B1G Expansion Dollars: The Research Edition

B1G Expansion Dollars: The Research Edition

Submitted by MosherJordan on February 19th, 2013 at 12:52 PM

There has been a lot of talk about the sense, or nonsense, of adding Rutgers and Maryland to the B1G in 2014 from a purely athletic point of view (verdict: non-sense), and also from a BTN TV market point of view (verdict: debatable). Whether the strategy will pan out or not, the consensus seems to be that this was all about adding TV dollars and sets, and any future expansion should be viewed through the lens of TV markets and how they may affect BTN revenues. While all this discussion has merit, it misses an important aspect of conference expansion. The impact of expansion on the ability to influence the allocation of federal research dollars to the B1G member schools has monetary implications that dwarf the potential for increased athletic dept. revenues. Whatever the designs of Jim Delaney are as the head of an athletic conference, I think conference expansion decisions are occurring well above his head, and seem to be driven by university presidents with research dollars in mind. When you consider the figures, it’s easy to see why. According to a 2010 NSF report (Link), universities and colleges received $32.5 billion dollars from the federal government in support of science and engineering research, with roughly 60% of that money going to Association of American Universities (AAU) members. That the AAU gets a big slice is not too surprising, as the AAU is a who’s who of research universities, but it also operates a powerful lobbying arm that works to ensure that its members get significantly more money from the federal government than the average school.  

The Council for Intercollegiate Cooperation (CIC) is what makes AAU membership so important for B1G expansion targets to possess. B1G membership is synonymous with CIC membership, with all B1G schools plus University of Chicago being members of the CIC. With the exception of Nebraska, all CIC members are AAU members (and Nebraska was an AAU school at the time the B1G voted to add it as a 12thmember, only loosing membership in 2011). CIC members share research resources, but more importantly, they also form a powerful subgroup within the AAU. This is where conference expansion and the AAU come together. Adding established AAU members can increase the CIC’s powerbase within the AAU. With $20 billion dollars in annual research dollars at stake, it only takes a little extra power to put a billion a year in extra research dollars into CIC hands, a figure four times the revenue of the BTN. With this in mind, I wanted to put together a research dollar influence score that could be used to rank the attractiveness of existing AAU members to the CIC via B1G expansion.

In theory, federal agencies use a non-partisan peer review process to allocate research money (think national academy of science). However, the reviewers who serve on agency committees come from the very universities they are tasked with allocating money to. Strong representation on these committees provides one means for the CIC to influence where federal research dollars go, so a stronger CIC from a purely academic research reputation basis means more opportunity to direct dollars back to the CIC. One component of my research dollar influence score is then formed by taking the annual Times Higher Education–QS World University Rankingsscore for each AAU member as a percentage of the sum of all scores. Unlike US News & World Report, the Times ranking is explicitly based on faculty research reputation. This gives each school a measure of relative academic clout within a group of heavyweights. It’s good to think of the research score like a recruiting team score. A school like Harvard is like USC’s class this year, full of five stars but a smaller overall size, while an Ohio State is like Texas A&M, not so loaded at the top end, but it makes up for it in class size. The Ole Miss of the group is Johns Hopkins, because not unlike recruiting, when it comes to federal research dollar allocation, it’s good to have powerful boosters, and Johns Hopkins has some of the best boosters in government.

In practice, pure political favoritism exists, and can significantly influence where research dollars go, over and above what a straight peer review would dictate. In a 1996 study, a university of Illinois professor found that as much as 40% of federal research dollars are allocated on the basis of congressional constituency bias, with appropriation committee membership having disproportionate effect (Link). That senators and congressmen work to make sure their state institutions (both public and private) get a more than fair share of the pie should surprise no one. Therefore, the second component of my research dollar influence score comes from measuring the percentage of total AAU congressional and senate representation a school represents. Unlike a peer reputation score, this second dimension is not purely additive (adding a Pittsburgh does nothing to increase the government influence of the CIC, since Penn State already brings access to Pennsylvania’s representatives and senators).

The average of these two relative power scores is what I’ll use as a research dollar influence score. The max score is 100%, and would represent the entire AAU acting as a whole, and the score for each expansion target represents the value of forming an alliance with that target. Before looking at expansion targets beyond Maryland and Rutgers, let’s apply the research dollar influence score to the AAU to see how power is distributed. Chart?


AAU Subgroup Govt Influence Peer Review Influence Combined Influence
CIC + UMD, RT 37% 22% 29%
CIC 30% 19% 25%
PAC 12 + CA 23% 23% 23%
Ivy + MA 23% 19% 21%
Ivy 23% 14% 18%
PAC 12 23% 14% 18%
ACC + Maryland 22% 9% 16%
ACC 20% 8% 14%
CA 10% 17% 14%
SEC 20% 5% 12%
B12 12% 4% 8%
NY 6% 9% 8%
MA 3% 7% 5%

Before adding Maryland and Rutgers, the CIC held a slim edge over the PAC 12 and Ivy League, with that lead narrowed when other CA and MA schools are lumped in with the PAC 12 and Ivy League, respectively. The ACC runs a respectable fourth, though replacing Maryland with Louisville hurts, while the SEC and Big 12 wield little influence. CA, NY and MA are powerful standalone states from a peer review influence score, but fall short on government influence. This is true even of CA, which has 53 congressional reps, but still only 2 senators, while the combined CIC footprint brings in 95 congressmen and 16 senators. When Maryland and Rutgers join in 2014, the CIC adds another 20 congressional districts and 4 senate seats. Also, peer review influence is additive, and while neither Rutgers nor Maryland is at the level of a Michigan, they are solid additions. The combined effect is to create a noticeable power gap between the CIC and its west coast and northeastern rivals. As an added bonus, Rutgers and Maryland both have senators sitting on the appropriations committee, with the senior senator from Maryland being the chair. Even if it doesn’t make you feel any better about it, maybe at least now the real value of adding Rutgers and Maryland becomes clear.

Turning to expansion targets, I’ll stick to existing AAU members, with a few exceptions. I list Nebraska and Syracuse as they are schools that only recently lost AAU membership, and may very well regain it. I also list Florida State since it is a school that has potential to obtain it, and is located in a congressionally rich state. John Hopkins is on the list because there have been rumors that the B1G might add it as an associate member in lacrosse. Just so we’re clear, if Johns Hopkins does become a lacrosse only member, it’ll be because of the CIC, not lacrosse.

AAU Member Govt Influence Peer Review Influence Combined Influence
Texas 7.5% 1.8% 4.7%
Florida State 6.1% 1.0% 3.5%
Syracuse 6.1% 1.0% 3.5%
Georgia Tech 4.1% 1.9% 3.0%
Duke 3.9% 1.9% 2.9%
North Carolina 3.9% 1.7% 2.8%
Rutgers 3.7% 1.4% 2.6%
Virginia 3.6% 1.2% 2.4%
Maryland 3.1% 1.3% 2.2%
Missouri 3.1% 0.8% 2.0%
Kansas 2.5% 0.7% 1.6%
Nebraska 2.3% 0.7% 1.5%
Johns Hopkins 0.0% 2.1% 1.0%
Pittsburgh 0.0% 1.5% 0.7%
Iowa State 0.0% 1.0% 0.5%

Missouri isn’t leaving the SEC, but this chart shows why the B1G was happy to limit raiding of the Big 12 to Nebraska, which wasn’t that exciting as a CIC addition, but was a legit premium football brand. It also explains why Jim Delaney dropped his unrequited love affair with Notre Dame for one with Texas faster than a teenage girl changing boy bands. After Texas, Florida State and Syracuse would be attractive additions, but they only have AAU potential, not current membership. FSU might have a strong enough football brand to add, but I don’t think it’s a given that the B1G would take them without AAU status. With it, Florida State would be the clear top next choice. This leaves Georgia Tech, Duke/North Carolina, and Virginia as targets, with Syracuse and Florida State in play only if the B1G goes to 20 and can afford to take a gamble.

Finally, the last chart shows how the relative influence of the CIC within the AAU compares after successively adding Rutgers and Maryland, then Georgia Tech, UVA, and Johns Hopkins, and finally UNC and Duke. The power shift is significant with each addition, and it could very likely mean an increase in research dollars to the CIC that exceeds current BTN revenues to the conference; 500 million to a billion dollars wouldn’t be a stretch.

AAU Subgroup Govt Influence Peer Review Influence Combined Influence
CIC + UNC, Duke 44% 29% 36%
CIC + GT, UVA, JH 40% 26% 33%
CIC + UMD, RT 37% 22% 29%
CIC 30% 19% 25%
PAC 12 + CA 23% 23% 23%
Ivy + MA 23% 19% 21%

I’ve highlighted the research dollar influence gain by pursuing an expansion strategy that cannibalizes the ACC. Of course, the benefits of expanding the footprint into ACC territory in terms of adding possibly lucrative TV markets and of strengthening connections to fertile football recruiting grounds also must be considered, and when taken together with the research dollar picture, makes it clear why the B1G is set on taking a big bite out of the ACC, and why the ACC is fighting the Maryland defection as hard as it can. Without a massive exit fee, the ACC is as good as dead.

On final parting thought. The question of why it would be necessary for the CIC to use the B1G as a vehicle for expansion, and why it couldn’t just expand without the athletic associations is one that is best answered by the Iran nuclear program. The façade of an athletic motivation for the expansion provides the plausible deniability the CIC needs to increase power without creating any outright rifts in the AAU. It provides the means to strengthen alliances without being overt about it.

(Sorry about the horrible formatting of the tables. This is my first post, and I haven't figured out how to make it look slick yet.)

Academic Dollars: Big Ten Expansion, Research Excellence and a B1G Sweep.

Academic Dollars: Big Ten Expansion, Research Excellence and a B1G Sweep.

Submitted by justingoblue on August 14th, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Recent conference expansion talk has fueled more speculation about the Big Ten adding a new member. Without a football powerhouse like Nebraska available, I believe that the only way a new member is added to the Big Ten is with solid athletics and powerhouse academic credentials. One way to measure academic excellence and activity is total research expenditures; I have compiled a list of total research dollars spent for a five year span (2004-2008) from The Top American Research Universities 2010 Report, from Part II starting on p.31. After gathering the raw data in Excel, I made a few simple calculations: summing data from different years, dividing schools into athletic conferences*, and finding the mean, median and mean expenditures per year. This should give some insight to where a potential Big Ten member needs to be (without being a special case like Nebraska), where the Big Ten fits among other conferences academically and which schools pump the most dollars into academic activity. Two notes about calculations: a) only schools with >$40,000,000 of research were included, the median does not include these schools in calculation, but both means heavily penalize a conference for a low-spending member and b) medical schools not on the university main campus are not included in calculations. Off the top of my head, IU, Rutgers, Nebraska and Arkansas are penalized heavily for this, so let me explain why: first, the AAU calculates this way and second, I did not have access to enough accounting data to do anything other than "include" or "not include" and chose the latter.

*Chicago was included in the Big Ten because of their CIC affiliation.

Conferences in order of total spending, a simple sum. (all numbers are *1,000):

Big Ten 30,266,277
Pac 12 23,757,209
ACC 17,996,467
SEC 12,361,094
Big XII 9,037,125
Big East 8,794,493

Conferences in order of median spending (excludes schools under 40,000,000):

Big Ten 2,093,400
Pac 12 1,808,149
ACC 1,620,709
Big East 1,336,260
SEC 1,239,180
BXII 851,474

Conferences in order of average spending (includes schools below 40,000,000 as zero):

Conference Average Average per Year
Big Ten 2,325,875 465,175
Pac 12 1,979,767 395,953
ACC 1,499,706 299,941
Big East 1,099,307 219,861
SEC 1,052,591 210,518
BXII 903,713 180,742

Big Ten Total Spending by School, descending:

Wisconsin 4,116,318
Michigan 4,063,612
Ohio State 3,202,138
Minnesota 2,965,622
PSU 2,873,737
Illinois 2,457,119
Northwestern 2,093,400
Purdue 1,948,883
Iowa 1,650,222
Michigan State 1,580,244
Chicago 1,551,427
Nebraska 1,054,776
IU 678,879

Big Ten Notables:

Total Spending 30,236,377
Median Spending 2,093,400
Average (includes <40,000,000 as zero) 2,325,875
Average Per Year 465,175
Highest Spender Wisconsin (4,116,318)
Lowest Spender Indiana (678,879)

Pac 12 Notables:

Total Spending 23,757,209
Median Spending 1,808,149
Average (includes <40,000,000 as zero) 1,979,767
Average Per Year 395,953
Highest Spender Washington (3,721,565)
Lowest Spender Oregon (279,875)

ACC Notables:

Total Spending 17,996,467
Median Spending 1,620,709
Average (includes <40,000,000 as zero) 1,499,706
Average Per Year 299,941
Highest Spender Duke (3,357,452)
Lowest Spender FSU (898,502)
Non Qualifiers Boston College

SEC Notables:

Total Spending 12,631,094
Median Spending 1,239,180
Average (includes <40,000,000 as zero) 1,052,591
Average Per Year 210,518
Highest Spender Florida (2,720,376)
Lowest Spender Auburn (672,043)
Non Qualifiers Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama

Big XII Notables:

Total Spending 9,037,125
Median Spending 851,474
Average (includes <40,000,000 as zero) 903,713
Average Per Year 180,742
Highest Spender Texas A&M (2,555,789)
Lowest Spender Oklahoma (393,766)
Non Qualifiers Texas Tech, Baylor

Big East Notables:

Total Spending 8,794,453
Median Spending 1,336,260
Average (includes <40,000,000 as zero) 1,099,260
Average Per Year 219,861
Highest Spender Pitt (2,656,991)
Lowest Spender Connecticut (523,633)
Non Qualifiers Syracuse

Possible Big Ten Additions:

School: Dollars spent last five years Rank in CIC using current membership
Duke 3,357,452 3
UNC 2,304,624 7
U.Va 1,194,179 12
Virginia Tech 1,620,709 10
Pitt 2,656,991 7
Rutgers 1,399,272 12
Syracuse N/R 14
Missouri 1,126,801 12
Notre Dame 398,712 14