Monday, November 19, 2012
Just as everybody thought that expansionism by the major conferences in the NCAA had taken a backseat, the Big Ten strikes and adds two colleges on the Atlantic Coast. Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Rutgers from the Big East.
For the Big Ten, this isn't about adding powerhouse schools in athletics to the conference. It is all about the markets that come along with Maryland and Rutgers. By adding those two schools, you bring in the #9 and #1 TV markets in the nation, just under 10,000,000 TVs in those two markets combined. Adding a population of over 14 million people into the Big Ten sphere of influence. And those numbers aren't even what the Big Ten is looking at as the major number. It is the money aspect of it. The Big Ten Network earns $0.70 per TV set where it has been televised. Now since they have made it into the #1 and #9 TV markets because they have those two schools there, it figures to bring in over $80,000,000 into the Big Ten Conference. And now just imagine the rate increase that it will be able to have with renegotiations with advertisers for their other media deals. Also factor in the marketing of their member schools in those other areas. Put Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, and the other schools out there in the New York media market, in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. market and see the merchandise sales increase.
The Big Ten hasn't gone for the teams that might make it tougher in the short run. It has gone for the cash and the publicity. Listen, if each school in the conference gets $8,000,000 a year in the increase in payouts due to the expansion into the NY and Washington D.C. markets, it is worth it to the Big Ten institutions. Because you are starting to see that institutions are bankrupt that aren't in the 4 Power conferences. Both Maryland and Rutgers are having money problems to field athletic programs in the non-revenue sports. But with the income from the Big Ten, both schools get an influx in cash that is sustainable into the future. So they shouldn't have to wonder what sport to cancel next. They both are highly regarded institutions of higher learning, something that is lacking in some schools out there. So they fit the profile of a Big Ten University. They are what the Presidents and the Commisioner of the Big Ten wanted. They were geographically perfect for the Big Ten in fending off the ACC threat that was starting to loom over Penn State. So the big Ten moved and made the conference and the individual member institutions stronger.
For the ACC, I am sure that it is sorry to see the Terrapins go, but more concerning is the fact that the other school that voted against higher penalties for leaving the conference, Florida State has been linked for possible expansion to the SEC. The thing that made Maryland an expansion target of the Big 10 is the same reason that it was a part of the ACC. The Baltimore/Washington D.C. market. The ACC now has BC, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the North. They also have Notre Dame in every sport except Football, which is the only sport that Notre Dame is known for. I suspect that the divisions will be as follows (except Notre Dame for football).
North Carolina State
The North will have more miles logged than the South by far. For football, the South might be able to compete for National Championships with Florida State. I don't think that Notre Dame has staying power. And Virginia Tech has passed their prime. So football is still on the lower ond of Power Conferences. For basketball, besides Syracuse, what does the North have to offer? Not much. The power is all in the South with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.
In my eyes, I can see some of the Northern schools become possible additions to the Big East or Big 10. The possible dissolution of the conference comes if the SEC does come and pick off Florida State and Clemson as has been rumored for about a year now, combined with a raid from the Big East and Big 10. Imagine if in addition to Florida State and Clemson being picked off, that the Big East manages to pry off BC, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh by convincing those schools that the ACC is in trouble and the Big 10 comes and snags Virginia and probably not, but Notre Dame. The ACC would be the East Coast version of the Mountain West. That would mean that the ACC as a conference would be weaker than the Big East in football and might be eliminated as one of those conferences that would have an automatic birth in the playoff format as it is currently structured. And that is the reason that all of this realignment is happening.
Look for Connecticut to maneuver to become a member of the ACC as well as Louisville. Both want out of the Big East since that conference isn't being treated as one of the automatic qualifiers in the new playoff system. The fact that the ACC is still regarded as better than the Big East will help them with the loss of Maryland, but the fact remains that they are the little brother who is being squeezed by both the SEC and Big 10.
For the Big East, losing Rutgers does hurt. The Big East is losing teams each and every year. Right now they will have 13 members for football located all across the country. I would expect that the league as a football entity will falter within the next 2 or 3 years based on moves by other conferences and the lack of stability that it will have. For basketball, however, having Villanova, Georgetown, St. Johns, Marquette, and a host of other basketball first schools will allow them to stay a conference in that sport.
A second, less hopeful theory for the Big East is that they recruit Army, Air Foce, and BYU to become members and field a 16 school football conference. That way they have Navy, San Diego State, Boise State, and others joining the 7 teams left over from this year's football league. However, that plan doesn't take into account any other conferences deciding to add teams to their leagues. You know that the PAC-12 is ready to further expand. The Big 12 is also looking at possibilities to gain revenue. Whose to say that if the SEC takes 2 teams from the ACC, that the ACC won't come to pickpocket the Big East yet again? Right now the Big East is the 6th conference in what is shaping up to be a 5 major conference NCAA.
And as for the other conferences out there. The Big 12 is rumored to have feelers out towards BYU. If that happens, maybe an expansion into Louisville is something on the radar for that conference. The PAC-12 is also said to be scoping out BYU and if that happens, possibly a Boise State membership in the league.
Don't forget that all of this expansion by the big conferences does have an effect on the smaller conferences. There are rumors that UMass would be in line for the Big East. Who knows if the PAC-12 expands to 16 teams what that would do to the MWC. The same if the Big 12 decided to become 14 teams. Would it raid the Big East for Houston and SMU? Would it take Colorado State and Wyoming? We don't know, but the possibilities are out there.
We will find out in the future and until somebody sensible is able to make this carousel stop, all of us college football fans are just along for the ride.
UPDATE: The problems for the Big East continue to pile up. Sources say that Rutgers has told the Big Ten yes on Monday. Other sources have Boise State, San Diego State, and BYU talking to the Mountain West concerning rejoining the league. If that does happen, the Big East loses two teams and a third that were going after. It also limits the quality programs out there that the Big East could bring in. If those 3 teams do join the MWC, it is death watch city for the Big East.