"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
big ten expansion
With Nebraska's addition the next question is how to split the Big Ten into equitable divisions. Most people are interpreting Delany's ordered list of priorities…
“First priority’s competitive fairness to me,” Delany said last week. “Second priority is maintenance of rivalries, some of them are very important. They’re part of who we are and they’re not treated lightly. And then I think the third is what factor, if any, does geography play?”
…that mentions geography only to explicitly dismiss it, as evidence that the Big Ten will run an end-around on the ugly geographical reality that would see Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State in the same division. Doc Sat's interpretation of the Big Ten's priorities, for instance:
1. Splitting up Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, the three programs responsible for eight straight conference championships/automatic BCS berths and four of seven at-large BCS bids since 2002; and
2. Preserving the prominence of the Ohio State-Michigan game in the regular-season finale.
IE: Old-school-NHL-style division names or a complicated twelve-team pod system that I'm surprised I didn't dream up or divisions based on various alphabetical orderings. Cutting the conference along an axis is apparently not an option.
Most take a look at the rivalries and arrive at the conclusion that the Michigan-Michigan State-Ohio State triplet has to stay together and that the Nebraska addition to the Iowa-Wisconsin-Minnesota triumvirate of hate is natural. Then you throw Indiana and Purdue in with the west, and all you're left with is a decision about where to put Penn State and, if you dump them in the "east" which Illinois school to lift. It doesn't really matter for football. For basketball, you've got OSU, MSU, IU, and Purdue in the same division… so take Northwestern in a (futile) effort to balance things out. End result with 20 and 10 year records added in for color:
|Historical Record||Historical Record|
|Bo||20 year||Rank||10 year||Rank||Woody||20 year||Rank||10 year||Rank|
This is just about equitable according to the numbers, but the Woody division is undeniably top-heavy. Four of the top six schools in the conference are in the Bo division; Woody is Michigan, OSU, and a bunch of teams that think "Alamo Bowl? Awesome!"
Weirdly, The Only Colors stares down the Michigan-OSU-PSU division and says "sign me up." They average the Sagarin ratings for the last decade in an effort to show that shoving Penn State out of the west doesn't do much to help balance the divisions. I think the focus on average rating is the wrong approach when we're talking about picking two teams for a championship game. Since we don't have any idea how divisions would actually play out we'll use the Sagarin Ratings TOC assembled as proxies and pick the best team in each division for a hypothetical championship game:
|Year||Team 1||Team 2||Sagarin||Team 1||Team 2||Sagarin|
|2002||Ohio State||Iowa||---||Ohio State||Iowa||--|
|2005||Ohio State||Wisconsin||3+14||Ohio State||Penn State||3+4|
|2006||Ohio State||Wisconsin||--||Ohio State||Wisconsin||--|
|2007||Ohio State||Illinois||11+30||Ohio State||Penn State||11+26|
|2008||Penn State||Iowa||8+22||Ohio State||Penn State||8+14|
|2009||Ohio State||Iowa||--||Ohio State||Iowa||--|
Most of the time the change wouldn't have had an impact, but three times in the last decade having Penn State in a division opposite from Ohio State would have made for a better championship game. TOC argues that past results do not guarantee future performance, but since the cost of the switch is a very slightly increased travel I think it's worth it from the perspective of the league. Since Penn State suffered its post-Paterno swoon in the middle of the decade, the competitive balance effect on (on the championship game only) is more likely to be understated than overstated by the last decade.
If you want to go straight geography for non-revenue sports, fine by me, but in football I think the Big Ten will align things in a a way likely to avoid the Big 12 problem, and putting Michigan/Ohio State opposite Nebraska/Wisconsin/Iowa/Penn State is the most likely way to get sexy championship games.
I put up a Sporting Blog post on the latest in conference reconfiguration that covers the main news of the day, which is that the awkward moment in nomenclature we're experiencing where the Big 12 has ten teams and the Big Ten has twelve is a surprisingly stable college football isotope.
Whether its half-life is two days, two years, or two decades we don't know yet, but reports that the Big 12 lives have spread beyond Chip Brown, who is by this point basically the earthly avatar of DeLoss Dodds, to Joe Schad and Pete Thamel, and have reached the point the Nebraska rumors did last week where the sheer quantity of independent confirmation outweighs everyone's natural skepticism towards anything Anonymous Athletic Director would like to leak. The Big… er… Twelve lives.
Why? Because if they're going to rename it they might as well dub it The Texas Conference. The major sticking point with Texas's move to the Big Ten was not distance or tradition or even money but the Longhorn's refusal to share and share alike, which is fine as far as it goes. Anyone who approaches college football from an angle other than realpolitik is willfully naive. Expecting Texas to sign off on a change where they go from the king of everything to just another shiny happy Big Ten (or Pac-10) school was extremely wishful thinking in retrospect.
This is despite a ton of huge advantages moving would bring. For one, I don't believe Brown for a second when he claims Texas "stands to make between $20 mil and $25 mil per yr under a proposed new TV pkg presented by Dan Beebe" before we even get to the coming Longhorn Network. Allow myself to quote myself:
Big Ten teams are currently raking in 15 million per year with a fully-functional network spread across eight states with a ton of people. The Big 12 Texas's entire conference distribution was 10 million in 2007 and as of May 31st conference distributions were ranging between "7 and 12 million" according to the KC Star; Big Ten teams each brought in 20 million. The Big 12's current television contract with ABC goes to the 2015 season and the conference has just lost its third most attractive television draw (Nebraska) and third biggest media market (Denver). The average value of the Big Twelve's TV inventory has gone down considerably this summer.
Texas would make more money moving to the Big Ten. They'd get to join the CIC. They'd have a more competitive environment than one game against Oklahoma every year. Iowa State would no longer be on the schedule. In all absolute ways, moving makes sense. Relatively? Not so much. Now that the Big 10 door is swinging shut—Missouri's scrabbling at the lock but can't get in—and the Pac-10 seems set on adding Utah and calling it a day, the Big 12 leftovers desperately need Texas and will sign up for any lopsided revenue sharing plan they have to as long as they don't have to consider whether they should join the Mountain West or Conference USA. If Texas won't enter as an equal partner, the Big Ten won't take them, and that's as it should be.
But no one should mistake the reason the Big 12 has shed two of its best schools: it's because of Texas. If the Big 12 does end up imploding, it will be because of Texas. Realpolitik has its costs.
The Big Ten's Next Move
This guy on the message board has a bunch of scuttlebutt about Texas that reflects the above and suggests where the Big Ten will look next: the ACC. Take it for what it's worth—not much given how fast these things change—but I've gotten a couple notes that suggest the same thing. The current plan appears to be wait to see what happens with Notre Dame and the rumored get-in-or-get-out ultimatum from the Big East and then possibly look to move to 14. 16 is not regarded as a viable setup without a compelling reason.
One man's guess as to the future direction of the conference, listed from most probable to least:
- The Big Ten sticks at 12 teams.
- ND gets the boot from the Big East, sucks it up, and joins the Big Ten sometime around when their NBC contract expires. The league would then look for a 14th team (Maryland, BC, GT, Rutgers, Syracuse the most commonly mentioned targets) at that point.
- ND stays in the Big East as they are now and the Big Ten picks off a couple of the above-mentioned targets to go to 14.
- Some crazy thing happens and the league goes to 16.
If I had to guess, the Big Ten will stand pat until such time as Notre Dame gets the boot from the Big East, which may or may not ever actually happen.
Late this morning, Nebraska officials contacted the Big Ten office, informing the league of the decision. Nebraska will become the 12th member of the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, University of Texas regents will meet next week to decide whether the Longhorns will remain in the Big 12 or switch to another conference.
Big 12 D-Day is Tuesday.
UPDATE: MSU AD Mark Hollis is tweeting it, so that's basically official. No more "anonymous sources."
UPDATE II: Showing the backbone we associate with true leadership, Hollis has deleted that tweet.
UPDATE III: From the Michigan AD:
Statement from Athletic Director Dave Brandon
I can confirm that Nebraska has applied to the Big Ten Conference for membership. I can also confirm that the Big Ten has done its due diligence as it relates to Nebraska. I expect that an announcement will be forthcoming from the Big Ten in regard to Nebraska’s membership very soon.
Here's a hint as to the outcome: The BTN is going to televise Nebraska's 6PM EST press conference.
Signed stuff by the bucket. Note for memorabilia-seekers: The From The Heart charity auction is up and going and has a ton of stuff for the man with an empty basement. As per usual, proceed go to charity.
Bombed, but not enough. USC has gotten a severe punishment, with two-year bowl ban and serious scholarship penalties. Woo! Question, though: how does the basketball program get off with nothing more than the self-imposed penalties they've already taken when the USC compliance department explicitly told Tim Floyd to drop OJ Mayo because there was a 100% chance he was on the take. I think they got the football punishments about right—they should have voided all of USCs LOIs and dumped transfer restrictions for the duration of the probation—but their basketball program should have gotten the same treatment.
“As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was … I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans,” Garrett said to cheers Thursday night at the San Francisco Airport Marriott.
Comparing and contrasting USC's response with Michigan's is too obvious to even undertake. The NCAA should retroactively give them the death penalty, and then do it again. How much do you think it would cost to hire a private investigator to go after USC full-time? Surely there are enough people in the country willing to chip in that we could get this done for five bucks each, right?
And don't get me started on women's tennis.
UPDATE: It is officially open season on USC juniors and seniors:
Juniors and seniors to-be on the USC Trojans' football team, hit with a two-year postseason ban among other punishments, will be allowed to transfer to other FBS programs without having to sit out a season, the NCAA clarified to ESPN on Friday.
"The second school would have to submit a waiver asking to waive the year in residence, but NCAA rules allow for this waiver to be granted if a student-athlete's first school has a postseason ban in their sport," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in an e-mail to ESPN's Joe Schad.
A glance at the roster reveals that four of USC's top five corners are eligible to GTFO. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. We are down one corner, after all.
Izzout? After Tom Izzo spent 9.5 hours in Cleveland yesterday—far more time than anyone who is not Serious About Cleveland would spend—the tenor of the Izzo chatter in East Lansing is trending towards grim resignation. Jim Comparoni, the nut who runs Michigan State's Rivals site and in my experience has never once said anything remotely negative about anything related to State, says it is a "very bad sign" that Izzo's scheduled golf appearance has been canceled and that football coaches say it "doesn't look good." There may be a 4PM press conference coming up today. There may not.
At The Only Colors they're simultaneously convincing themselves that Izzo's statement is not bad news and evaluating the coaching tree for possible replacements. Insert your preferred Kubler-Ross interpretation here.
Don the tinfoil hats. If Dave Brandon is willing to bluntly state that he had nothing to do with Dorsey's failure to be admitted, I believe him:
"This is a decision that is owned by the admissions department, our admissions office," Brandon said. "It's always been owned by the admissions office. It is not unusual for a letter of intent to be signed with a prospective student-athlete where there's far more that needs to be done for the student-athlete to be admitted. It involves course work, it involves test scores, and a variety of criteria some of which is fact-based and where and how they went about improving their test scores."
You'd have to be foolhardy to make such a statement in a FOIA-laden environment, and Brandon doesn't seem foolhardy. As discussed yesterday, this had everything to do with grades.
Expansion-o-rama again. The to-date accurate Chip Brown has declared the interest level between Texas and A&M to be "NONE!!!!!!" which doesn't make a ton of sense given the very real benefits available to Texas and A&M if they were to join the CIC—financial benefits that dwarf the amount of money athletics makes, causing the Big Ten partisans in the expansion game to declare him a useful stooge for athletic directors wishing to get a message out, which kind of does make sense.
Meanwhile a report that OU is headed to the SEC has been quickly and widely repudiated. I guess we'll find out.
World Cup linkage. One: GOLAZO! More footie strategy at Zonal Marking, which has tackled the US side "good, but need tactical tweaks" the Slovenians, a typical hardworking, honest, boring 4-4-2, and the Algerians, who were mainly 3-5-2 but are apparently going 4-4-2 for the WC, possibly because of a run of poor recent results. The Algerian goaltender is described as "very, very dodgy," something that takes doing at the African Cup of Nations.
i like this picture because he's about to shoot a planet-destroying laser out of his mouth
Some horse-holding may be in order in case anyone is printing up huge quantities of Pac-16 t-shirts. These reports come from a television station and a guy in Indianapolis radio and are about conference expansion should therefore be taken with a grain of salt large enough to have moons, but they appear to be independently-sourced claims that Texas and Texas A&M may be heading Midwest instead of just West.
High level sources in multiple conferences have told KCTV5 that Texas and Texas A&M are looking to move to the Big Ten Conference and have petitioned for membership, while the University of Oklahoma is planning on petitioning the Southeastern Conference to become a member of its conference.
Texas Tech can pound sand, according to KCTV.
Kent Sterling, the Indiana radio guy does have an extensive newsy background, FWIW, but his site's report is way fuzzier and it's posted by Pauly Balst, whose bio reads "Pauly Balst has a very solid reputation and track record in speculative journalism and for-profit amatuer [sic] athletics." This is not reassuring. Anyway:
College Station, Texas, based sources close to Texas A&M confirm the scenario of Texas A&M, Texas and Nebraska joining the Big 10, bringing the total to 14. … Sources also confirmed the rift with Texas Tech and Baylor is that “UT and A&M have joined together in this decision”. By adding this trio, UT does not “go to war alone in a new conference” when ongoing issues arise.
"Confirm the scenario"? What does that mean? That could be talking. It could be a D&D meeting. I'm not putting a ton of stock into that, but it's out there.
Meanwhile, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is sounding less imperial:
“I’d say that (having an 11-team conference) is a possibility,” Scott said.
He also said that no assurances and that no invitations have been issued to any other Big 12 schools, including Texas and Texas A&M, whose athletic directors met on Thursday in Austin to discuss their future.
“There are several different scenarios,” Scot siad. “There is no defined timetable” for further Pac-10 expansion.
Colorado snapping up the Pac-10 invite and thereby bouncing Baylor may have given the Big Ten the wedge it needs to crowbar Tech off the Texas schools everyone wants, in which case thanks Baylor.
This post's information value will self-destruct in ten seconds.
(HT: Aaron and Damon Lewis.)
At the same time Izzo is either going to Cleveland or not going to Cleveland (GO TO CLEVELAND, FOR GOD'S SAKE) another misinformation-rife story has either happened or not happened. This one is almost universally in the "happened" category, though, and there is actual FOIAed evidence of it:
Resolution regarding UNL athletic conference alignment.
If you want a meticulously-linked summary of the current state of affairs, Doctor Saturday has you covered. Suffice it to say that the evidence in the media is at the point that it should overwhelm the understandable skepticism given the many false alarms to date.
The Big 12 is "dead" according to expansion savant Chip Brown, with Nebraska's defection the fatal blow and the original Pac-16 (Colorado, no Baylor) the next step. Colorado's move to the Pac-something is the next domino, with Matt Hayes and the local paper both declaring the move a fait accompli:
The University of Colorado will announce at an 11 a.m. Friday press conference that the school will leave the Big 12 and join the Pac-10.
Multiple sources confirmed the deal to the Camera early Thursday, and league officials are scheduled to be in Boulder on Friday for the announcement.
The Big 12 is set to explode soon after, though the remaining members are gathering in Austin to see if they can work something out. Also Texas A&M has been talking with the SEC, because crazy needs to happen everywhere.
Big Ten Endgame
The Big Ten seems to have been undone by the "solidarity pledge" taken by Texas (woo!), A&M (all right), and Tech (guh) despite the widely-held opinion amongst Texas fans that UT would prefer the Big Ten and the CIC over the Pac-10 and nothing. If we're entering a world of 16-team super conferences that are logistically stupid, the Pac-10 has just eaten the Texas power pellet and will start chasing the Big Ten all over the map, all because they are willing to swallow things like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
If the Big 12 South minus Baylor does move to the Pac Something, where does that leave the Big Ten? Outmaneuvered, mostly. Letting Texas escape to another conference is a major blow. They'll be battering down Notre Dame's door by threatening to pick off enough Big East schools to destabilize ND's home for basketball and non-revenue sports. They could pick over the scattered remnants of the Big 12 to see if they want a Missouri, though the current environment suggests they won't.