One reason I enjoy reading Brian Cook so much is that he’s the one college football blogger out there who’s even more consistently cynical than I am. So needless to say, his recent crap-over of Big Ten expansion is right up my alley.
… This is a stupid idea no matter how much money some amalgamation of Big East teams, spare parts from the cornfield section of the country, and an orphaned Notre Dame will add to the bottom line. Adding more than one additional team pushes the Big Ten from a tight federation of teams with meaningful relationships with each other to two conferences loosely pasted together. The current setups in the Big 12, ACC, and SEC are silly enough-remember that year Kansas skated into the top ten because it had a Kansas-State-worthy non-conference schedule and missed Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech? A 14 or 16 team conference exacerbates that immensely. With 14 teams you play two of the seven members in the other division. With 16 teams it’s one of eight. Conventional two-divisions-and-game-at-the end ceases to make sense once you push past 12 teams.
I will say that there’s no reason a 16-school conference has to stick with a 7-1-4 scheduling format. In fact, if you’re arguing, as Brian (correctly) does, that this is a move for, by and about the almighty dollar – “As with a lot of things that promise to make money hand over fist, the only people who benefit are the ones pulling the strings.” – then going to something like a 7-3-2 arrangement makes a lot of sense, if only to cut out the need to pay some piddling lower mid-major or 1-AA school the better part of a million bucks to show up and be cannon fodder.
Speaking of money, Dennis Dodd does a nice job of laying out the dilemma that Texas may be facing if the Big XII finds itself being carved up.
… Along with Notre Dame, Texas is the only other schools that makes complete expansion sense — to any conference. If Texas leaves the Big 12, Oklahoma would have to make a decision to leave as well or make a go of it in a severely altered Big 12. Wedged in the middle of everything is the Big 12 TV contract that puts the conference in a kind of purgatory. Its deal with Fox expires in two years. But a more lucrative deal with ABC/ESPN still has five years to run.
“What was viewed as a benefit at the time [when they were signed],” Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said of the latest contracts, “is probably more of a detriment … We don’t have the same numbers of homes as the Big Ten and the SEC.”
No one does. The Big 12 stance seems to be that geographic relationships work. Get much outside your natural region and there are concerns.
“I’ve said that to some people at Texas,” said Duncan, who still works as director of the Big 12 championship game. “How much better does Texas have it, when you get the recipe right? You better be conscious of experimenting with that recipe.”
To answer that last question, Texas has it great right now, with the stacked deck that is Big XII revenue distribution. Whether it can find a deal with another conference that’s as lucrative is the $64,000 question.
Dodd summarizes what’s going on right now thusly:
What this latest round of expansion comes down to is dividing 50 percent of the nation’s college sports-viewing population. The Big Ten (with approximately 26 percent of the population in its eight-state region) and SEC (23 percent) already have sewed up the other 50 percent.
Which further boils down to this: if the Big East and the Big XII are in play because of the Big Ten’s plans, and the mid-major conferences (as distinct from the three or four top mid-major schools) are irrelevant to the discussion, how do the SEC, the ACC and the Pac-10 react to grab that market share?