Big Ten shoots down expansion yet again

May 5, 2009

"Do I need to turn this up for you, commissioner Delaney??"

"Do I need to turn this up for you, commissioner Delaney??"

The big news from the Big Ten conference this week is the once-again refusal to expand the league into a 12-team, two-division conference. This issue has been tackled several times since the BCS was created as a way to determine the national championship in college football. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, who blogs all things Big Ten, sums up the pro and cons of expansion best:

PROS

  • A 12th member ensures a championship game, which would bring in revenue and exposure for a league that often becomes an afterthought after Thanksgiving.
  • Regardless of whether it helps the teams, a championship game would be a marketing boon for the league. Fan support is not a problem in the Big Ten.
  • Big Ten teams heading to BCS bowls would have the same layoffs as their opponents in those games. Ohio State didn’t play for 50 days before crumbling in the 2007 national title game against Florida, which had only 36 days off.
  • A 12th member could expand the Big Ten’s brand to another region of the country, possibly even the New York/New Jersey market with Rutgers or Syracuse. Expansion also could reignite old rivalries like Penn State-Pitt.

CONS

  • The division alignment could present problems, and scheduling might be an even bigger headache than it already is. Annual rivalries could disappear or be marginalized. Would one division include Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State? How do you split them up? There might be a lesson to be learned with the Big 12 South last year.
  • The 12th member can’t just be a fit for football, but also for other sports as well as academics, geography, etc. Notre Dame is the obvious fit, but the Big Ten twice tried to add the Fighting Irish, and it didn’t work. There isn’t another school nearly as obvious as Notre Dame, which, from a business perspective, has no reason to relinquish its independent status.
  • As Delany points out, it’s important to study other leagues that have expanded and added championship games. Is the ACC really better off with more teams and a title game? The Big Ten still plays more BCS bowl games than any other league and gets its teams to the national title game.

Living in SEC country, I constantly hear about how overrated the Big Ten is and how no one outside of the Midwest really cares about the conference or its teams. Nevermind the fact that Michigan has the largest alumni base in the country, ahem, ahem. When football teams stop playing before Thanksgiving and resume competition after the New Year, people generally stop tuning in. When sorting through the pro and cons as mentioned by Mr. Rittenberg (who has my dream job by the way), I think its easy to say that expansion needs to happen. The Big Ten seems to be a step or two behind the other power conferences these days, and creating the two-divisioned league would help bring the the league up to speed with most of the other of the conferences. Adding another quality opponent to the schedule will also help the teams in the league with thier RPI. Imagine the positive implications if say a Michigan or an Ohio State were forced to drop a team such as Appalachian State or Youngstown State from its schedule and instead played a Pittsburgh or a Rutgers. League strength of schedule would go up across the boards and help the conference’s top-tier teams inflate their overall BCS scores. Of course, as mentioned above, Notre Dame would be the ideal candidate. Geographic location, academics and football tradition aside, Notre Dame already has a solid rivalry with many teams in the league. Imagine being able to not only look forward to the ND-UM or ND-MSU games, but also what if Notre Dame had to play in the Shoe? Or if the Irish had to travel to Happy Valley for a night-time WhiteOut? Television ratings would be out of this world for these “dream” matchups. But we all know Notre Dame is too smart (i.e. greedy) for this. For one, the Irish have the best deal in the world. They have their own television coverage with NBC (NotreDame Broadcasting Channel) and have special clauses in the BCS rules that allow them easier access to play in the BCS games. And of course, if they joined the Big Ten, they would be forced to sacfrice their traditional rivalries with powerhouses such as Navy and Air Force. Right…..

Expansion needs to happen one way or another. For the Big Ten to start getting the national credibility and recognition it deserves, the athletic directors along with Big Ten commish Jim Delaney need to find a school who fits along with the Big Ten criteria and make it their number one priority in the next few years. Sad to say however, that it seems as though Joe Paterno will never live to see the day this occur.

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2 Responses to “Big Ten shoots down expansion yet again”

  1. Gamecock22 said

    I agree, as for the Pac-10 model that’s not what I think any conference should want to be like

  2. Jamie said

    I don’t know man, if ND won’t play, I doubt you’ll get a Pitt or Syracuse to join. hard to imagine any Big East or Big 12 team joining. If I could choose someone other than ND, it’d have to be Pitt, Iowa St. or maybe Cincy. Adding a school from another state just doesn’t make sense to me….except for the whole exposure factor.

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