Showing posts with label Conference Realignment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conference Realignment. Show all posts

Conference Realignment: The Big 12 Survives

The Big 12 will survive with ten teams as Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and others have pledged to remain in the conference. This has been confirmed by ESPN and other outlets. The question now is why Texas and Texas A&M chose to stay in the conference.


Understanding Texas A&M's decision is easy. Courtesy of Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com:
...sources say UT officials have vowed that if A&M turns down its invitation to the Pac-10, breaks away from UT and goes to the SEC, Texas won't schedule the Aggies in anything anytime soon.
Texas A&M's athletic identity revolves around hating Texas. Ending the rivalry with Texas would likely be detrimental to Texas A&M in the long term as losing its only important rivalry would weaken fan support. To put it another way, Texas A&M losing its rivalry with Texas would be like Michigan State losing its rivalry with Michigan, only worse.

Meanwhile, Texas has two compelling reasons to stay in the Big 12. Firstly, by staying in the Big 12, they maintain maximal flexibility as they can go to any conference of their choice while having a huge amount of power over the Big 12. Secondly, they can form the Longhorn Sports Network, which would not be an option in the Big Ten or Pac 10. And if the network doesn't result in a major financial windfall, the Big Ten and Pac 10 are both fall back options.

Conference Realignment: Texas A&M

Once again, Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com has important news on conference expansion, namely that Texas A&M now intends to join the SEC. Assuming this is true*, this has the potential to completely change the conference realignment picture. Previous reports had indicated that the remaining five Big 12 invitees would announce that they too were joining the Pac 10, possibly as early as next week. Should Texas A&M decide to break ranks and join the SEC, then it becomes an open question as to what Texas and Oklahoma will do.


First of all, it is important to note that Texas A&M going to the SEC does not necessarily kill the Pac 10 deal. The Pac 10 would simply replace Texas A&M's invitation with Utah, a deal that would still be appealing financially while allowing Texas and Oklahoma to be in the same conference. At the same time, it should also be noted that by losing Texas A&M for Utah, the difference financially between the Big Ten and Pac 10 grows, and Texas' incentive to go to the Pac 10 to maintain traditional rivalries drops. Meanwhile, should Texas A&M be able to move to the SEC, it could well signify that the Texas legislature does not intend to intervene too much in conference realignment.

Also important is that Oklahoma and the SEC have a mutual interest as well, and it seems likely that if Oklahoma manages to dissociate from Oklahoma State, then they will join the SEC. Should Oklahoma manage to do this, then the Pac 10 invitation to Oklahoma State would almost certainly be revoked, as Oklahoma State does not bring in anything close to the amount of money as Oklahoma would.

This all leaves Texas in an interesting position. Texas could still easily go to the Pac 10, but recent events have made it somewhat more likely that the Big Ten would be a viable option from a political standpoint. And if the Big Ten is politically viable, then it is quite likely that Texas will go there, as the Big Ten has a superior financial situation and the academic benefits of the CIC. And if Texas goes to the Big Ten, this greatly increases the chances that the Big Ten could get Notre Dame. And as I have stated previously, this is likely the best case scenario for the Big Ten. In fact, it would not be surprising if the Big Ten and SEC were working together to destabilize Pac 10 expansion, as it would allow both conferences to profit as the SEC would almost certainly get Texas A&M and Oklahoma, while the Big Ten would get Texas, rather than let those three schools go to the Pac 10.

*It should be noted that, as a writer for Texas' Rivals site and the Texas beat writer for the Dallas Morning News, Brown's sources are most likely coming from Texas and not Texas A&M. As such, these reports may well be secondhand and not necessarily accurate. Nevertheless, he's been much more accurate than most on this topic and deserves the benefit of the doubt.

UPDATE: Texas A&M's Rivals affiliate is now reporting that Texas A&M turned down the Pac 10's offer. The article is behind a paywall, but the information is in the header. Conflicting reports from others, as summarized by the Dallas Morning News.

UPDATE 2: Per Chip Brown's Twitter: Texas A&M refutes his report. The original source came from outside Texas A&M.

UPDATE 3: Orangebloods.com now reports that Texas is willing to stay in the Big 12 and will commit to the conference as early as today. His track record, however, is not looking as good recently.

UPDATE 4: ESPN has a conflicting report stating that Texas to Pac 10 is imminent.

Conference Realignment: Boise State

Per ESPN: Boise State has joined the Mountain West. The story is still developing and I'll update this later today.


UPDATE: First of all, a link. Second of all, this move was pretty much automatic once Colorado went to the Pac 10. Assuming that the MWC has no real interest in Baylor, they'll only be competing with the Big East for the Big 12 refugees after this phase of expansion. And Boise State isn't taking a spot that another school could theoretically fill.

Conference Realignment: Colorado

According to numerous reports (they can be summarized here), Colorado already has a Pac 10 invite in hand and may officially accept the invitation as early as today. I previously analyzed this move here. I'll try to get another update up this evening.


UPDATE: Boulder's newspaper, the Daily Camera, reports that the official announcement will be made on Friday at 11 AM MST (1 PM EST).

Conference Realignment is OFFICIALLY On

According to Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com, the Omaha World Herald, SportsCenter, and others, Nebraska is going to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten on Friday. Meanwhile Chip Brown has also stated that six Big 12 schools, (not including Baylor) are likely to accept the Pac 10's invitation very soon. Meanwhile, Missouri is not being invited at this time, as the Big Ten has apparently decided that they think they can do better. Summary of today's events can be found here.


Obviously, these moves, assuming they go forward, will reshape college athletics as we know it. Furthermore, they are not necessarily the last moves that occur during this phase of conference realignment. I will cover these moves and their ramifications in more detail if and when they become official. For now, however, I will summarize the winners and losers from the aforementioned moves:

Winners
  • Pac 10: The Pac 10 will capture two top level football programs and they project that each school in this arrangement will receive $20 million a year, which is comparable to the Big Ten and SEC.
  • Big Ten: The Big Ten gets a top flight football program to strengthen its football conference and network, while leaving itself plenty of room to maneuver.
  • Nebraska: Their revenue is about to nearly double and they get to join a stable conference.
  • Colorado: Colorado gets to join a conference that they greatly prefer to the Big 12.
  • Texas Tech: Texas Tech also finds a home, thanks to Texas state politics.
  • The Big East and Mountain West: Both conferences get to pick at the scraps of the Big 12, which could get the Mountain West a BCS bid and revenue and save the Big East.

Losers
  • Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, and Missouri: These schools are left twisting in the wind hoping for mercy. This is especially crushing for Missouri, who openly courted was anticipating a Big Ten invite (which they shouldn't have, if they were using their brains).
  • SEC: The SEC loses the A-list of their expansion targets, as expanding their geographic footprint becomes much more difficult and they lose out on the Texas market. If the SEC decides to expand, they'll have to raid the ACC or the Big East.
  • Boise State: A Mountain West invite just became a lot less likely.

Expansion Notes: 6/8/10 UPDATED 6/9/10

Expansion rumors have run rampant the past couple days. There has been a lot of speculation on whether the Big Ten is going to invite Nebraska and Missouri this week, the specifics of the deadline given to Missouri and Nebraska, whether the Big Ten intended to wait for Notre Dame before inviting anyone, and whether a 15-person bloc in the Texas state legislature, combined with lobbyists, could replace Colorado with Baylor in the list of Pac 10 invitees.

If this report from Orangebloods.com is correct, the answer to the last question on the list is no. Orangebloods.com, who broke the story on the Pac 10's plan to invite six Big 12 schools, is now reporting that C0lorado is going to make a major announcement tomorrow after a special meeting of the regents today, and that the announcement will likely be that Colorado will be accepting an invitation to the Big 12. Assuming that this is true, then it is an excellent move by both Colorado and the Pac 10. It would preemptively kill any chance of Baylor gaining sufficient momentum to replace Colorado on the list of Pac 10 invitees, something that the Pac 10 would be very hesitant to do even if it was the only way to get Texas, and changes the debate in the Texas state legislature from whether or not to push for Baylor to replace Colorado to whether or not to damage the three public schools in the Big 12 by forcing them to stay for Baylor's sake.* It also puts a lot of strain on the Big 12 as it loses a major television market, which could lead the other Big 12 schools that are sitting on the fence to decide to leave. And even if the other Big 12 schools decide to stay put, then they can go to their Plan B and invite Utah, thus expanding to 12 teams. Or they can do what the Big Ten does now and have 11 teams.

Of course, this all could be completely off base. It may well be that the announcement has nothing to do with athletics at all. Or maybe the Big Ten invited Colorado. OK, probably not that last bit.

*There is a third option, namely attempting to get all the Texas schools into the SEC. However, Texas is guaranteed to balk at that so it is almost certainly not realistic.


UPDATE: The Denver Post has reported that Colorado has yet to be invited, so this is completely premature. Nevertheless, I still think it makes sense to invite Colorado regardless in order to preempt the Baylor issue.

UPDATE 2: The Omaha World-Herald has reported that Nebraska may join the Big Ten as early as Friday, citing sources from other Big 12 schools. Nebraska has yet to confirm this and the paper in question hasn't exactly been great in its expansion coverage, but then again they're primary job is covering Nebraska. Take it for what it's worth.

Expansion Notes: 6/6/10

For the next few weeks, I will be posting on conference expansion/realignment news as quickly as I can process it. I will not be writing posts in series on this topic, as I have in the past, for a while as it would be impractical.

At this point, making sense of conference realignment is highly difficult. It seems clear that the Pac 10, Big Ten, and Big 12 are about to make some major decisions. Forces that previously operated outside the public eye, most notably the Pac 10 office and Texas state politicians, are now in the open, while others are still working behind the scenes. As such, very little about the situation is clear.

To begin with, we do know the following:

Also worth looking at are the opinions of the various fanbases with regards to what they think their school with regards to conference realignment:
  • Texas A&M fans believe that their school would rather go to the SEC than the Big Ten. This has been echoed elsewhere.
  • Missouri and Nebraska fans believe that their respective schools want to go to the Big Ten.
  • Texas fans believe that Texas wants the Big 12 to remain intact, as has been echoed by their athletic director. However, they are split over whether Texas would prefer going to the Big Ten or Pac 10 if given the choice.
  • Kansas fans believe that the Kansas state legislature has hitched Kansas State to Kansas with regards to conference affiliation. They do not know if this will still be the case if the Big 12 collapses.
And of course, there are a large number of unknown factors in this situation. The immediately pertinent among these are:
  • Whether the Big Ten intends to invite Nebraska and/or Missouri.
  • What the nature of the deadline imposed on Nebraska and Missouri actually is. If the other ten Big 12 schools all prefer to keep the conference intact, then they are likely trying to force Nebraska and Missouri to make a decision quickly in the hopes that they will not be able to negotiate a deal with the Big Ten before the deadline. If the schools believe that there's a fair chance they would not be invited, then they would be more likely to stay with the Big 12. On the other hand, it could be a threat made by Texas alone to Nebraska backed up by the threat of leaving the conference if they don't make a decision on their timetable.
  • How much power does the Baylor bloc in the Texas state legislature actually have. On the one hand 15 legislators in a House of 150 isn't necessarily a gamebreaker at first glance, but if they are either in a disproportionately powerful position with respect to realignment or if the legislature as a whole is buckling on the issue, then they can become a major force.
  • Have all of the Pac 10 schools signed onto the plan to invite the six Big 12 schools.
Now, there is not a whole lot that can be immediately inferred from the available information. One thing that is clear though, is that Baylor will almost certainly not be invited to the Pac 10, regardless of what the Texas legislature wants. First of all, Baylor is a highly religious, right-wing institution that Pac 10 schools like Stanford and Cal-Berkeley would not be comfortable with. Second of all, the Pac 10 commissioner appears to have ruled out inviting BYU in favor of Utah, despite the fact that BYU has a much larger fanbase and a longer and stronger athletic tradition. The likely reason for this is BYU's religious affiliation. Finally, even without the religion issues, substituting Baylor for Colorado dramatically reduces the potential profit the Pac 10 could make from expansion. The reason for this is that the expansion plan with Colorado would increase the number of television viewers per school in the Pac 10. Substituting Baylor for Colorado would cause this number to decrease. This is important because viewers per school is one of the most important metrics to consider when forming a conference network (the other is ad revenue).

Finally, if I had to guess, I would say that the Big Ten intends to invite Nebraska into the conference, but not Missouri. In my opinion, Nebraska is a good candidate by any metric, whereas Missouri is not. Furthermore, taking Nebraska would destroy the Big 12 (this thought has been echoed by the Texas athletic director), allowing the Big Ten to try to get better targets in the Big 12 (such as Texas) before settling for Missouri if necessary. In the meantime, guessing beyond this is relatively pointless, considering that things are now happening very quickly and anything true today could change tomorrow.

Big Ten Pac 10 Expansion and the New World Order: Part 1

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series (length TBD) regarding the Pac 10’s impending invitations to six Big 12 schools and the potential effects of this invitation on conference realignment in general.

A couple of days ago, OrangeBloods.com reported that the Pac 10 is going to invite six Big 12 schools to join the conference, namely Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. Several sources including the Colorado athletic director, Texas A&M athletic department, and most importantly the Washington athletic director have confirmed this. This move has put the Big 12, as well as the rest of the FBS conferences, into a state of disarray, with a lot of rumors flying and a dearth of hard facts.

What we do know is that the Big 12 is in trouble. Most of the Big 12 schools appear to be willing to leave the conference for greener pastures and the only schools that aren’t are schools like Kansas and Iowa State who would be hard-pressed to find a home in another BCS conference. We also know that both the Big Ten and Pac 10 want Texas, as indicated by the Big Ten’s communications with Texas as shown by the communications unearthed by the Columbus Dispatch.

With little information publicly available, I can only speculate on what’s actually going on with the major players in conference realignment. However, using that information and some simple, logical assumptions about the primary motivations of the various players involved (i.e. make as much money as possible while maintaining beloved traditions and their own standards), I can paint a picture of what may be happening.

First of all, based on the email unearthed by the Dispatch, it seems clear that Texas anticipates major political difficulties in attempting to change conferences without finding Texas Tech a home (the same applies to Texas A&M too, FWIW). Based on the general opinion of their fanbases, Oklahoma and Kansas appear to have similar problems with Oklahoma State and Kansas State, respectively. From this, it seems that the likely motives of the Pac 10, namely to get Texas into the conference and get the necessary ingredients for a strong and successful television network.

The key piece of this expansion plan is clearly Texas, which would deliver a huge fanbase and a very strong athletic program. Texas fans have indicated, by a relatively narrow margin, that if they had to change conferences, they would go to the Pac 10 over the Big Ten. However, the Big Ten can offer Texas more TV revenue than the Big Ten and admission to the CIC, which would, in theory, greatly increase the amount of research money that Texas gets from the federal government and other sources. The Pac 10 almost certainly cannot match the Big Ten’s academic and financial advantages, but their actions show that they intend to counter these by offering athletic and political incentives. From an athletic standpoint, the Pac 10 is offering six Big 12 schools, including Texas’ main rivals, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, another biannual road game within easy driving distance. Meanwhile, the invitation to Texas Tech is helpful because it removes a major political obstacle in changing conferences by ensuring that Texas Tech has a home. Meanwhile, they ensure that Oklahoma, another relatively valuable team, can come to the Pac 10 by inviting Oklahoma State and round off the move by inviting Colorado to get to sixteen teams.

Also important is that this move allows for the creation of a very strong Pac 10 Network. If the teams accept the invitation, The Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma networks will be added to the Pac 10 footprint, and the network could easily spread to basic cable throughout the west. Meanwhile, the conference would also add two top tier football programs in Texas and Oklahoma, as well as a good program in Texas A&M and newly strong programs in Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The overall strength of these teams will allow for numerous compelling games on the Pac 10 Network, meaning that in addition to a very large population base, the network would be able to get a ton of ad revenue.

Part 2 will cover the potential responses by the Big Ten and the SEC to this move by the Pac 10.

Big Ten Expansion and the New World Order #5: Best Case Scenarios

There are a number of goals that the Big Ten has with regard to Big Ten expansion. As I understand it, the three main goals, in order of priority, are thus:

1. Make more money via the Big Ten Network.
2. Improve the CIC by adding high-level research institutions (which would make more money on the academic side).
3. Improve the level of athletic competition within the conference (which leads to better games, which leads to better television ratings and attendance, which makes more money through BTN ads, ticket sales, and renewed contracts with national sports networks like ESPN and CBS).

Looking at these goals, I would infer that the best-case scenario is to make the Big Ten Network into a national television network carried on basic cable, while adding top rate academic and athletic institutions. The resultant question, of course, is whether or not this can actually be done.

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to attempt to figure out the optimal selection of feasible additional schools in order to accomplish these goals and then attempt to determine whether this selection of schools would be adequate. To do so, we need to consider and prioritize the desirable attributes of potential candidates and use them to evaluate possible candidates for expansion.

Criteria for Selecting Among the Big Ten Expansion Candidates:

1. Size of fanbase—The most important factor of any potential candidate is the size of its fanbase. If a school’s fanbase is small, as is the case with schools like West Virginia, then adding them does no good because they will not produce many viewers for a game and by extension, they will not add much revenue to the Big Ten Network. Nor will they be very appealing with regards to producing nationwide (or even regional) broadcasts because the ratings will be much lower than for other upper-tier programs.

2. Strength of football program—Adding strong football programs is key for the Big Ten. Strong football programs have two features that are important with regard to expansion. First of all, strong football programs typically have more devoted fanbases, meaning that they bring in stronger support on a local basis and draw more attention from their alumni. As such, fanbases of stronger programs are generally more likely to petition their local cable companies to add the Big Ten Network, which provides the Big Ten with leverage during negotiations with cable companies. Second of all, strong football programs bring more general interest in their games from a regional and national standpoint, which increases ratings of their game, which in turn increases the amount of ad revenue that the Big Ten Network gets for their games.

3. Strength of academics—Academics are important to the Big Ten for many reasons. First of all, the Big Ten has an academic wing, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), which includes all of the Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago. The purpose of the CIC is to have high-powered research institutions work on collaborative research projects together, which brings in large amounts of money in the form of grants from the federal government and other third parties. The amount of money brought in by athletic departments pales in comparison to the amount of money brought in by research initiatives by Big Ten universities, so there is no chance of the Big Ten inviting any school that cannot pull its weight with regard to getting these opportunities. Incidentally, the alumni bases of these schools are generally found throughout the country, rather than heavily concentrated in their localities, because employers nationwide will recruit graduates of academically high-powered institutions.

4. “Cultural fit”—This is a tricky trait to qualify. Basically, the “cultural fit” of any potential addition is its ability to identify itself as a Big Ten school and act as an equal and integral member of the conference. This is important for the purposes of stability and prosperity. Adding a school that is unlikely to fully identify itself as a Big Ten school over time leads to infighting and instability.

This actually befell the Big 8 when they added the Texas schools and became the Big 12. After joining the conference, Texas did not act as an equal partner. Instead, they used their weight to create a number of rules and administrative changes, including unequal revenue sharing, the move of Big 12 headquarters to Dallas, and higher academic entry requirements, all of which served to alienate most of the other Big 12 schools and led conference loyalty to deteriorate. This story by the San Antonio Times covers the events that led to Texas joining the Big 12, and while it is biased towards Texas’ point of view, it does illustrate the sources of the rifts we see in the Big 12 today.

Currently, while individual Big Ten schools will often have disagreements with each other, they are generally resolved without issue and the conference acts as a unified body, which has allowed the conference to do things like create the Big Ten Network. In order to ensure that this does not happen to the Big Ten, any expansion move should add teams that can develop viable rivalries with other Big Ten teams, not break up any current major rivalries, utilize a system of equal revenue distribution, and allow all members equal input on the running of the conference. Any expansion candidate would have to abide by these measures.

5. Strength of basketball program—The Big Ten is and always has been a football-first league. Furthermore, football programs bring in much more money into the Big Ten than basketball programs. That said, basketball is a revenue producing sport and accounts for a lot of the Big Ten Network’s programming, so adding good basketball programs is beneficial.

6. Strength and Number of Other Varsity Sports—This final category is important in the Big Ten because the Big Ten Network partially fills its airtime with a lot of other live events. It is especially interested in adding other baseball and hockey teams, as those sports bring in decent ratings. Furthermore, an additional hockey team would allow for the immediate creation of a Big Ten hockey conference, or some other type of Big Ten hockey championship, which would involve some of the best hockey programs in the country, including Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.


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Now taking these factors into account, I can now speculate on the best set of additions to the Big Ten, as well as whether these additions would be capable of turning the Big Ten Network into a nationwide television network. It is easy to wipe some oft-named schools immediately, namely Missouri and Rutgers, both of whom have lackluster athletic programs that cannot deliver viewers beyond their immediate localities. The same goes for a number of dark horse candidates, including Boston College, Connecticut and Colorado. Taking the remaining viable to semi-viable candidates, I have Notre Dame, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Maryland. The next step is to evaluate these candidates:

Notre Dame
Pros: Notre Dame has a large fanbase that is a major presence throughout the nation. They have one of the most storied football programs in the country. They also have many competitive non-revenue sports that could draw viewers outside of football and basketball coverage. Notre Dame also has running Rivalries with Big Ten schools Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue.

Cons: While Notre Dame is a cultural fit from the standpoint of being a Midwestern school, their devotion to being an Independent means that the integration of their football team into the Big Ten could prove difficult. Many Notre Dame fans would oppose the move and that discontent could introduce an element of instability into the Big Ten. Also, while Notre Dame’s academics are excellent, they are not a major research institution, nor are they a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), which would be a drawback with regards to the CIC.

Other Notes: Notre Dame’s basketball program has enjoyed somewhat limited success over the years and would be a middle of the road program in the Big Ten.

Nebraska
Pros: Like Notre Dame, Nebraska has one of the most storied football programs in the country. While their fanbase is not necessarily one of the biggest in the country, it is certainly one of the most passionate, meaning that Nebraska’s television ratings have generally been high. Nebraska’s non-revenue sports have been generally strong, including excellent programs in men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics, and women’s volleyball, and nationally competitive baseball and softball teams. Nebraska would be a good cultural fit, as they have a distinctly Midwestern identity and could easily create rivalries with Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan, among others.

Cons: First of all, Nebraska has a terrible basketball program that has never won an NCAA Tournament game. While their football program has historically been a major player on the national scene and is paid attention to by the nation for that reason, the population that is heavily invested in Nebraska athletics is relatively small. Finally, while Nebraska is an AAU member, their academics would rank among the worst in the Big Ten if they joined.

Kansas
Pros: Kansas has one of the most storied basketball programs in the country and is one of the few basketball programs that could be a major financial benefit for the Big Ten Network. Kansas has a decently sized and devoted fanbase. Kansas’ football program is very old and has recently experienced one of the best seasons in its history. Kansas also has a number of longstanding non-revenue sports. Like Nebraska, Kansas would be a very good cultural fit although it would be somewhat more difficult to develop rivalries in the Big Ten.

Cons: For the most part outside of basketball, Kansas’ athletic programs are decidedly mediocre. While Kansas has a decent fanbase, they are not a major presence nationally. Kansas is an AAU member, but like Nebraska, Kansas would be at the bottom of the Big Ten academically. Kansas basketball is followed nationally, but fails to deliver a large geographic area, although it can, in theory, deliver a larger local population than Nebraska.

Other notes: While a number of Kansas’ non-revenue sports have had a lot of success in the past, they have not been doing very well recently.

Texas
Pros: Texas has a huge and very devoted fanbase. Texas’ has one of the most storied football programs in the country. As such, Texas football draws tremendous TV ratings. Texas is an AAU member with very strong academics that are approximately equal to Wisconsin’s. Their basketball program has seen its fair share of success, winning two NCAA titles in the ‘90s (the only in their history). They only have 18 varsity sports, but they are generally excellent, including their baseball program, which is the winningest team in college baseball by any measure (wins, winning percentage, CWS wins, etc.).

Cons: Texas is a questionable cultural fit. If Texas were to join the Big Ten, they would have no natural rivals unless someone joined with them. They would also have to interact as equals with the rest of the Big Ten schools, something they didn’t do in the SWC or the Big 12. Finally, they would have to be committed to the Big Ten forever (for all intents and purposes). All of these are potential pitfalls, assuming that the Big Ten can even get Texas to join in the first place, which is difficult for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to an imperfect fit, state politics, and competition for their services.

Texas A&M
Pros: Texas A&M has all of the pros that Texas has, but to a lesser degree. Their fanbase is large, but smaller than Texas’. They draw good ratings, but worse ratings than Texas. Their academics are good, but not as good as Texas’. And so on and so forth.

Cons: Like Texas, Texas A&M is a questionable cultural fit. However, this is only due to the lack of natural rivals and not being a Midwestern school. It has nothing to do with fears about the school not being willing to interact with the other Big Ten schools on an equal basis.

Notes: For the most part, Texas A&M is to Texas as Michigan State is to Michigan.

Syracuse
Pros: Syracuse basketball, despite only having won one NCAA Basketball championship, is the fifth winningest men’s basketball program of all time. While Syracuse football has struggled recently, their football program is a storied one. Their fanbase is moderately large and has a major presence in New York City. Although Syracuse is a private school and not a Midwestern school, they would still be an adequate cultural fit, as they fall in the same region as Penn State and would have an immediate rival in Penn State, and possibly Illinois as well. While Syracuse doesn’t have a huge number of non-revenue teams, it is worth noting that they have a number of great ones, most notably their men’s lacrosse team. Syracuse is an AAU member.

Cons: Syracuse’s historically strong football team is going through a lengthy streak ranging from appalling to mediocre. While being an AAU member, Syracuse is not a major research university, ranking 199th in the country in terms of research expenditures. Indiana is the last in the Big Ten at 127th. Indiana spends over $100 million a year on research. Syracuse spends under $40 million a year.

Note: For the sake of comparison, Notre Dame ranks 148th, spending over $75 million a year. Syracuse ranks below every other Big Ten candidate that I’ve mentioned and would be a big problem academically.

Pittsburgh
Pros: Pitt has strong football and basketball programs. Their academics are great, both in terms of research and undergraduate education. Of all the candidates under consideration, only Texas is comparable to Pitt academically. Pitt is also an excellent cultural fit with the Big Ten, as they lie within the footprint and have a natural rival in Penn State. Piit has a number of reasonably competitive non-revenue sports, including track and field, wrestling, and volleyball, among others.

Cons: Pitt’s biggest negative is that their fanbase is not particularly big and is located within the Big Ten footprint. It also often fails to fill their stadium, a big negative. Furthermore, while their football and basketball programs are strong, they are not consistently able to bring high levels of attention nationally.

Maryland
Pros: Maryland has a reasonably large fanbase that involves a large portion of the mid-Atlantic region. Their basketball program is very strong, although it has been somewhat mediocre over the past several years. Academically, Maryland is very strong as well. Their non-revenue sports rank among the best in the nation, particularly in soccer and lacrosse.

Cons: Maryland’s football program is not very good. This is a huge problem for the football oriented Big Ten. Furthermore, Maryland has very strong ties to the ACC, making them a potentially poor cultural fit, although Penn State would be a natural rival.

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Looking over the teams in question, two things are immediately clear:

1. Notre Dame absolutely must join the Big Ten if the BTN is to become a national network.

2. Texas absolutely must join the Big Ten if the BTN is to become a national network.

Despite the potential cultural pitfalls both programs represent, they are indispensible because of their athletic programs and fanbases. This leaves Nebraska, Kansas, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Maryland. The Big Ten can take one of these teams, thus expanding to 14, or three, thus expanding to 16.

Of the teams remaining, I do not believe that any fanbase has a large enough national presence to make a substantial impact as to whether the BTN could become a national network. Therefore, I will not consider the size of a fanbase as a major factor when evaluating these remaining candidates. As such, I will move on to the quality of football programs as the most important remaining criteria, as high quality football programs breed national interest, even for fans that have no major stake in the game. Here, Nebraska clearly stands out well enough to overcome the weaknesses of its academics and basketball program. So I will add Nebraska as the 14th team.

Of the remaining candidates, Kansas and Syracuse have top-tier basketball programs, and are good fits, but are very mediocre at football and are weak academically. Pitt and Texas A&M are generally good, but not great athletically and strong academically, but would not add anything new to the conference. Maryland adds a strong, but not elite basketball program, great academics, and great non-revenue sports, but the weakness of its football program coupled with its rather poor cultural fit make Maryland the weakest of the bunch.

I see four options here. First, the Big Ten could add the all-around solid programs of Pitt and Texas A&M. This would provide the Big Ten with an extra interesting conference game each week in football, some more relatively strong basketball programs, and two more good research institutions. Second, the Big Ten could take Kansas and Syracuse, which would make the Big Ten into arguably the best basketball conference in the country. Third, the Big Ten could take a combination of the schools from option 1 and option 2, making the Big Ten a stronger basketball conference without weakening the football side of things. Finally, the Big Ten could do nothing after adding Texas, Notre Dame, and Nebraska.

I actually favor the last option. While it would mean that there would be one fewer conference game per week than there would be in a sixteen-team conference, the number of games between the best teams in the conference would increase. Furthermore, a sixteen-team conference would be a major logistical challenge that could confuse and put off fans, weakening the Big Ten’s brand. Finally, adding any two football programs to a conference that would include the five winningest teams of all time (Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Texas)* would, in my opinion, unnecessarily dilute the conference. And because football is by far the most important sport to television, adding additional basketball programs at the expense of football seems to me to be a poor move. Meanwhile, the addition of Texas is satisfactory from an academic standpoint and Texas and Notre Dame bring in fairly good basketball programs, so the Big Ten shouldn’t be adversely affected in this respect.

The remaining question is whether the Big Ten Network could become a national network if the Big Ten added Notre Dame, Texas, and Nebraska. Unfortunately, I am inclined to believe that the answer is no. While the network could expand substantially, as Notre Dame, combined with Michigan, could theoretically deliver the Northeast and New England, in addition to the ability of Texas and Nebraska to deliver most of the plains states. I could even make a stretch and say that the combination of Notre Dame, Texas, and the overall strength of the conference could deliver the Pacific states and the rest of the western half of the country. However, I simply do not see this network capturing SEC country. None of the Big Ten teams would have a major presence in SEC country and the football fans in the Southeast are much more likely to watch SEC games over Big Ten games because the quality of the regional SEC games would generally comparable to whatever the BTN produces and the regional SEC games would be of greater relevance to the fans there. As such, the demand for the BTN would be very low and cable companies wouldn’t add them.

*Penn State is the 7th winningest team of all time, with 812 wins. Alabama comes in 6th with 813.

OK: so how about a playoff?

If Seth's or any of many predictions for conference realignment come true, the BCS could easily have a playoff to determine the 1 vs 2 matchup for bowl season.

Assuming that the ACC and Big Ten absorb the Big East, the SEC absorbs one or two Big 12 teams, and what's left forms a giant "Big 12-Mountain" conference, that would throw most BCS teams except the indies into five conferences: Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac Ten, and whatever the "Leftoverture" conference (which would, of course, include Kansas) calls itself.

Then, the BCS could easily hold a "qualifying tournament" using the five champions and one at-large team to be taken from indies and/or conferences that aren't in the BCS, such as whatever is left of the CUSA, but not from the losers of conference championship games or teams that didn't win their division. That would "cover their assets" legally and ensure that there would be no antitrust suit. To promote "fairness" and interest, not to mention money, there could even be a play-in game among the "best of the rest" during conference championship week.

The easiest format for the playoff, once the conference championship and play-in games are over, would be to seed the top two champions, selected just as they are now, into the semis and have the other four teams play a quarterfinal round. Then, the semis could be held the next week and the final after the bowls, just as it is now.

Then, the bowls and the title game would look the same, but the two teams in the title game would have had to win a playoff to get in. Would there still be "sour grapes?" Of course there would; that is part of sports. But this would give six (actually 12 counting the conference championship and play-in games, which would be de facto playoff games) teams a legitimate shot at the National Championship after the end of the regular season. And, really, anyone who wasn't a conference champion really wouldn't have much of an agrument under a true playoff system.

Some say it would diminish the regular season to have a playoff, but I say it would do just the opposite. It would encourage a lot better non-conference games because teams would know that an early loss against a great team from another conference wouldn't ruin their chances at making the title game. Those who want to see, for example, Michigan play Georgia or Florida in a non-conference game, might get their wish if the conference champions were guaranteed a berth in the playoff. Also, it would make the conference championships more important than the polls. That would be a major bonus.

It's time for the champion of the NCAA's signature sport and biggest cash cow to be determined where it belongs: on the field. It's also time to stop rewarding teams for playing patsies during the non-conference schedule or for being from a conference that is weak on the field but strong on the computer. A playoff would accomplish both.

Most of all, we would get to see a true champion, and the word "mythical" could officially be removed from "National Champion."

Big Ten Expansion and the New World Order #3

Having covered the motivations of the conferences that are considering expansion and the potential expansion candidates, it is now time to begin looking at some of the plausible results of conference realignment, plausible being the key word here.

First of all, we can throw out any realignment plans that involves the following measures:

  • Any structure of 4 super-conferences that defect from the NCAA.
  • Any conference making a move that will reduce the payouts to individual teams within the conference.
  • Any expansion moves driven solely by the wish to be better than another conference, unless such a move makes long-term financial success.
  • Any move that brings a lower tier academic institution into the Big Ten.
  • Any move that dissolves or splits the Big Ten or SEC.
  • All schools will act out of self-interest first and foremost and will not willingly make any sacrifices.

These principles automatically exclude approximately 96% of the expansion scenarios that can be found via the Internet, including most of those proposed by ESPN and Sports Illustrated columnists. However, there are still quite a number of expansion possibilities, most of which are incredibly unlikely. To limit these, we can impose some logical rules for specific teams and conferences:

  • Texas will not go to the SEC for academic reasons.
  • The SEC will not take northern teams like Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.
  • The Pac 10 will not take any team east of the Mississippi and will strongly favor teams in the Pacific and Mountain West time zones for scheduling purposes.
  • All Big East teams will jump ship at the first possible opportunity.
  • Eastern Conferences will not unite with western conferences.

Now, using these rules, combined with the motivations of the various conferences and teams outlined in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we can begin to forecast different scenarios regarding conference realignment. We can begin by assuming that the Big Ten, Pac 10, and SEC would take Texas and Notre Dame if they want to come. Furthermore, if Texas makes it a condition that Texas A&M come with them, the other conferences would invite Texas A&M too. However, Texas and Notre Dame have shown no inclination to join any other conference, so they will not move unless they are sufficiently pressured.

It follows that the Big Ten would be looking at Big 12 North teams, such as Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. We also know that the Pac 10 has been looking at taking Colorado. It is further likely that the SEC will at least think about looking at some Big 12 South teams, such as Oklahoma. This serves to pressure the Texas schools into finding a new home, particularly if the Big Ten chooses to take a couple Big 12 North teams.

Meanwhile, the Big East is also in a somewhat interesting situation with regard to Notre Dame. As things stand, it also seems somewhat probable that the Big Ten will also expand eastward. This means taking teams from the Big East. Should the Big Ten take more than one team or a highly important team like Pitt, the Big East will collapse. As such, the Big East may consider forcing out Notre Dame, in an attempt to force Notre Dame to join the Big Ten and thus reduce the chance that the Big East will be eviscerated. Even so, it is not necessarily likely that Notre Dame would choose to join the Big Ten, because they still would have options for their non-football sports, although these options would not be as good as the Big East.

Now, with this setup we can speculate on scenarios. To begin with, we will let the Big Ten take two Big 12 North teams. If this were to happen, I personally would bet that Nebraska and Missouri would be taken. Such a move would also require the addition of a 14th team, which could be any Big East target, Notre Dame (if they would come), or even Texas. The most likely Big East addition would probably be Rutgers, who would bring in the biggest population base, although Syracuse and Pitt are also definite possibilities (Pitt would benefit the BTN’s ad revenue and be a boon to the CIC).

Now things begin to get interesting. When faced with the loss of two highly important schools, the Big 12 would be in very bad shape. They could conceivably invite BYU and another team to try to fill the void, but BYU would be the best option on the market, and they would bring a weaker program than Nebraska and a smaller base of viewers than Missouri. This new weakness would put a lot of pressure on every school to ensure its security. At that point, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Colorado could all probably bolt for another conference without much difficulty (although the SEC may not want to take Oklahoma as they are currently locked into the ESPN deal and would have to give Oklahoma a piece of it for years before reaping any benefit). It’s a fair bet that one or more of these schools would take action and leave. For instance, Texas could decide to bolt to the Pac 10 or Big Ten, taking Texas A&M if they want or leaving them to the SEC if they choose not to. Or Colorado or Oklahoma could make a pre-emptive move in order to assure themselves a home. From these circumstances, a number of different things could happen:

Texas and Texas A&M could join the Big Ten or Pac 10. If they joined the Big Ten, the Pac 10 could take Colorado and either BYU or another Pac 10 team like Kansas, while the Big Ten would make a push to fill out their 16th slot with Notre Dame or, barring that, some other Big East school. If they join the Pac 10, the Big Ten would still attempt to grab Notre Dame and barring that, one or more Big East teams.

Colorado could defect to the Pac 10, which would probably destroy the Big 12 and send the rest of the conference looking for a new home. In this case, Texas may wind up in either the Big Ten or Pac 10 with or without Texas A&M. If they brought Texas A&M with them, both conferences would probably need to add one more team. If not, then the conference that got Texas would stop expanding while the other tried to work out an arrangement with one or more schools. Texas A&M, meanwhile, would probably go to the SEC along with Oklahoma or some other school.

Texas and Texas A&M could both make moves but go to separate conferences, with Texas A&M likely headed to the SEC. In this case, we would likely see Oklahoma or FSU or somebody go to the SEC with Texas A&M. Meanwhile, Texas could go to the Big Ten, in which case the Big Ten would cease expanding and the Pac 10 probably wouldn’t expand (expansion for the Pac 10 makes much less sense without a big name school). If Texas went to the Pac 10, Colorado would probably join them and the Big Ten would fill out with their pick of the remaining teams available.

Oklahoma may preemptively join the SEC (not likely, but possible), leading to another situation in which the remaining Big 12 teams scatter.

In all of these cases, it’s an open guess as to what would happen to the rest of the Big 12. My guess is the most powerful schools remaining would attempt to form a conference with the best MWC schools (and possibly Boise State), leaving the lower tiers of the FBS to sort themselves out. One possible conference would consist of BYU, TCU, Utah, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, San Diego State, Air Force, UNLV, New Mexico, and Boise State. Such a conference would be decent in both football and basketball, while being able to put on a championship game and get a BCS bid. Of course, there are endless variations of such a conference, but the general idea seems somewhat logical.

Now, the potential expansion cases do not even begin to cover all of the plausible scenarios for conference re-alignment. For instance, it’s quite possible that the Big Ten will ignore the Big 12 and concentrate on getting Notre Dame and some Big East schools to capture New York in a 14-team expansion. Or the SEC could choose to aggressively move on the ACC, taking teams like FSU or Virginia Tech and forcing the ACC to move on the Big East, prompting an arms war between the ACC and Big Ten. Or nothing could happen whatsoever. At any rate, it must be said that the possibility certainly gives us something to talk about during the offseason other than spring recruiting events and old opinions on who will start at QB.

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.

ACC

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

Big Ten Expansion and the New World Order #1

The issue of Big Ten Expansion is fascinating in its complexities. Should the Big Ten expand without simply adding Notre Dame, it will likely trigger full-scale conference realignment in college football. It is quite possible that the makeup of every conference will change as a result. Every conference and football program in the country is aware of this and thus they are thus attempting to either maneuver themselves so as to take advantage of an opportunity or simply survive the impending storm. This, in turn, leads to something of a mind game between schools and conferences, as each conference attempts to outthink the others in order to prosper (or at least remain in existence). And since it’s the offseason and there’s nothing else to do besides rehash old arguments about who will start at QB or what the makeup of our secondary will be, or lament how bad the previous year was and Hockey East referees are, it seems like the time to undertake the enterprise of attempting to decipher this game and speculate on and project the possible results of expansion.

In order to provide an arguably more original take on expansion, I will not begin by simply writing about individual teams that the Big Ten (or SEC or Pac 10) will take, but instead look at conference realignment in more macroscopic terms. Instead of evaluating say, how likely it is that Notre Dame will join the Big Ten, I will look at things such as what the Big Ten hopes to get out of expansion, and how Big Ten expansion could affect other conferences and how they would react. Then, using those ideas of a baseline, I will begin to speculate as to which specific teams will be involved in expansion. This will be accomplished in a series of posts. Today, I will begin by attempting to create a basic foundation of what I believe the motivations of the various conferences are.

So, to start off with, there are only three conferences that will definitely not lose teams, namely the Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 10, all of which may well expand before all is said and done. As these conferences are in the drivers seat, so to speak, any discussion concerning conference expansion and realignment must start with them. So to begin with, we’ll look at the motivations of these three conferences, as well as the restrictions on these conferences regarding expansion.

The Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 10 all occupy different niches geographically (obviously) and financially. By developing the Big Ten Network, the Big Ten’s primary focus became its geographic footprint. The Big Ten Network makes approximately 40% of its revenue from subscriber fees and 60% from advertising. Thus, the Big Ten has two major factors to consider regarding expansion. The first is to expand its footprint and thus increase subscriber-based revenue. The second is to improve the quality of its product by producing more live events and producing games that will have higher ratings (i.e. producing better games) so as to increase advertising revenue (see here for a more in depth look at the Big Ten Network's financial priorities). Meanwhile, the Big Ten has two sources of limitations on expansion. The first and most important is academic, as the Big Ten schools also belong to the prestigious CIC and do research together, and will therefore refuse to consider any subpar institutions regardless of their athletics and the academics of individual schools will be a major consideration as to which schools get invitations. The second restriction is a combination of location and culture, as the Big Ten wants a school in which the surrounding populace will be interested in watching other Big Ten teams and more importantly, a school that is a good fit with its current institutions. This mainly means that they’ll look first at state schools and big research schools first.

The SEC, meanwhile, has hitched themselves to the national networks of ESPN and CBS and currently holds the lion’s share of the national market. Their priority is to maintain, and if possible expand, their share of the national market. Should the Big Ten or Pac 10 expand, it is likely that the new teams will generate new and better games for the conferences, which will lead to more competition with the SEC nationally. This is relatively unimportant in the short term, as the SEC is contracted through most of the decade, but problematic in the long term because they would lose some of the athletic advantages they currently hold to other conferences. Thus, the SEC would have strong reason to expand should the Big Ten or Pac 10 make a move, even though this would further divide their television contract.

Like the Big Ten, the SEC also has limitations on teams they can take in expansion. First of all, they can only take schools from the south, as any other schools would simply not work from a cultural standpoint. Furthermore, they are limited by the problem of having to look to a small selection of teams from the ACC and Big 12. Finally, they are restricted by their low academic profile, which makes it impossible for them to get schools like Texas or North Carolina, whose faculties would block a move (something that Texas has already done). This also prohibits taking schools that really want to stay in the same conference of powerhouse academic institutions, meaning that schools like Texas A&M are probably out of the picture as well.

Finally, we have the Pac 10. The Pac 10 is untouchable by other conferences because of its geography, not its television contracts, which is actually less than the Big 12’s. However, the Pac 10 has multiple ways to woo other teams into the fold. First of all, the Pac 10 is going to renegotiate their contract this summer, which will almost certainly provide a somewhat substantial increase to their television revenue. Second of all, they have only ten teams, which allows them to divide revenue between fewer schools, which means that the money going to every individual school is greater. Thirdly, Pac 10 expansion would almost certainly yield a championship game, which would be worth an extra $10-15 million (this is also true for the Big Ten, but a championship game would not produce as big of an impact to Big Ten revenue as it would be a substantially smaller portion of the Big Ten TV revenue as compared to the Pac 10). Finally, the primary source of viable Pac 10 expansion candidates is the Big 12, which is highly unstable because it employs unequal revenue sharing practices that has led some schools (re: Missouri) to actively attempt to find a new and better home. Because the Big 12 could easily lose a large share of television revenue should any school defect (except for teams like Baylor and Kansas State that nobody wants anyway), and there are so many suitors for Big 12 teams, it is quite possible for the Pac 10 to take advantage of the uncertainty by either inviting a team who dislikes the structure of the Big 12 anyway, such as Colorado, or throwing out lifelines to other members of the Big 12 should an important team leave for the Big Ten and cause the conference to collapse.

Like the Big Ten and SEC, the Pac 10 has non-athletic limitations on expansion. These limitations are more significant in the Pac 10 than they are for any other conference because any school in the Pac 10 can veto a prospective candidate. This is a major problem when you consider that Stanford vetoed Texas (!) after the SWC collapsed and Texas needed a new home (apparently, Stanford and Texas had something of a rivalry at the time and Stanford decided to spite Texas by denying them admission in what was obviously an idiotic move in hindsight). While Texas would almost certainly get easy admission into the Pac 10 today, it does highlight the fact that a team must be a good fit with every member of the Pac 10 in order to get admission. This means that highly conservative schools such as BYU are pretty much automatically ruled out, because it is doubtful that Cal-Berkeley would be willing to associate with them. The same standard applies to tier 3 schools, as Stanford and Cal would almost assuredly veto them too (sorry Boise State). Combined with the problem of only being able to take western schools for geographic reasons, the candidate pool for the Pac 10 becomes heavily restricted.

Now, looking back at these motivations of the three most important conferences, we can see some definite possibilities begin to emerge. For instance, it is quite possible that each of the three conferences will raid the Big 12 of its strongest programs, in which case the remaining teams would have to combine with the strongest programs in the Mountain West (or the Mountain West may make a grab for the strongest survivors of a Big 12 bereft of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas, which would be kind of ironic in a cosmic sense). If the Big East is raided, the conference could dissolve or attempt to reconstruct itself by inviting the strongest mid-majors. The ACC may even lose teams to the SEC or Big Ten, in which case they would likely grab teams out of the Big East to replace them. There are a wide variety of fascinating possibilities for conference realignment based on a number of factors. Due to their complexity, they will be discussed in the next post, which is arguably anticlimactic, although I don’t really think this post really ever rose to the point where one could expect a climax in any sense…

Moving on, I’ll be able to post more often for the next few weeks as classes are over, so the follow-up to this should be up this week.

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