences fight for the remaining scraps and see what happens. Conference expansion is all about money, and about making MORE revenue for your current members. No other scenario that doesn't involve the Irish or Horns seems like it would make the Big Ten's current members more money, so why bother? If the B10 stops at 12 teams, it does NOT mean the door on further expansion has closed forever. In a year, three years, or five years, the Big Ten is still going to be making a ton of money and will still be a desirable destination for any school not in the SEC, and possibly the Pac 10 (while the potential Pac 16 COULD be a big money maker, there's no way of knowing until it actually happens and we see what the TV revenue looks like). We can still get anyone we want outside of those two conferences just like we could today.

Furthermore, why risk shutting out the Irish entirely just for a quick money grab now? No, if you're expanding beyond 12 it only makes sense to do so with Notre Dame, and if the folks in South Bend aren't quite ready yet, we can wait.


ESPN radio's Colin Cowherd, as well as Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg, have both raised this question, and I have not heard a rational explanation for it yet: really, why does these two schools leaving kill the Big 12? Why couldn't you add two of Utah, BYU, TCU, or Boise State and keep right on trucking? What's becoming evident is that the entire conference revolves around Texas (and primarily around UT), and the Big 12's formation was a shot-gun marriage where the Horns called the shots and have basically been running the thing all along.

So what's really changed by losing two disgruntled members? The conference still has the state of Texas teams and OU, and Texas still has its unequal revenue share: so why isn't that good enough anymore? New Big 12 blogger David Ubben has the simple answer: money. UT is the richest athletic department in the country, yet they're perfectly willing to screw the rest of their Big 12 brethren to get even more.

To me, that was the most ironic-and ridiculous- part of the whole "Pledge Your Allegiance" deadline Texas- I mean the Big 12- imposed on Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado earlier in the week: the Horns were trying to pin the blame for the Big 12 falling apart on these three schools when it's really Texas who's trying to make the whole thing crumble. UT could still make a ton of money by keeping the Big 12 together, but they see a bigger prize available in the Pac 10 or Big Ten (while there's a lot of different scenarios floating about, one that will NOT happen is Texas to the SEC). So out of one side of their mouths Texas is talking about loyalty to the Big 12, out of the other their talking to Larry Scott and Jim Delany in hopes of getting a better deal and screwing the rest of the Big 12. You stay classy, Texas.


What am I missing here? The Aggies and their conservative fan base are a perfect fit in the culture of the SEC, and would be a complete misfit in the Pac 10. Not only that, but while A&M doesn't have quite the pull the Longhorns do, they would still have a ton of fans in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio that would make them, and the SEC, a ton more TV money. As a matter of fact, I don't see how it's possible that A&M could make more revenue in the Pac 10 than the SEC.

So not only does it make more sense financially, culturally, and geographically to join the SEC, but they could also put the screws to their arch-rivals Texas. A&M would get a really sweet deal of their own, and would certainly lessen what Texas was trying to do in the Pac 10. It's a win-win-win for the Aggies.


Rittenberg posed this idea in his latest chat, and I have to say, it makes all the sense in the world: the Big 12 is obligated to provide an automatic qualifier for the BCS every year. So instead of the Mountain West scooping up the remaining Big 12 schools and then petitioning the BCS for a bid, why wouldn't the remaining Big 12 schools just add the Mountain West and voila! they can keep their automatic BCS bid without having to ask for one? I would bet Big 12 commish Dan Beebe and the folks in the Mountain West figured this one out a long time ago, and when the Big 12 South leaves for the west coast, this could happen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Welcome Nebraska!!

It won't be official until Friday, but the first expansion domino has fallen: according to the Chicago Tribune the Nebraska Cornhuskers will join the Big Ten.

And we here at GGFB couldn't be happier! What happens to the Big 12 because of this? Who else, if anyone, will be invited to join the Huskers in Big Ten expansion? For now, who cares? As Stewart Mandel of did, let's take a moment to appreciate the Huskers:

* They're the 4th winningest program of all-time (Michigan is #1, Ohio State #5, Penn State #9)

* They bring THE classiest, most passionate fan base in the country. True story- at home games in Lincoln, Husker fans applaud their opponent before and after the game. In between, they expect Big Red to beat the bejeesus out of them. But don't mistake kindness for weakness: they travel anywhere and everywhere, including a rare trip to Notre Dame stadium a few years ago where Husker fans made up 47% of the crowd in South Bend. Expect more of the same when they visit Big Ten cathedrals like The Big House, the Horseshoe, Happy Valley, and everywhere else. When NU comes to Minneapolis for the first time, the town will be awash in red, and TCF Bank probably will be too.

* They're not quite Notre Dame in academic reputation, but they're AAU members and a research institution. Good enough for me!

* Don't the Huskers just FEEL like a Big Ten school? Like this is where they should have been all along? The crowd, the culture, the midwest proximity just makes Nebraska the perfect fit in the Big Ten.

* They will be insta-rivals with bordermates Iowa, but do you know which Big Ten school has played more games against Nebraska than any other? You guessed it, your very own Golden Gophers! The two have met 51 times, with the first meeting in 1900 and the last in 1990. Minnesota leads the all-time series 29-20-2. Still, we cannot call them "rivals" because the Huskers have won the past 14 meetings (the last in 1990) by a combined score of 553-100. So yeah, we have some work to do to make Nebraska care about us at all.

* Still, I'm saying right here and right now it's time to drop the worthless Governor's Victory Bell "rivalry" trophy we have with Penn State, and create a new one for our first meeting with Nebraska. Nobody on either side- not here or in Pennsylvania- gives a crap about the Minnesota/Penn State trophy or the rivalry. Don't get me wrong, I love to see us play a storied program like Penn State, but it's a manufactured rivalry and trophy. The matchup with Nebraska- despite the drubbings they've handed us the last 40 years- is quite the opposite. There's a ton of history there and one that should be celebrated. Regardless of what else happens in expansion, I would say the chances are VERY strong that Minnesota will end up in the same division as the Huskers and NOT with the Nittany Lions. Minnesota/Nebraska will once again become an annual game like it was for so many years, and it should be celebrated as such. We probably have two years until Nebraska starts competing in the Big Ten, so let's start figuring something out!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Expansion Rumors: Is this the beginning or much ado about nothing?

Most people, myself included, love rumors and speculation and endless possibilities. We love the idea of "What if?" more than what actually happens. It's why where Lebron will end up this summer is getting more attention than the NBA playoffs. It's why SOME people were disappointed with the ending of Lost (and let me just say I'm one of them, and justifiably so. Through 4 seasons the writers had some great ideas and asked some mind-bending sci-fi questions. In season 6 their explanation proved they had no answers for any of it and came up with a story arc that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Island or any of it's crazy sci-fi properties. It was a huge cop-out, but I'll admit, I still really enjoyed the first five seasons. The sixth? Not so much).

Still, it shows that despite some incredible ideas and directions that something could go, usually it doesn't. NBA free agency is another example. In one form or another the NBA offseason is filled with crazy trade rumors and speculation and usually...nothing happens. This year? More of the same I think. Oh sure, somebody like Amare Stoudermire or Joe Johnson could change teams, and perhaps Chris Bosh too. But in the end, I think you'll see Bronbron stay in Cleveland, Wade stay in Miami, and Dirk Diggler stay in Dallas. Maybe Bosh joins DWade in Miami or maybe he gets shipped to the Lakers. Maybe. But because professional athletes overwhelming care more about money than anything else, I think the big boys will stay with their current teams because they can get the most money.

Which brings us to all of the conference expansion rumors that have been swirling since December when Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez and others in the Big Ten starting floating the idea that the conference was thinking expansion again. Don't get me wrong, I'm as intrigued by this stuff as anyone else, especially because as a Gophers fan, whatever happens will impact their teams.

But while I guess a 16 team Big Ten, or the latest rumor of a 16 team Pac 10, is possible, I'd say minor changes are much more likely than major ones. College football is the Old Boys Club of Old Boys Clubs, and none of them are exactly huge risk takers. They are protecting their wealth and status at all costs with a convoluted BCS system that makes less sense, and would probably make them less money, than a playoff. But they still cling to it because it's safe and because they remain in control.

I don't think the parameters of expansion are much different. Yes, the Big Ten has been risk takers, as starting the Big 10 Network was an incredibly bold move that has paid off ridiculously well. So now they're trying to strike while the iron is hot much like, say, Google looking to buy up competitors. It's a shrewd move, and if done correctly, will be another masterstroke from Jim Delaney.

But make no mistake, for EVERYONE involved three things matter over all else- protecting their wallets, their prestige and their control over both. As they've proven with the BCS, the men and women running NCAA schools and college football don't give a damn about competition, they care about making money and whatever you and I as fans will pay to see it, that's what they're going to charge us. While as fans I would love expansion to be about making the Big Ten stronger on the field, remember these are also the same people who helped usher in a 12th regular season game that EVERYBODY uses to schedule a crappy opponent so they can make money and pad their win totals so they can make more bowl games.

As for prestige, I'm talking about their academic standing and the image of the conference. For the Big 12 and SEC this isn't such a big deal, but for the Big Ten and Pac 10, this is a HUGE deal. If you want to join either of these conferences, you're going to not only need to add a lot of value (i.e. new revenue) but also academic standing. This is the part so many people seem to overlook. The Big Ten is the Ivy League of the Midwest, and the school presidents, who have to answer to faculty and donors as well as athletic boosters, are not going to let academics slip in the name of more money. Even more so with the Pac 10 for one simple reason: unless they change this at their meetings coming up, to get accepted into the Pac 10 ALL 10 SCHOOLS MUST APPROVE. The Big Ten I believe needs 8 of 11 votes, but in the Pac 10, if one school doesn't like you, you're not getting in. And there's one school in that conference who really, really, REALLY values academics, and that is Stanford. The Cardinal are NOT going to have their academic standing, and those of the conference they're in, slide in favor of more money. With all of the research, grants, and donors they have, Stanford prints money with or without athletics. So while more money from a new TV deal would be nice, it's not going to come at the cost of what they consider to be a lesser academic school.

Finally, the schools are going to do whatever possible to maintain control over both their revenues and their academic standing. It's why even though both Notre Dame and Texas would make more money by joining the Big Ten, they both won't unless something forces them to because they can still make a lot of money by themselves.

Which bring us to the past Thursday when ran a story-at the same time the Big 12 meetings were about to begin- saying the Pac 10 was going to extend invites to six Big 12 schools: Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado, and Texas Tech.

Is there validity to it? Perhaps, as the article states, both the Pac 10 and some of the schools named aren't exactly denying it. And I know where this takes some people: a 16 team Pac 10, then a 16 team Big Ten adding Nebraska, Mizzou, Rutgers, and one of Syracuse/UConn/Pitt which forces Notre Dame to join and escape the collapsing Big East. While I guess this scenario is possible, I'd say it's more likely Lebron signs with the Timberwolves than this actually playing out.

For one thing- there's not a chance in hell Stanford ever lets Texas Tech into the Pac 10. Ever. Never ever. Not happening. I could be wrong, but even if the Longhorns say they'll join the conference by the Texas Legislature demands Tech goes with them, from everything I've heard and read Stanford values their academics to the point they'd put the kibosh on that. But maybe not.

Bottom line is that everybody involved has been in "wait-and-see" mode. Nobody wants to make the first move. So does this mean the Pac 10 invite rumor is the conference making the first move? Or are they just testing the waters to see what happens and who reacts? I'm guessing it's more of the latter, but then again they see the writing on the wall. They understand completely that's there's only so much TV money to go around and only so many networks that will pay it. Their TV contracts and bowl alliances suck, and they're all coming up for renegotiation, so the time is NOW to build as attractive a package as possible.

So I'm sure their aim is definitely Texas. Creating a cable sports network that would be on basic packages in California and Texas would be huge. Adding the states of Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and possibly Colorado, Oklahoma, and even Utah, would vault them right into third in the college football power structure behind the Big Ten and SEC. Again, all 10 Pac 10 schools need to be in agreement which is why I'm really doubtful they would offer Texas Tech.

Still, in a game that so far has everyone involved in "wait-and-see" mode, it'll be interesting to see if the Pac 10 is simply firing a shot across the bow to see how people react- or if this really is a shot to the heart of the Big 12 that will get this whole expansion process rolling.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things are so bad I'm turning into an optimist

I am a realist. Some would say a pessimist, especially when it comes to Gopher football. I'm one of those crazy people who thinks that with the right coach Minnesota should be able to compete for a New Year's Day bowl birth every season, not just once a century. I advocated firing Glen Mason, and even with all that's happened under Tim Brewster, I still do. I'm believe if Brewster doesn't win seven regular season games this season, he should be fired too. I was anti-Adam Weber last season and do not believe he was ever a 2nd team all-Big Ten quarterback or will be again.

I am a realist, and some would say a pessimist when it comes to Gopher football. But things have gotten so bad and so negative around here, I'm starting to look like an optimist by comparison. I mean, what else can you do with the Sam Maresh news but laugh about it? Heading into the offseason I was SO excited about the potential of our defense, yet since then we've now lost both of our middle linebacker candidates to suspension or academics (although I've heard Tinsley could make it back?), and both of our senior starting safeties- one to suspension and the other to injury. We should get both back, but really who knows? And would it surprise you in the least if it was announced today that Theret was booted off the team and Royston's injury was career-ending?

Yeah, me neither. At this point NOTHING would surprise me when it comes to the Gopher football team. I'm officially prepared for the worst because the worst keeps happening. Maybe having zero expectations is a good thing?

I've also found someone in media who is much more pessimistic about the Gophers than I could ever be- and no, it's not Pat Reusse. It's the college football writers at the Sporting News, who have released their preseason Top 100 rankings. Now, I've said since the offseason you could make an argument for the Gophs being as good as the 7th best team in the Big Ten and as bad as 9th or 10th. But not 11th. There's no way they're in worse shape heading into 2010 than Indiana. Well guess what? The boys at TSN disagree. The Hoosiers are ranked 78th in the country. Illinois is 94th. Our Gophs? 98th. Yep, they think we're going to be the worst team in the Big Ten, and easily one of the worst in the country.

But that's not all: check out the writeup from head writer Matt Hayes, who projects Minnesota to go 2-10 overall and just 1-7 in the Big Ten. I mean that, that is a pessimist right there. Even in my wildest and worst dreams I can't see the Gophs winning less than four games. But TWO?

And Hayes' confidence in this happening is high:
Even if Weber returns to his old form, he can't play defense. There will be too many young guys playing in big games for the first time — and against a brutal league schedule that includes favorites Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The schedule IS the toughest the Gophers have seen in years, but only two wins? Either I'm turning into an optimist or that's just crazy. Also, Hayes apparently thinks Minnesota would have a better chance of winning if they put Eden Prairie's high school team out there instead of Brew's Crew. Check out his positional rankings:

QB (C), RB (D+), WR/TE (C-), OL (B-)

I will not argue with his rankings of the skill positions. Until proven otherwise I'd say those are bang on. I'd even say he's pretty optimistic by giving our offensive line- which was our biggest offensive problem last year- a B-. Hayes, like me and every other Gopher fan, is apparently thinking a year of experience will make them better and serviceable. Let's hope so.

DL (D), LB (C), DB (C-), ST (C)

Now here's where I disagree strongly. As mentioned earlier we are currently without our two senior safeties and our two starting middle linebacker candidates. Yet I still maintain that while our D lacks in experience, this is still going to one of the fastest and most athletic groups we've seen here in a long, long time. Our D-line has so much more potential than a "D" gradeand could really be the strength of the team. Yes, our LB's are definitely hurt by losing Maresh and Tinsley (and by the way, this ranking was given BEFORE the Maresh news broke), but with guys like Keanon Cooper, Mike Rallis and Spencer Reeves, there's still plenty of talent there. The secondary? Michael Carter by himself is better than a C- rating. We will get Royston back from injury, and whatever happens with Theret, we'll be ok at the other safety spot. We ARE thin with depth at corner, but I still see a ton of potential in this group.

So maybe all of this negativity and bad news has made me crazy, or maybe I'm just turning into an optimist, but 6 or 7 wins is a possibility this year. Despite what Matt Hayes says (and I'm sure there's be plenty more pundits who will agree with him), we have the talent on defense this year, and IF our offensive line improves and one of the true freshmen running backs step up, our offense will be much better too. The schedule will indeed be tough, but I can find six or seven wins on this schedule.

And if it doesn't happen and we miss a bowl game, then Tim Brewster is gone and we'll get a better coach. And regardless of what happens this season Adam Weber will be gone too. See? All positive signs. This being an optimist thing isn't so bad after all.