Most of the early smart thinking about the possibility of the Big Ten adding a twelfth (yeah, I know) team points in the direction of Pitt. Maybe so, but I’m partial to Matt Hinton’s argument that what we’re looking at is another extended courtship of Notre Dame. Except I don’t believe for a minute that it’s about all the high-falutin’ reasons that are being tossed around. It’s about – surprise! – the money.
Stewart Mandel, give him credit, does a nice job of spelling out the calculations.
… The Big Ten does not publicly release revenue-sharing figures, but it’s been reported that its rights deals with ABC/ESPN and the Big Ten Network generate about $212 million annually. (That’s in addition to the league’s direct profits from its jointly owned network.) Add in this season’s two BCS berths ($22.3 million) and five other bowl berths (about $14 million), and we’re talking a minimally estimated $248.3 million in shared revenue, or $22.6 million per team.
Therefore, any potential 12th team would have to add $22.6 million in “value” to renegotiated TV and bowl deals to prevent the others from losing money. [Emphasis added.] With all due respect to Missouri, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers (the most commonly discussed candidates), there’s only one viable school that could guarantee that kind of gold mine: Notre Dame…
Texas would, too, but I’ve never seen that school as a realistic prospect for the Big Ten. In any event, that’s a steep wall to climb. And Mandel points out one more consideration to factor into the mix.
While Big Ten teams have taken their lumps on the field, they aren’t exactly hurting for consideration. The league has produced a second BCS berth more often than any other conference (nine times in 12 years), including each of the past five seasons. If this year’s Ohio State-Iowa showdown, played Nov. 14, had taken place in a league title game three weeks later, the 10-2 Hawkeyes likely wouldn’t be playing in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma in 2003, Alabama in 2008 and Florida in 2009 are the only title-game losers ever to receive BCS at-large berths, and all three entered their title games undefeated.
If the league loses more than one at-large berth (currently worth $4.5 million) over a four-year period, that extra championship-game revenue becomes a wash.
Not exactly a compelling case for expansion, is it?
The Big Ten’s problem here is, of course, that there’s no compelling reason for Notre Dame to join the conference. There’s not much of a financial gain (if any at all), the Irish would lose their special BCS status and they cede some degree of control over how the program operates to Jim Delany if they were to make that move. That’s not to say that Notre Dame doesn’t do a little dancing before sending the Big Ten back to the table. If nothing else, it’s probably good for squeezing a couple of extra bucks out of NBC to keep the TV deal. Maybe the school can call Jimmy Sexton in as a consultant.
In the end, I don’t see this leading anywhere.
UPDATE: Michael Elkon argues that the Big Ten is focused on the wrong thing.