If the best things in life are free, then conference expansion…

Here’s the “no shit, Sherlock” comment of the year so far:

… The three big factors Big Ten presidents and athletic directors say any new member would have to bring to the discussion are academic credentials, a strong geographic fit and money.

Stanley Ikenberry was the president at Illinois the last time the Big Ten expanded, adding Penn State in 1990. He says the decision to admit Penn State was driven less by money than by academics — the Nittany Lions were a good scholarly fit as long as they didn’t cost the conference money.

Ikenberry, now back as interim president while Illinois searches for a new leader, acknowledges that this time, money will be a much bigger factor.

Dopey obviousness aside, there are actually several relevant points raised in the article about what has to be weighed in making the call to expand, both from the aspect of the conference and the invitee(s).  It’s a good read.


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

11 responses to “If the best things in life are free, then conference expansion…

  1. It is a good read but I’m interested in the Senator’s best guess. Have I missed your prediction? Who will it be? Or will the Big 10 stay 11?


    • I haven’t made a prediction, because I lack any inside information.

      I will say that from everything I’ve read, Texas is the key piece in the puzzle. If the ‘Horns do move to another conference, it’ll cause a seismic shift. If they don’t, not so much. Besides Texas, the only school that brings enough money to the table for the Big Ten is Notre Dame, and I’ve seen no indication the Irish are ready to make that move.

      The Pac-10 may be a more likely candidate in the short run for expansion, because that conference doesn’t make as much money. It’s easier to split the pie with new schools in that setting. But I’m not sure that raiding the Mountain West will have that big an impact (except to the MWC, of course).

      Bottom line, I’m still skeptical anything’s getting ready to happen.


      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        I posted about this a couple of weeks ago but Kentucky makes a lot of sense as an addition to the Big Televen. Geographically, UK is right there with them. UK is a good academic school (at least as good as the Indianas and Minnesotas of the world). Plus, from UK’s side they would be competitive in football in that conference. They are not in the SEC. Such a move might even help them in basketball. Will they move to the Big Televen? I don’t think there has really been any contact between the school and the conference about that–just speculation. UK would definitely miss the SEC bowl money if they left, though.


  2. Left to Right

    “Driven less by money than academics”? “A good scholarly fit”?

    Who does that self-deluded idiot think he’s fooling? Himself?

    The Big 10 really needs to get over itself.


  3. James

    “strong geographic fit” is not actually that important.


  4. Left, If only saying it were make it that easy. The biggest thing about any expansion of the Big 10 is the outdated notion that the new school *has* to bring something to the table academically in the minds of the college presidents. That is why Pitt, Louisville and Cincy are not even in consideration, although all three would fit the money mold (well, not UT or ND money mold, but still enough considering all three are strongish football and hoops schools).

    Missouri is still a very quiet, but very real possibility, from what I am hearing up here. Academics would be the primary driver there.


    • MT

      I think Nebraska would be a very logical expansion option too.

      The Big 12 North is relatively weak in football tradition outside of Nebraska, they are a strong academic institution, and are the only school of notable size in their state.

      I ultimately think we’re more likely to see an East Coast school addition to further expand the Big 10’s media markets


  5. Macallanlover

    I must have been sleeping regarding the relative economics of the conferences. The Big 11 paid almost $19MM per school in 2007 compared to $11MM for the SEC? Then they jumped to $22MM the next year, pretty impressive. I know the SEC just began their new TV deal so the numbers are much larger now, but how could the Big 11 be that far ahead of all other conferences? I am sure basketball has much to do with it, I just don’t see $88MM difference annually. Convenient how the article ignored the new SEC package’s projected impact when making these points; it would seem significant to the discussion.


    • The answer is the Big 10 network. If CBS and ESPN hadn’t ponied up the cash last year, the SEC would have done the same. Basketball is a part of it, but networks bring tons of value and revenues to sports leagues/franchises. For relative comparison, the YES Network is worth more than the actual New York Yankees baseball club.


      • Macallanlover

        Thanks. I knew they were reaping profits from the new, private network but to have an eight million dollar per school edge is very surprising. With that same option available to the SEC, I can only assume the new ESPN/CBS deals are even better. With the larger population base in their area of the country the potential subscribers would surpass the potential numbers we have to draw from, but I felt it would be offset by a higher penetration level where pro sports are less of a competitive factor.


        • You’ve been misguided by previous media stories with respect to the SEC’s TV deals. The Big Ten actually has a larger and wealthier population base than the SEC with more major markets (along with concentrations of alumni in major areas across the country, such as Florida, Arizona and California). The Big Ten Network’s revenue is projected to continue to rise (since as it becomes more essentially, the network can charge higher rates), while the ESPN/CBS deals for the SEC (while very good) are fixed and will be less than the Big Ten’s total TV revenues for the foreseeable future (i.e. the next 15 years or so). The Big Ten’s deal was riskier than the SEC’s deal (since it wasn’t a slam dunk that the Big Ten Network was going to work while the SEC got guaranteed money from ESPN and CBS), but with that risk came a greater potential reward (which the conference is now reaping).