Expansiongate, 2013 Edition. Our friends at BHGP have a good roundup of the rumors swirling about possible Big Ten expansion, including which teams are possible, which make no sense, and what the future of college football conferences in general could look like in the very near future.
The names that appear to have the most traction include Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Duke. Each of these schools are attractive candidates for a number of reasons, though with Jim Delaney making decisions on potential expansion, you can be certain that the driver for any expansion will be C.R.E.A.M.
All four schools are AAU members, and all have a strong academic reputation (U.S. News: Duke - 8, UVA - 24, Michigan - 29, UNC - 30, GT - 36, PSU - 46, OSU - 56), so the non-sports, non-economic requirements seem to be met. And while education should be the driving force behind these decisions, everyone knows that sports and money are going to be the true factors.
None of the four teams listed have a rather strong football history, and while UNC and Duke bring a boatload of basketball tradition, that alone may not be enough to merit expansion. Further, only Georgia Tech brings the requisite big city market that Delaney and conference executives are looking for. Where the addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten brought potential inroads to the New York City and Baltimore/D.C. markets, the addition of UVA, Duke, and/or North Carolina doesn't bring a lot to the powerful and expanding Big Ten Network.
Other names thrown around include Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa State, to keep in line with the Big Ten's Midwestern roots, but that seems to be less and less of a factor, as three of the last four schools added to the conference are each less than four hours from the Atlantic Ocean.
Nine Games, Ten Games, and AD Budgets. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports is reporting today that the Big Ten is discussing the possibility of moving to a nine- or ten-game conference schedule in the future.
The Big Ten announced it would be going to a nine-game conference schedule back in 2011 after Nebraska joined the conference and it went to a two-division setup. The change was to begin in the 2017 season but then the Big Ten came to a schedule agreement with the Pac-12, and the nine-game schedule was scrapped.
The deal with the Pac-12 would fall through as well, and now the Big Ten is once again considering the idea of not only a nine-game conference schedule, but possibly a 10-game conference schedule.
The problem, as you might expect, is money. The large universities of the Big Ten, Penn State included, fund an entire athletic department budget with profits made from the cash cow that is college football. Moving to a nine- or ten-game schedule means fewer opportunities for marquee out-of-conference scheduling as schools need to meet their home-game allotment. With a ten-game conference schedule, for example, each school would play five home, and five away games in conference. This leaves only two OOC openings, each of which would most likely have to be filled with non-marquee opponents to keep the school at seven home games per year. Even that might not be enough, as some schools are used to at least seven home games per year.
"Most of us need seven home games in order to make our local budgets," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "Is there a way to overcome that? I don't know. We'll have to look at that. The conference is aware that it's an issue."
Of course, while discussion points may be about a bigger conference schedule allowing the schools to play each other more often and making schedules "better" to help Big Ten schools get selected to the playoff, there's another reason for it, too. The more Big Ten games that are played give the Big Ten more Big Ten games to show on its network and sell as part of the conference's new television deal. All of which leads to more money.
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