B1G Conference Realignment by the Lion in the Weeds

With the addition of Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, the B1G Ten must tap into two massive media markets: New York City and Baltimore-DC Metropolitan, respectively. The B1G Ten will want their marquee programs to compete in these markets as much as possible every year. As a result, conference alignment is very important.

The Four Marquee Programs.

The four teams with the highest television viewership are: Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio state and Penn State. These are your marquee programs and must be divided equally into the two divisions. Currently, Michigan and Nebraska are in the Legends Division and Penn State and Ohio State are in the Leader's Division. Each duo has a protected game with another in the opposite division, meaning the B1G Ten will see its top four programs compete with each other no less than three times per year. This should not change.

The Chicago Media Market.

Under current conditions, the biggest media market in the Conference is Chicago. The B1G Ten wanted to make sure their four marquee programs had as much exposure in that market as possible. Making the alignment easier was that there were two teams that could reach into that market and command some level of coverage-Illinois and Northwestern. As such, the B1G Ten, in a particularly craven maneuver, separated Northwestern and Illinois in separate divisions to ensure that its four marquee programs would appear in the Chicago market at least once per season.

A New World Order.

With the addition of the Baltimore-DC Metropolitan and New York City media markets, the B1G Ten is faced with an usual problem: how do we maximize the exposure of our marquee programs in our three top media markets? Continued financial success depends heavily on their conference alignment decisions in this case.

In reality, there are three media markets, however, from a theoretical standpoint, there are in fact four: New York, Baltimore-DC, and Chicago twice. The trick will be to maximize the viewership opportunities in those four areas. The highest amount of games in those markets is 16 (4 teams x 4 markets). If the Big Ten can get 4 games in each of these markets every year, their revenues would sky rocket. However, this is unlikely. Scheduling concerns and competitive fairness dictate this is an impossibility. As such, the B1G Ten must choose a scheme whereby they can maximize the number of guaranteed yearly contests by these teams in these markets.

Alignment Recommendations.

In order to address the profit and viewership maximization goals of the B1G Ten, I believe that the following conferences would be ideal.

Ohio State--------Michigan
Penn State--------Michigan State
Wisconsin ---------Northwestern

You will note that it is remarkably similar to the current alignment, seeing only Illinois change divisions. However, you should also note that it maximizes the amount of guaranteed contests for each marquee team in the three (essentially four) biggest media markets. Michigan and Nebraska will play no less than four games in the Chicago media market every season. Ohio State and Penn State will play no less than two games each in both the New York and Baltimore-DC markets.

In addition to maximizing media market exposure, the new alignment also guarantees regional rivalries will exist allowing for better marketing opportunities and higher viewership,

Protected Game Problems.

The biggest problem presented by the new alignment is the reshuffling of the protected game matchups.

Under the previous alignment, the B1G Ten created the following protected games:

Penn State--------Nebraska
Ohio State--------Michigan
Indiana-----------Michigan State

The two marquee protected games--Michigan-Ohio State and Penn State-Nebraska--must remain preserved in order to maximize the viewership. However, the other protected games must be re-evaluated.

After the top four, the next tier of teams would be Michigan State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern and Iowa. Each of these teams has been competitive in the recent past. Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota have languished over the past few seasons. While success draws viewers, here we are trying to balance traditional regional rivalries with potential viewership booms.

Recommended Protected Crossover Games.

As a result of the preceding concerns, I recommend preserving the Minnesota-Wisconsin protected crossover rivalry game. The contest for Paul Bunyan's Axe consistently draws high viewership from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and Madison media markets, and is frequently featured on regional ESPN broadcasts. Terminating this yearly rivalry would be a serious blow to the intrigue and natural drama of college football in the Northern Mid-West.

To address the remaining eight teams, there is no real regional rivalry to exploit. Therefore, the concern must turn to on-field competitiveness and potential viewership. As a result, I recommend that the two teams that tap into the Chicago market--Northwestern and Illinois--be paired with the two newest additions--Maryland and Rutgers. By pairing the teams from the three biggest media markets, the B1G Ten can capitalize on potential viewership if one of those teams happens to be vying for a league or division title.

Illinois-Rutgers would be a protected crossover because Illinois is a larger school, has lower admission standards, and has a more likely chance of being competitive on a yearly basis. Putting the theoretically more competitive team in the bigger media market would maximize the viewership if the hapless Fighting Illini could ever find their way toward successful football again. (On a personal note, I recommend firing Tim Beckman as a good first step for Illinois in this endeavor.) To complete the pairing, Northwestern-Maryland would be a protected crossover, in what today is a much more competitive and exciting game to watch in the short-term.

The four remaining teams are Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue and Indiana. Fortunately for me, these four schools are already broken down into protected crossover matchups. Unfortunately, for viewers, these games suck as it is a guarantee that at least two of these teams will have horribly underachieving seasons and these games will be rendered utterly meaningless on a national scale.


Divisional Alignment to maximize viewership:

Michigan-----------------Ohio State
Michigan State-----------Penn State

Protected crossovers:

Michigan----------------Ohio State
Nebraska----------------Penn State
Michigan State----------Indiana

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