Big Ten Expansion and the New World Order #2

Having covered the motives of the primary conferences in Part 1, it is now time to look at the various teams that the primary conferences might want. The list of potential candidates for the Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 10 covers most of the Big East and Big 12, Notre Dame, and a few ACC and Mountain West teams. As such, I will just go over every Big East and Big 12 team, as well as Notre Dame some selected ACC and MWC schools.

Big East

Almost every Big East football school can provide something to the Big Ten. However, the Big East football schools are also unable to provide anything to the SEC or Pac 10, with a couple of possible exceptions who might become SEC fringe candidates. Should the Big Ten expand and take one or more Big East schools, it is probable that the conference will fall apart.

The Teams

Rutgers University: Rutgers has uninspiring athletic programs and acceptable but not special academics. However, the Big Ten is interested in expanding the Big Ten Network to New York City and New Jersey, which would result in a lot of new revenue. However, cracking the New York City market is very difficult, as New York City is much more apathetic towards college football than the rest of the country and the primary cable providers in New York City (Time Warner and Cablevision) are generally much more willing to fight with television networks over contracts than Comcast is. As such, it is rather unlikely that Rutgers alone can deliver the New York City television market by itself. However, the potential additions to the Big Ten footprint make Rutgers a prime candidate for expansion.

Syracuse University: Syracuse has a Tier 1 basketball program and a former Tier 1 football program. Their academics are also acceptable to the Big Ten, but not anything special. Syracuse can deliver every market in upstate New York to the Big Ten Network, which is nice, but not game changing by any means. There is also a small chance that Syracuse could deliver the New York City market by itself. Syracuse’s athletics are also strong enough that it could substantially increase the ad revenue earned by the Big Ten, particularly during basketball season. The most likely scenario in which Syracuse is added to the Big Ten is as part of a deal that also brings in Rutgers, which would substantially increase the Big Ten’s chances to add the New York City market.

University of Pittsburgh: Pitt has strong programs in both football and basketball relative to the average Big Ten school. They also have very good academics and are a major research university, which makes them candidate that the university presidents in the Big Ten would love to add, because they would greatly increase the money and opportunities found in the CIC (the Big Ten’s academic consortium, which includes every Big Ten institution and the University of Chicago). Of all the candidates, Pitt is the best cultural and academic fit with the rest of the Big Ten schools. They also could substantially increase the Big Ten’s ad revenue. Unfortunately, Pitt would not expand the Big Ten’s footprint, which means that their inclusion in the Big Ten would bring in virtually no new subscribers to the Big Ten Network, which is a severe negative with regards to their candidacy. As such, Pitt will likely only be considered if the Big Ten chooses to expand to 16 teams and adds some new, big markets with its other expansion choices.

University of Connecticut: UConn is at Syracuse’s level academically and athletically. However, they would bring in a smaller population base than Rutgers or Syracuse and have a weaker link to New York City than Rutgers or Syracuse. In all likelihood, they would only be added if the Big Ten makes an all out push to secure the New York City market, which is unlikely to happen because if the Big Ten cannot take New York City with Rutgers and Syracuse, than UConn probably wouldn’t do much good either.

West Virginia University: West Virginia’s academics are too weak to meet the Big Ten’s standards, which serve to prohibit an invitation. However, their athletics are strong enough that they might be a dark horse for SEC expansion, if the SEC is unlucky with getting teams from the ACC or Big 12, despite their small population base.

University of Louisville: Louisville is in the same boat academically as West Virginia and their football team is weaker than West Virginia’s, so they are probably not even a dark horse candidate for SEC expansion.

University of Cincinnati: Cincinnati’s academics, athletics, and small population base all make it unlikely that any major conference would even put them on an initial list of expansion candidates.

University of South Florida: South Florida is too far away from the Big Ten to be a viable expansion candidate and cannot add anything to the SEC. However, they do have a decent market with Tampa and the surrounding area, which could endear them to any of the lesser conferences.

Big 12

The Big 12 has a very strong core of teams. Unfortunately, they also have numerous schools that add nothing valuable, such as Baylor and Kansas State. Furthermore, the addition of the Texas schools did not go smoothly, as the Texas schools imposed a number of rules that Big 12 North schools like Nebraska and Missouri find distasteful, especially the rules creating unequal revenue sharing. Furthermore, the addition of the Texas schools made one of the most important intra-conference rivalries, Nebraska-Oklahoma, into a bi-yearly event. This served to fracture the loyalty that any of the Big 12 schools felt to each other as the Texas schools joined the conference due to the lack of other options and the Big 12 North schools were angered by the proceedings during the merger, which involved new academic rules and unfavorable revenue-sharing practices, among other things. As such, the conference is highly unstable as pretty much every school would be willing to leave under the right circumstances.

Also important to consider is that the Big 12 has a number of strong bowl tie-ins that do not involve BCS teams, most of which exist because of the Texas teams in the Big 12. Should another conference take a number of the Texas teams, it is quite likely that they would get these bowl tie-ins when the contracts are renewed.

The Teams

University of Texas: Texas is the top target of every major conference. They bring top rate athletics, great academics, and a huge population base. However, luring them into any conference would be difficult. First of all, any potential change in Texas’ conference affiliation would require the approval of the Texas state government. The reason for this is that a large number of people in the state legislature and executive branch are heavily invested in college football teams within the state and these people also determine how much funding the University of Texas receives from the state (which was used by the state government as leverage during the conference realignment that led to the Texas schools joining the Big 12). This effectively means that Texas absolutely cannot leave the Big 12 without ensuring that at least Texas A&M comes with them. Furthermore, because of the political concerns involved, it would make any potential move a lengthy and uncertain process. For these reasons, combined with the wealth of the Texas athletic department (the wealthiest in the nation), it is likely that any move by Texas would be a reaction to moves by other Big 12 schools out of the conference. Finally, Texas will refuse to join the SEC because its administration and alumni base consider the SEC’s academics to be far too weak to be associated with. The Texas alumni have also demonstrated more willingness to join the Pac 10 than the Big Ten for a variety of reasons, including the culture, the chance to play USC every year, and a fear of cold weather games.

Texas A&M University: Texas A&M will only make a move if Texas does. If it is possible, Texas A&M will join whichever conference Texas moves to. In the incredibly improbable situation in which it is not possible, they will join the SEC. That said, the academics at Texas A&M are good enough for the Big Ten or Pac 10 to take them. Their athletics and population base would also be a boon, even without Texas.

University of Oklahoma: Oklahoma is the most feasible SEC target, with a Tier 1 football program and a decent basketball program. It is somewhat unlikely that they will leave the Big 12 if the conference remains as it currently is, but should any major team make a move and the SEC choose to expand, then Oklahoma is an all-but-certain addition. Oklahoma’s academics are too far below Big Ten standards to merit consideration by the Big Ten and their location combined with a lack of population makes the Pac 10 infeasible as well.

University of Nebraska: Nebraska has a great football program, a below-average basketball program, and academics that are barely good enough to get into the Big Ten. However, Nebraska’s strong football program and fan support means that they are a very valuable school financially, as Nebraska games generally draw high ratings, despite their low population base. Also, Nebraska, like most of the Big 12 North, is unhappy with the unequal revenue sharing in the Big 12. Additionally, there are a lot of hard feelings between Nebraska and the Texas schools as a result of disagreements between the schools when the Big 8 admitted the Texas schools, most of which were decided by awarding the Texas schools whatever they wanted, be it rule changes or revenue-sharing plans. Thus, the ties between Nebraska and the Big 12 are rather weak, especially since their rivalry with Oklahoma ceased to be played every year. Therefore, Nebraska is likely near the top of the list of schools targeted by the Big Ten and Big Ten expansion would likely involve them.

University of Kansas: Kansas has a mediocre football program, a top basketball program, and academics similar to Nebraska’s. They would also add a moderate population base and a fair amount of ad revenue. They are potential Big Ten target and a dark horse Pac 10 target should the Pac 10 expand to 16 teams. Kansas also is likely to be willing to leave the Big 12 for greener pastures, although they have not shown as much resentment over Big 12 revenue sharing practices as Nebraska or Missouri. However, because they would not add a large population base, it is somewhat unlikely that they would be included in expansion if Nebraska is, because expanding the Big Ten’s footprint is a surer method of increasing the Big Ten Network’s revenue and the Big Ten is not very likely to take the risk of relying on above average revenue from multiple schools, particularly when one of the schools does not have a strong football program.

University of Missouri: Missouri has decent football and basketball programs, academics comparable with Nebraska’s, and a reasonably large population base (the largest in the Big 12 outside of Texas). Furthermore, Missouri has been more vocal about its dissatisfaction with the Big 12 than any other school and has already indicated that they will leave for the Big Ten if they get an invitation. Missouri, like Kansas, is a secondary target for the Big Ten. However, they are generally viewed as a safe pick for expansion and would likely be involved should the Big Ten expand to 16 teams.

University of Colorado: Colorado’s decent football program and population base have made them a target for Pac 10 expansion. Should the Pac 10 be unable to add Texas and Texas A&M, it is likely that Colorado would be the prime target of the Pac 10, an invitation that they would almost certainly accept. However, if the Texas schools wind up in the Pac 10, it becomes substantially less likely that they will add Colorado, as it may well prove unprofitable for them on a school-by-school basis to add anyone else.

Texas Tech University: Texas Tech would only leave the Big 12 if the other Texas schools did, for both political and financial reasons. Their football team is decent, as is their basketball team. They would be a dark horse SEC candidate, should the SEC be unable to capture Texas A&M and wish to expand into Texas anyway. While Texas Tech alone could not deliver the Texas market to a conference, the strength of SEC football combined with the inclusion of a Texas school might be enough for the SEC to capture a portion of the television markets in Texas.

Baylor University: Baylor is in virtually the same position as Texas Tech, only with a terrible football program. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a major conference would even consider adding them.

Oklahoma State University: Oklahoma State has mediocre athletics, subpar academics, and a very small population base. Unless Oklahoma decides to drag Oklahoma State with them into a new conference, they will almost certainly not make it to a major conference. As Oklahoma has relatively weak ties with Oklahoma State and does not deliver a sizeable population base into any new conference, it is highly unlikely that they would have the clout or the willingness to help Oklahoma State out.

Iowa State University: Iowa State has subpar athletics, mediocre academics, and a small population base. They are not a contender to join a major conference.

Kansas State University: Kansas State has some recent athletic success, but for most of its history has been terrible at football and basketball. Their population base is restricted to the state of Kansas (unlike Kansas, which could probably add Kansas State) and would add little ad revenue to any conference. Furthermore, their academics are subpar. They are at best a dark horse Pac 10 candidate, should the Pac 10 undertake massive expansion. In all likelihood, they’ll be left to fend for themselves.


The ACC is the most stable conference financially outside of the Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 10. However, some teams in the ACC are potential targets of the major conferences and deserve to be mentioned in this discussion.

The Teams

Florida State University: Florida State is a likely SEC target. Although they would not add to the SEC’s geographic footprint, they have a strong football program and are a good cultural fit. Florida State has moderately strong ties with the ACC athletically and its faculty would probably favor remaining in the ACC for academic reasons. That said, there is a pretty good chance that Florida State would go to the SEC anyway because of the financial incentives.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Virginia Tech is a possible SEC target. They would increase the geographic footprint of the SEC and provide a strong football program, but the SEC may see Virginia Tech as being too isolated from the rest of the SEC to be a good candidate. Furthermore, Virginia Tech may not be able to add much of a population base, as the nearest large city they could feasibly add is Washington D.C., which currently follows Virginia Tech football somewhat closely, although that is partially due to their affiliation with the ACC. Virginia Tech would also be hesitant to join the SEC for academic reasons and, more importantly, their ties with the University of Virginia.

Boston College: Boston College has been mentioned as a dark horse Big Ten candidate. They would likely leave for the Big Ten if invited, but have several deficiencies. First of all, they would not add much outside of the Boston TV market, which is not a good market for college football. Second of all, they are a poor academic fit with the Big Ten, as they are a liberal arts college that does not do much with research. Finally, they are a poor cultural fit with the Big Ten, as they are a New England-based private liberal arts school, as opposed to the bigger Midwest state schools that dominate the Big Ten.

University of Maryland: Maryland would be a good academic and cultural fit with the Big Ten and add a large population base. They also have a dormant rivalry with Penn State that could easily be revived and would fit athletically. However, they are very loyal to the ACC and would likely turn down a Big Ten invitation despite the financial incentives, which would be somewhat blunted as the vast majority of alumni would hate the move.

Mountain West

Of the Mountain West schools, both Utah and BYU are potential candidates to join a BCS conference. They would both leave in a heartbeat and have decent academics.

The Teams

Brigham Young University: BYU has decent academics, a strong football program, and a decent basketball program. They deliver a fairly large population base between Utah and a large portion of the Mormon population in the United States. However, their chances of joining the Pac 10 are small, as it is doubtful that Cal or Stanford would consent to their admission into the conference for cultural reasons (BYU is considered one of the most conservative schools in America, while Cal and Stanford rank among the most liberal).

University of Utah: Utah has decent academics and fairly strong athletics. They are also a much better cultural fit with the Pac 10 than BYU. Unfortunately for Utah, they only deliver the state of Utah, which is still not very big, although they are one of the fastest growing states in the country. Utah will likely only be invited to the Pac 10 if the Texas schools will not come and the revenue generated by the additions of themselves, Colorado, and a championship game increase revenue more than the singular addition of Colorado.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame gets its own heading because they are an independent. And they really like being an independent and will exercise every option they can to retain their independence. The Big Ten would welcome Notre Dame into the conference if they were willing to come for all sports, but the only way that will happen is if the combined pressure of the Big Ten and Big East creates a situation where Notre Dame’s basketball and Olympic sports teams would be left without a viable home unless they join the Big Ten. As Notre Dame has indicated that they would be willing to be a part of a conference that is weaker than the Big East for sports other than football to retain football independence, this is not likely to happen.

The next installment of this series will cover a number various scenarios of how conference realignment could play out, including what would happen to the ACC, Big 12, Big East, and the other conferences. However, for the fun of it, I will now write out what I consider the most probable results for the Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 10:

Big Ten additions: Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, Nebraska, Missouri

SEC additions: Oklahoma, Florida State

Pac 10: Texas, Texas A&M

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