[Rubie sez: with the rumor mill running red hot, I thought it would be a good time to re-post Warrior Brad's excellent primer on the potential expansion of the Big 11, which originally ran on Quevedo at the Buffet in January. As a native Husker and Big XII-er, Warrior Brad will have an updated post on why Missouri and Nebraska might be willing to jump ship and set sail with the S.S. Delany.]
First, the big question: Why does the Big 11 want to expand?
The answer is simple: money. It all comes back to cold, hard cash. Expanding, whether to 12, 14 or 16 teams would open up multiple revenue streams and/or improve current competitiveness.
Expand TV Markets
The Big Ten Network has been a boon to the conference, raking in a reported $9-10MM annually per school. As it stands, the BTN is a regional cable power. To ensure continued growth, the BTN needs to expand into other markets to get coveted standard tier cable inclusion and, as a result, more eyeballs. Forcing their way into virgin cable packages increases their revenue from both cable companies and advertisers.
Adding a 12th member would allow the Big 11 to stage a conference title game in football. Not only is a title game a revenue generator, but it helps the Big 11 to keep pace with the other major conferences: the SEC, Big XII, and to a lesser extent, ACC. The SEC netted "only" $15MM last year from their wildly successful title game, so it’s safe to say the title game is a secondary concern to the TV markets.
Marketing & Mindshare
As it stands, the Big 11 football season ends the weekend before Thanksgiving. The other conferences have two more weeks of football after that to generate money and interest. The Big 11 is completely off the national radar during that timeframe, which has a negative effect on recruiting and further diminishes the Big 11’s brand.
This feeds out of a couple points above, but merits a separate mention. Expanding into new, key areas could open up heretofore, uncharted recruiting territory for the Big 11. NYC would be a huge get for basketball and adding Missouri would open a closer, though indirect, link to the talent rich football areas of Oklahoma and Texas. This is a particularly timely mention because many of the Rust Belt’s best football prospects are fleeing south this year. Is that the start of a trend?
Many have hypothesized that the Big 11 season’s early conclusion creates a disadvantage to its teams by lengthening the layoff before the bowl games. This is hard to prove and likely just a flimsy excuse for the conference’s recent struggles, particularly in BCS games.
Much will be made of the academic implications that need to be considered. Those associated with the Big 11 have mentioned that any new member must also be a member of the Association of American Universities, which is a group of the top 62 research universities. Some select quotes from a New York Times story really paint the picture the Big 11 would like the public to believe.
"It’s significant that we have institutions that meet the academic standing and reputation of institutions now in the Big Ten," Gee said. "I don’t want to coin a phrase here, but we are sort of the public equivalent of the Ivy League in our quality."
Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse would probably give serious consideration to joining the Big Ten to enhance their academic reputations, said Kyle V. Sweitzer, a data resource analyst at Michigan State who wrote about university ambitions and conference affiliations in the most recent issue of New Directions for Higher Education.
Still, Rutgers and others would be "foolish not to explore" a move to the Big Ten, Sweitzer said. "No question the Big Ten has the academic reputation to go along with athletics," he said. "I’m not sure the Big East does as a whole."
Ah, nothing likes the typical Big 11 academic elitist tripe. Regardless of what the talking heads may say, this decision is not about academics. Anyone that the Big 11 would consider on an athletic and market basis is already on the list of 62 schools, rendering their posturing a moot point.
COMING SOON: On the prospects of the other MU (that's Mizzou) and NU moving to the Big 11, and what this could all mean for your Marquette Golden Eagles.