Andy Staples, on the Big Ten’s decision to go to a nine-game conference schedule:
… Consider what Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany — whose league will play a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016 — told USA Today last week. “We want our fans to come to games,” Delany told the paper. “We’ve got to give them good games. We also have a network. We also have season-ticket holders.”
Translated, that means that in the age of 60-inch televisions, conference leaders didn’t think fans of Big Ten schools would continue to make the significant investment in season tickets if three or four home games a year were against MAC or FCS schools. Even with a league that has expanded to 14 schools, this keeps Ohio State or Michigan or Penn State visiting Minnesota consistently, and that should provide an incentive for fans as they decide whether to slap down hard-earned money for Golden Gophers season tickets…
“We also have a network” is not a declaration you’d have heard from a conference commissioner a few short years ago. Yet there it is now as justification for an expanded conference schedule.
In that regard, the only difference between the Big Ten and the SEC is a head start. So, when Staples goes on to write,
… Ticket sales haven’t been a problem in the SEC, but privately some administrators have worried about the growing number of no-shows for certain games. A person who is currently paying to not come to games will soon realize he can save money by not paying to not come. This is why SEC schools have been trying to ramp up the in-stadium experience. Of course, the best way to improve the in-stadium experience is to bring in a quality opponent, and that fact — not criticism from coaches in other leagues — is more likely to induce change.
… it’s worth noting that the SEC hasn’t even begun to face the pressure that will be created by needing to feed its new baby with enough inventory. From where I sit, I have to wonder when the financial reality from that hits the presidents hard enough to overcome the qualms shared by ADs and coaches about adding another conference opponent to the football schedule. And I do mean when, not if.
Which is why I bet Mike Slive watches how much a nine-game regular season conference schedule affects the postseason chances for the Pac-12, the Big 12 and the Big Ten as closely as he watches how much the eight-game regular season conference schedule affects the postseason chances for the SEC.