Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Big Ten Expansion: Ready to Reshape College Football Part I

It has been on the minds of many college football fans all offseason, expansion. The Big Ten made it known at the beginning of the year that they were looking to expand their conference ranks and add teams. The number of total teams has been anywhere from 12 to 16. Yesterday it was reported that the Big Ten has extended early offers to four schools: Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers, and Notre Dame. Of course, immediately after the report came out, the Big Ten and the two Big XII schools rushed to deny everything, but you know in this day and age, that doesn't mean much. How this all plays out will change the face of college football.

In terms of the all mighty dollar in TV deals the SEC and Big Ten are on top by a large margin. Average annual income from TV revenue shapes up like this:

Big Ten - $242 Million
SEC - $205 Million
Big XII - $78 Million
ACC - $67 Million
Pac-10 - $58 Million
Big East - $33 Million

In the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC the TV revenue is divided evenly among all schools, while in the Big XII, ACC, and Big East only a portion is divided equally and a portion is based on which schools appear the most on television. Expansion is a way for the Big Ten to make even more money and for schools wanting to join the Big Ten to make more cash.

Here is a look at all four schools and a break down of what they can bring to the Big Ten and if they are likely to jump.

Notre Dame - The Irish have been the apple of the Big Ten's eye for decades and they would love to have them join the conference. However, the Irish are obsessed with sticking to their tradition of remaining an independent in football (they are a member of the Big East in all other sports). If this conference expansion really gets going and the dominos begin to fall all over college football, Notre Dame might just be forced to join a conference or be left out in the cold They also have a huge TV deal with NBC for their home football games, but now since the Big Ten has its own network and TV deal, as well as all the BCS dollars out there, Notre Dame could stand to make even more money as a member of the Big Ten. Notre Dame already has rivalries with a number of Big Ten schools in Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State. Notre Dame might not like it, but they may have to finally put their independent tradition to bed.

Nebraska - The Cornhuskers have long been a strong program in college football. Yes they have had a few lean years recently, but starting with the success last year they are on their way back up to national prominence. Nebraska was an original member of the Big 8 conference with Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. When the Southwest Conference dissolved in 1996, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor joined the Big 8 to form the Big XII conference. While Nebraska was the bell cow for the conference in football through 2001, the power has really shifted to the southern division, namely Texas and Oklahoma. Since the Big XII does not have the revenue sharing system the SEC has and without a major TV deal, Nebraska has begun to feel disenfranchised with the conference and realize they can make more money in the Big Ten. However, Nebraska does not have rivalries with any Big Ten schools so they would be like the new kid on the block. Probably not what a traditional football power like Nebraska would want.

Missouri - Like Nebraska, the Missouri Tigers were a member of the Big 8 and then merged with the Texas schools to become the Big XII. Missouri has also become very disenfranchised with the Big XII and have been looking to bring their school into another conference. Both geographically and football wise, the Big Ten would be the best fit if they jump. Mizzou only has strong rivalries with Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois. Their game with Illinois would become a conference game, and so would the game with Nebraska if they jumped, while Kansas would become a non-conference affair.

Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights as a school bring the least to the table when it comes to athletics. Yes, in 1869 the original Rutgers football team defeated Princeton University 6 to 4 in the first intercollegiate game ever played, but Rutgers football had been the pits for decades until current head coach Greg Schiano made them consistent winners. They had the dramatic win over Louisville on a thursday night in 2006, but really have not been on the national scene since then. What Rutgers brings is the New York city market and the New Jersey recruiting pipeline.

When I look at these four schools I think that Rutgers would definitely jump. I think they weigh too much on the New York market as a college football base, but with eight million people, someone is bound to watch. As for the New Jersey recruiting pipeline, schools have been getting huge recruits from the Garden State for years, including former Vols: Rashad Baker, Turk McBride, Greg Amsler, Bill Duff, Darrin Miller, Carl Zander, and Sterling Henton.

As for the other three schools, I think Missouri is the most likely to go. They look like a Big Ten school in terms of geography and academics. Notre Dame probably should go. I think of them as a Big Ten school more than a Big East school, but they have that tradition they whine about all the time so they probably will not make the move unless they are forced to. Meanwhile, I think Nebraska has too much tied into the Big XII when it comes to football so I think they are the least likely of these four to jump.

So there you have it. Get ready for some shake ups in the college football world. Part II will consist of what I think will happen to all the other teams and conferences if expansion really gets going.


  1. If this happens I expect the SEC to react by going to 16 teams as well, possibly pulling Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Virginia Tech from the ACC. As an ACC fan, that would devastate the conference for football. They would go back to an 8 school conference (which would still own basketball) with not one single football power. The remaining ACC schools would struggle to recruit anyone noteworthy and would become nothing more than a glorified FCS school.

    I think it is bad for the game if the big conferences expand by pulling teams from other big conferences.

  2. I am really hoping that the Big Ten only goes to 12 schools. Then not much will change. Say Missouri makes the jump, I think the Big XII will only grab TCU and then things will calm down.