HA HA HA! I AM A GENIUS YOU! PROBABLY DON'T GET IT
Let me provide some excessively late opinion on the recent flurry of Big Ten expansion articles. Article one indicates that a very expensive consultant has given the thing a thumbs-up with five schools mentioned as primary targets:
A source inside the league told the Tribune that the report, prepared by the Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Company, analyzed whether five different schools would add enough revenue to justify expanding the league beyond 11 teams.
"The point was: We can all get richer if we bring in the right team or teams," the source said.
The five analyzed were Missouri, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers. The source, though, called those five "the obvious suspects" and cautioned that other universities could earn consideration.
Someone got paid for this. I bet they yoinked the Grid of Judgment.
Anyway, that article comes with a big photo of the Rutgers mascot. Wha? Well, Teddy Greenstein—who I am suspicious of in this matter since he's the guy throwing those blind quotes about a 14 or 16 team Big Ten around—then claims Rutgers as the most likely school according to "consensus among Big Ten sources, officials from other conferences, and TV executives." I've also gotten some emails from a guy plugged into what's going on at Rutgers who says there have already been serious talks.
I don't get it. You look at this list of criteria proposed by Greenstein and try to find a way in which Rutgers makes the most sense:
- Revenue. "Having a large and full football stadium is key. A basketball arena, too." Fail, fail. "But a bigger factor might be the television market." Maybe. More about this later.
- Geography. Rutgers is adjacent to Pennsylvania, I guess, but it's ten hours from Ann Arbor. The closest school is Penn State, which is four hours from Rutgers. It is a better fit than Texas, but not by much. Ten conference members are flying to Rutgers every time.
- Academics. Meh? Rutgers is not in the AAU. [Update: Oops. They are.]
- Recruiting. I don't think recruiting matters at all since adding a new team to the Big Ten isn't going to significantly change conference perception unless it's Texas or maybe Notre dame. But it's hard to see what Rutgers brings to the table there other than the occasional New Jersey football recruit. It might actually become harder to recruit in Jersey if Rutgers becomes more attractive as a Big Ten member.
Literally the only thing Rutgers brings to the table is the New Jersey/New York media market, and it's unclear how much pull RU actually has there. The Big Ten had to fight tooth and nail to get the BTN on in places where the college kids are the biggest game in town. Rutgers is at best the tenth banana in the NYC/NJ pecking order. They are behind the Jets, Giants, Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Yankees, Mets, Devils, Nets. Maybe they're more important than the Nets.
An area cable company could risk ignoring the BTN. Then what do you have? A school whose grandest bowl victory was probably a Texas Bowl demolition of Kansas State. Meanwhile, the basketball team hasn't made the tournament since 1991. I'm all for laughing maniacally as the Big Ten methodically steals a dollar a month from 18 million New Yorkers who don't even know what the BTN is, but I doubt Rutgers has that kind of cachet. Greenstein tries to prove that they do by citing that one game against Louisville which drew an 8.1. Sure, "when Rutgers wins" they are popular. They have been popular once since 1869.
Greenstein's other reasons are meaningless: they have an airport. They played a football game in 1869. Delany is from New Jersey. And they would leave the Big East. They've got some tenuous ability to bring TV markets. In literally every other way they are inferior to Missouri.
There is also a fawning profile in a Chicago business magazine that Orson should definitely not read unless he wants blood to run out of his eyes:
Colleagues describe Mr. Delany as restless and fearless. Those traits were apparent in 2007, when he formed the Big Ten Network, the nation's first conference-owned cable channel.
Anyway, that article has some quotes in direct opposition to Greenstein's "this is definitely happening" stance. Penn State president Graham Spanier:
"The folks in the media have gone a little bit crazy with this," he says. "There's a very good chance we won't expand at all. This is just a question we ask ourselves every few years. We don't feel we're under any pressure to expand."
"A little bit crazy" indicates that Spanier hasn't delved into the real speculation where Texas joins the Big Ten, brings half of the Big 12 along with it, and invades Mars.