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.)



February 19th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

And that does make a lot of sense. When it came out that the B1G said "no" to a school I thought for sure it was Louisville. Sure, better athletic program, but terrible academics. This diary goes about the cash adn motivation for why the B1G is only interested in premier academic members.

Your pictures aren't loading for me though, did you upload them to the internet and then link them here?


February 21st, 2013 at 9:29 AM ^

Excellent diary Mosher. Content like this is what makes and will continue to make this "blog" the best collegiate athletic site on the interwebs. Thorough analysis and a fresh and interesting perspective from a long time member and first time diarist. Gold Star for you MJ.


February 19th, 2013 at 1:41 PM ^

This is probably the most interesting diary I've read in... months? Absolutely fantastic work, MosherJordan. I think what you're saying makes a lot of sense, certainly more than the TV market explanation makes.


February 19th, 2013 at 2:32 PM ^

"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."

Nebraska was booted out of the AAU because they were WAY below the average, in various metrics the Association uses to determine fitness for membership. They were pretty close to the bottom, and in fact, were below quite a few schools that are not members.

Syracuse realized that they were likely to be booted. Rather than put themselves through an embarrassing vote, they elected to resign. Florida State's metrics are somewhat comparable to those of Nebraska and Syracuse, or perhaps a bit below.

Unless the AAU changes its standards, those schools would have a looooong way to go, before they'd be candidates for membership. Bear in mind that the existing members aren't standing still, and plenty of others trying to get in. To become an AAU members, it's not enough for a school like FSU to improve. They have to improve at a faster rate than their competitors, and that's hard to do.

PB-J Time

February 19th, 2013 at 3:43 PM ^

My understanding that a large reason that were removed was their medical school/hospital (and its research) was not included because it is in Omaha. This would be akin to U-M hospital being in Detroit-Dearborn region and being considered part of U-M Dearborn. Now U-M Ann Arbor has many other areas of research as well, but this would be a HUGE chunk of research cash lost.

In addition some of the reseach Nebraska did with the USDA was also not allowed to be included. 

Do you know to what degree this played a role in Nebraska being removed from AAU membership? Would it have happened anyway? You seem knowledgable on the subject.


February 22nd, 2013 at 11:58 PM ^

The small difference that I'll point out is that in the University of Nebraska system, the medical school is its own campus, and is not a part of any of the others: UNL (Lincoln, the flagship), UNO (Omaha), or UNK (Kearney; you can't spell 'drunk' without UNK). The medical school is physically located in Omaha, but it's a separate campus, even from UNO: it's called UNMC (University of Nebraska Medical Center). The inability to count those research dollars, along with the USDA dollars at UNL, had a lot to do with UNL getting booted from AAU status.

Disclaimer: I'm a proud UNL grad (and a UM grad, too, FWIW), but I'm not going to claim that UNL is a top tier school, or even was in the top half of the AAU peers. That said, getting booted from AAU based on the metrics that were used was a joke.

Gulo Blue

February 19th, 2013 at 2:43 PM ^

It's a great theory, but Nebraska just doesn't fit. Maybe if the Presidents were listening to football people when Nebraska joined, and that got the attention of people that didn't think Nebraska was a fit...and then, academic advocates set their university presidents straight, then maybe this would explain what's gonig on now, but that's quite a stretch.


February 19th, 2013 at 4:09 PM ^

True, but then I acknowledged that Nebraska wasn't a great fit for the CIC, and got in because it was a premium football brand. Nebraska was Jim Delaney, not Mary Sue Coleman.

The post tries to explain some the motiviation for adding Rutgers and Maryland and other ACC targets. Nebraska was a premium football brand that got the B1G to 12 teams, allowing a conference championshipe, etc. There's no doubt that it was added for mainly athletic reasons. It got through the CIC approval gauntlet because it was AAU at the time, but there has been some rumor that it wouldn't have if it had lost AAU status before. That some university presidents are having enough buyers remorse to rethink how active they should be in the strategy is not that big a stretch, really.

Plus, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.


February 19th, 2013 at 4:38 PM ^

I think that Nebraska was to get to 12 teams and you weren't going to pull any of these targets on their own. Now that everything is so unstable, it's a lot easier to pull these schools and we are looking to go to 16-20 teams to get them. I do agree that the CIC is probably the number one reason that we are looking to add these ACC/Big East schools, however, I still think that TV markets are a major factor. Adding Maryland gets you Baltimore and DC. Adding NC and Virginia gets you all the markets in those states. GT gets you Atlanta. FSU gets you all of Florida. Adding all of those schools/states gives a huge boost to research funding but it also basically means that you control the east coast, save Boston and maybe NYC for TV. At 18 teams, you are probably looking for two more schools. With those two schools, they will go after Boston and/or NYC. NYC's top college teams are Rutgers, Notre Dame, PSU, Syracuse, Michigan, and UConn. The B1G has 3 of the top 5 and I wouldn't be surprised to see them go after the other 2, especially after pillaging the ACC. If that happens, we will have 7 of the top 9 targets on your list.

restive neb

February 19th, 2013 at 4:09 PM ^

It's entirely possible that the Nebraska thing doesn't fit this theory because it was being led by a different calculus.  Prior to their addition, the Big Ten was only at 11 members, and was unable to have a conference championship game (and the money that goes with it).  The drive for expansion was led by the athletic conference.  They added Nebraska to add a strong football program that would deliver both the 12th member and a conference championship game.  Once there were 12 members, any additional expansion is being driven by different metrics.  The Nebraska addition was probably initiated by the athletic conference, but it's possible that it opened the eyes of school administrators to the benefits of future expansions, and their calculations look a little different than the athletics guys'.

Edit:  beaten to the punch because I'm slow and long-winded.

Blue Durham

February 19th, 2013 at 6:25 PM ^

and as you imply, I think there are a number of factors; athletics, geography, academics, and impact on/for the CIC. They each are going to given weight, and differently at different times. Still doesn't invalidate the OP's argument of what is going on now and factoring in the importance and weight the CIC has now (versus when the conference was at 11 trying to get to the magic number of 12 to qualify for a championship game).


February 19th, 2013 at 3:50 PM ^

It's insight and thoughtful commentary like the above that has me tirelessly hitting F5 on my web browser. I believe that you have addressed and rationalized a key motive for BIG expansion that does not get much focus. Well done, unless you are really Jim Delaney in disguise...


February 19th, 2013 at 4:00 PM ^

Given the latest rumors about membership offers on the table to North Carolina and possibly Virginia/Georgia Tech, this is extremely timely.

Which leads me to one of two conclusions, either (1) you shared this with Jim Delany a short time ago or (2) you are Delany himself?!?!?

Wolverine In Exile

February 19th, 2013 at 9:38 PM ^

I've been saying this for a while and you hit the nail on the head wrt political influence on research spending. I work in the space industry and in all honesty, mikulski has been the sole reason umd and jhu have gotten such a huge chunk of space funding... umd's space program wouldn't exist without sen babs. Jhu's apl is essentially an ffrdc while maintaining univ status. If b1g were to get unc and uva, I would imagine wallops and goddard affiliated schools (re: umd and uva) would get money at the expense of marshall in huntsville and stennis in mississippi. Cic memberswith strong space programs like umich, penn st, and purdue will probably get the windfall in terms of increased funding to their state space grant consortiums by partnering with umd and uva.

And oh yeah, basketball and lacrosse would be pretty good too.

Rufus X

February 20th, 2013 at 8:45 AM ^

Great, great work...  It really brings into focus the mysterious, blurry world of the B1G's logic.  At least now I know there might actually be some, even though I might disagree with it to some degree.  We always hear phrases tossed around like "academic fit" and "research university" regarding expansion, but only a handful people understand that like you clearly do.  Well done, sir.  Well done.

Gulo Blue

February 20th, 2013 at 10:31 AM ^

It would be interesting to know if this influence is supposed to arrise naturally or if marching orders are given from the top.  I wish I knew professors from Rutgers and Maryland to ask if they get any instruction about being CIC members.


February 20th, 2013 at 11:33 AM ^

Does it perhaps make a little more sense to divide funds apportioned to a given state for research on some kind of merit basis? The way you have it is that Pitt doesn't add anything because we have PSU, right? But presumably PSU and Pitt split that money along some lines. It also seems to indicate that if we took Duke we'd be less likely to take UNC? Anyway, if I had to guess, the total is more or less determined by research status but the marginal dollar goes to the more politically connected district of the two.

Do I have that right and would altering your formula along those lines change much?


February 20th, 2013 at 12:09 PM ^

Yeah, the score probably over penalizes a Pitt for belonging to a state already "covered" by the CIC. I'm sure the politics is more nuanced, and I debated trying to normalize a state by how many ways political influence would have to be split. I also thought about how to include appropriations committee membership, as that clearly has an effect, but couldn't think of a good way to do it. There is also the idea that the political influence has to be split between a state's AAU members and non-members. Virginia would rank higher if I considered how many AAU members a school shares a state with, since it is the sole AAU member in VA, and Syracuse would lose most of it's luster, since it shares NY with Cornell, NYU, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Stony Brook and Columbia.

The overall conclusion of the analysis doesn't change much either way though. The ACC is a richer target than the Big 12, Pitt is still doesn't add much, Texas is still aces, and Florida State would be a top target if it were a solid AAU member. The point was that by going for a congressional district rich southern states just makes a lot more sense than targeting more midwest or northeast states. 

Also, the score doesn't measure research dollars that come from private sources. The research triangle is a very attractive property to add to the CIC. If it takes both Duke and North Carolina to deliver it, then it's probably worth it.

Ultimately, I'd guess that the target list is UVA, UNC, GT, and Duke, in that order, and the B1G would take all four if it could.


February 20th, 2013 at 1:51 PM ^

However, Pittsburgh in 2012 received 419 million in NIH research funding (compared to Michigan's 456 million) and PSU received less than 1/4 of that amount.   Pitt medicine is one of the better medical research programs in the country.


I was always a bit disappointed that Pitt didn't join the B1G, but I understand why Delaney didn't need them.

The Claw

February 20th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

I'm surprised this hasn't got a thread but last night a 247 reporter who said Maryland got an invite before it was officially announced, stated North Carolina has one on the table right now.  Many are thinking this is legit because the leak isfrom the reported who got the first scoup.

Then Virginia and Georgia Tech are being discussed for #16.

So MJ was right on the money in his article.

I guess we'll see if its true soon enough...



February 20th, 2013 at 1:44 PM ^

MosherJordan, I appreciate the time you took to look into this data, but I honestly think it's way off base.  Basically, I think you're seeing correlation, and then making some (mostly incorrect) inferrences about how the allocation process works to claim causation.  I don't mean any disrespect by this, but do you have any invovlement in the federal research allocations process where you might have seen the type of lobying you describe to influence allocations to other CIC schools?  Again, I don't mean any disrespect, but I assume not since you said things about NAS being a funding organization (which it is not).

So, to give some context, I am an engineering professor at a top 5 university in the US.  I get federal research funds from several federal agencies (NSF, NIH, DoD), and I sit on review panels at these same types of agencies.  I am not at an institution in the CIC, but I was a student at UM and am very close to faculty at several CIC schools.  If anyone wants information about how federal research dollars are allocated, I'm happy to answer to the best of my ability.

There is definitely political influence in some types of federal research allocations (e.g., grants to establish large centers, some grants to associated research centers such as JPL APL that someone mentioned above).  But, while big numbers individually, these types of allocations are small compared to the litany of reguar grants given to professors (individuals or small teams).  For NSF/NIH types of grants, the merit review is taken very seriously and the notion that the conference affiliation of the proposer would play into it would be patently absurd to everyone I know.  For DoD grants, the review is more "in house" at the specific agency, but it's still taken very seriously and performed by program managers who manage their own portfolio and are accountable for its performance.

Essentially, I think you're seeing what we all know.  The big 10 schools are generally very strong academically.  Strong research schools get that way by hiring the most innovative faculty. Those faculty are doing exciting work and given the resources they need to succeed, leading to more grant funding.  While the reputation of a school may influence the perception of the proposers ability to do what they are saying, the conference affiliation (or even AAU affiliation) just doesn't come up in the scientific review that these decisions are made from.  

So, from my experience in the process, I just don't see how CIC lobbying (or even AAU lobbying) could play any major role in the bulk of the allocated money.  Again, maybe it does for the few big projects allocated every year, but the total dollars in this small segment  are still nothing on the order of atheletic budgets.  Let me know if you have some experience with this that leads you to think differently, but otherwise I think there is some correlation being confused as causation here.


February 20th, 2013 at 3:56 PM ^

I just tracked down this:


Even considering this study doesn't (per Gelman...I'm not familiar enough with the statistical techniques in question to know) establish causality, it certainly seems plausible that Congress can do quite a lot to negotiate the specifics of NIH funding given the following:

"In the House Appropriations Committee (HAC), the NIH budget request is handled by the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee (LHHE). A similarly named subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) evaluates the NIH budget request in that chamber. The LHHE subcommittees consider the NIH budget request, amend the funding requests in the presidential budget, and “mark up” the appropriations bills, sometimes specifically for institutes and centers at the NIH, that are ultimately reported to the House and Senate by each chamber's appropriations committee.

The subcommittee meeting reports that accompany the appropriations bills to the floor contain additional detail and guidance on the allocation and disbursement of appropriated funds by the NIH. Transfers affecting the level of support may involve (i) reallocation for NIH funding among the agency's institutes and centers, (ii) subcommittee support for specific fields of biomedical research associated with particular diseases, and (iii) project-level transfers that reallocate funding among particular lines of research and/or research projects within a given disease field. (See Supporting Online Material for examples)."

Just as a matter of agenda setting, it would seem Congress and assorted lobbies have the power to do what MJ suggests they can on an order of meaningful magnitude.  Again, that's far from establishing causality, but I would like to be convinced both that it can't and that it doesn't.  Assuming this mechanism is viable, I think the incentives for a given congressperson are clear.


February 21st, 2013 at 8:27 AM ^

OK.  Let's talk about congressional influence (though this is a totally separate issue from CIC influence, which was the nature of the original post).  There certainly is congressional influence on the broad distribution of funds.  As the quoted text says, within the context of NIH (which is divided into several institutes), congress can argue that we should be spending more in one institute (National Cancer Institute) vs. another (National Eye Institute), or perhaps even some subdivisions within each institute.  But once these allocations are decided, there really isn't a mechanism for them to influence the individual funding decisions.

At NIH, grants will go to a panel of experts (called a study section), who will evaluate and score the proposals.  The proposals are basically rank ordered, and a line is drawn at a certain percentile depending on how much funding is available for the program.  All of this is very transparent....it's not like a member of congress could call up and affect it.

So, if a congressional member had a big cancer center in their district, they could argue for more funding for that general area.  While that would have some affect on their pet university if it was successful (because a rising tide would help all boats), there is going to be tremendous competition for these resources and it's not like there is a mechanism for them to influence the funding decisions directly.

This being said, I want to make clear that I'm talking about "normal" grants here.  There are grants for big centers that certainly have more room for congressional input.  These are big dollar things ($50M), but there are relatively few of them so the fraction of the total research budget is overall very small.


February 21st, 2013 at 9:29 AM ^

Also, just to follow up on my post above, my example of the cancer center was deliberate in being very specific.  If you have a specialized instiution like that (e.g., MD Anderson in Houston), then lobbying for more cancer funding probably has an affect.  What if you have UM in your congressional district?  Like most places, UM conducts a huge spectrum of research.  If you argue that more money should be in one of the NIH institutes than another, you might increase the funding for some of your researchers and decrease it for others.


February 20th, 2013 at 4:22 PM ^

I didn't say that the NAS was a funding organization, just that the peer review process involves distinguished professors who are selected by the various agencies on the basis of their work and reputation, similar to the way they get appointed to NAS.

My experience comes from the Mathematics dept, which admittedly get grants that are a fraction of what other sciences do, since there are no big expensive labs to run. I respect your input on the peer review process. I never really meant to suggest that the reviewers are intentionally biased. That said, I'd wager there's more unintentional bias than you realize, and schools of thought can be self-reinforcing.

As for the political part of the equation, I was basing it on work done by economists who did study things, and find very high influence of the political aspect to spending. There is no federally supported research on gun violence because the NRA has lobbied very hard to prevent it.

Of course, it could be all correlation. As I said, the AAU is a who's who, so they might get 60% of the pie because that's where all the good research is happening. But then you'd have to explain why AAU membership is so important to so many schools. Nebraska losing AAU status was a big deal to the CIC members. If AAU has no power, why? B1G is targeting AAU schools. If AAU has no real importance, why?

It certainly looks like the B1G is trying to become the public Ivy league, and I don't think that's coincidental. This post was just a way to try to put one rationalization behind why. Still, I don't work on the Hill, and I don't sit on any peer review committees, so I could be wrong. Time will tell, I suppose.


February 21st, 2013 at 9:52 AM ^

MosherJordan, sorry to misinterpret your comments.  When you said "a non-partisan peer review process to allocate research money (think national academy of science)", I thought you were saying NAS was doing funding review.

I understand your NRA example.  See my response above to colin.  I agree that there can be influence on broad areas of funding.  As I said above, it's much harder to imagine a mechanism where influence about specific schools to fund can be exerted (again, I'm addressing the bulk of funding for "normal" grants and not grants to fund research centers, which do have more political influence).

The main thesis of your original post was that CIC membership can confer some lobbying advantage on specific schools that are members, and moreover, that advantage is big enough to drive the decisions we're seeing about atheletic alignment.  How would this advantage come into play?  Again, I think most of what you're showing is correlation and not causation.  You could make a case for causation if you can think of a mechanism, but I just don't see ways that the CIC could come into an NIH study section and say "you know, we really should fund something at one of our member schools".

You're right that there can be bias.  As I said above, the general perception of the quality of the school can play a part in the evaluation (mostly because places less well regarded don't have as much infrastructure to support the research being proposed).  So, the overall reputation does have some affect, though I wouldn't say it's anything close to a primary factor for places like NSF/NIH (in fact, NSF seems to try and explicitly fund things are more disadvantaged institutions).

So, what about reputation?  For the most part, the review panels are so specialized that they are thinking of the reputation of the specific department rather than the broad school.  For example, when someone from your department submits a proposal, the review panel is so specialized that they may have in mind the strength of mathematics at UM moreso than the overall strength of UM (weak schools can have good indivudal departments and vice versa).  When someone doesn't have this knowledge, the overall school reputation can help that.  In that case, AAU membership does carry a certain amount of prestige that can help the overall reputation.  Frankly, CIC membership just does not.  For the most part, no one knows what the CIC is.  The atheletic watching public may think more highly of Rutgers/UMD because they are now in the big ten, but for a scientist who is very specialized in their field, they probably don't even know what the CIC is and  reputation of that specific discipline at Rutgers/UMD didn't just change because of CIC membership.   

You could also try and say that CIC members are now "in the club" and people from other CIC schools will try to more favorably review their work.  Generally you can't review things from the school you work at.  And, I don't think anyone cares to favor stuff from schools from the same conference.  To say it simply, the review is so specialized, technical and distributed across people from several institutions that it's hard to imagine that people would have this type of bias.

Why the desire to be an AAU member?  General prestige, which is beneficial.  Feeling like you have a voice in the lobbying effort.  This effort is mostly in support of increased federal funding overall.  While a rising tide lifts all boats, if you have more resources and a better reputation, you might get risen a little higher.

I know a few people in the math dept at UM pretty well.  Ask some of the faculty there if they even know what the CIC is.  I bet you'll be surprised at how little of a factor it is in people's thinking.  It gets talked about on this board a lot.  I live and work in the world of federal research funding every day, and I have never once heard the CIC even mentioned in that world.  Again, I appreciate the research you put into it, but I think it vastly overstates the importance of CIC membership.  I guess you can wait a few years to see if Rutgers or UMD had any specific effect from it.


February 21st, 2013 at 10:48 AM ^

I definitely appreciate the first hand input you provide. I'm happy to admit that I may have overestimated the effect of AAU membership as an explicit force in the peer review funding process.

That said, direct earmarks for universities totals about $2 billion dollars (Link). That's not chump change, and it is undeniably politically motivated. I linked a study by an U of Illinois professor who looked at the funding allocation process who concluded that as much as 40% of the money is influenced by congressional representation through district affiliation or by alumni status. The study is more about the appropriations committee itself, than about general members of congress, but my thinking was that after the B1G adds Rutgers and Maryland, and then maybe two of UVA, UNC or GT to the fold, it would be adding a total of 45 congressmen and 8 senators to the list of potential govt benefactors. That would bring congressional representation to about 25% of the house and 25% of the senate. That's some clout if the B1G can get it to work together.

I totally grant you that congressmen aren't calling NSF to make sure Prof. Xavier gets his $300k request to fund his telekenisis study, but the study I linked to in the post still seems to suggest that congress can funnel money where it wants. Maybe as you say it's more general reallocation of funds, but I'm sure Barbara Mikulski pushes for NIH to get more money, she knows Johns Hopkins is getting another $100 mil.

I'd also say that it's not just my opinion I'm going on. Mary Sue Coleman has said publicly that she thinks schools like the University of Michigan should recieve special treatment by the federal government to step in and make up for failing state funding. That schools like Michigan are so important to the country as established research institutions, that the federal government should make sure that the population trends shouldn't be allowed to lead it into slow decline with its home state. Now, if the President of the University of Michigan says that in public, you can bet that all the other B1G presidents echo it. And if she is saying it publicly, she is lobbying congress with the same message. And it certainly would help matters if she could align with other top public research schools to amplify the message.

This may not be part of the expansion calculus at all, but Delaney has said that the university presidents want expansion to be restricted to good research schools. So even if I'm wrong about why, the reputation score still applies. 


February 21st, 2013 at 11:02 AM ^

Sure, there are earmarks that are outside the usual federal grantmaking process.  I have to admit that I don't know much about this aspect of the funding landscape.

That being said, I still don't necessarily understand the argument you're trying to make about CIC membership playing a big role in that.  I can understand the argument that a member of congress would try to get an earmark to help a school in their district.  Are you trying to say that if a school in their district was a CIC member, then they would also try harder to get an earmark for another CIC school (not in their district)?  I don't know about this directly, but it seems unlikely to me.  I would be more inclined to believe that they would be trying to get an earmark for a school in someone else's district that they're trying to get a favor from.

As I said above, I can imagine AAU membership contributes to some bias due to a notion of prestige.  I just don't think the CIC confers that (at least not to the scientists sitting on the review panels that the decisions are based off of).  Again, I've never heard AAU/CIC membership even discussed in this arena.  Perhaps it's having some effect in the earmark process....I don't know.  In the link you gave, the numbers are tens of millions of dollars per school (and this is for the schools receiving the most earmarked money).  While that is a lot of money, it really pales in comparison to the overall budgets.  For example, the annual research expenditures of my department are in the neighborhood of $60M.  If this is the main mechanism of trying to see gain from CIC influence, it seems hard to beleive that an amount of money that is a fraction of what one department may spend in a year is enough to make a substantial move for the whole university.


February 21st, 2013 at 11:55 AM ^

Tens of millions per school may seem small, but that's the level of money the BTN brings to individual schools, and the arguments people make about TV market dollars being the motivation for adding Rutgers seems to equate to a smaller annual increase in revenue for the school than extra money from earmarks would. Heck, the $60M your department spends is more than a lot of athletic departments spend period.

As for earmarks generally, it seems Mary Sue Coleman and Univ of Michigan want it both ways, actually. The AAU has long lobbied hard against earmarks, since they divert money that it's memeber schools would ordinarily get. So Mary Sue wants the Alabama Tuscaloosa's of the world cut off, and that $2B returned to normal channels so U of M gets more.

On the other hand, she wants U of M to get national landmark status so that she can get more direct subsidization for her school to fill in the hundred million plus shortfall from the state of Michigan.

$50 million more in annual research money (wherever it came from) is essentially equivalent to a $1B endowment (edit: I originally said $2B, but it's more like $1B).. Would Mary Sue Coleman trade traditional football games with Iowa for games against Rutgers if she coudl get her hands on an extra $1B endowment? I don't think there's any question.

The current B1G schools strengthening their political connections to southern schools before the great exodus of population from their states erodes their political influence further seems like a very real justification for expanding the conference to the UNC, UVA, GTs of the world.

I think everyone knows that the university revenue model is unsustainable. Enrollment trends are showing declines in response to untenable tuition. Top notch small private schools aren't as exposed to the risk of big changes in the way college works. It makes a lot of sense for the B1G to create a stronger connection amongst the top public (state flagship) schools to weather the coming storm.


February 21st, 2013 at 1:09 PM ^

I don't know that the comparison to endowments (or even BTN money) is entirely correct.  Both of those reveune sources are very flexible and can be spent on anything you want.  An earmark is tied to something specific (i.e., funding the project that's been earmarked).  So, while I'm sure the general consensus is to take the money to do something interesting, in order to spend that money you would have to do the work.  Even assuming BTN funds are segregated to the atheletic budget, they are probably used to fund non-revenue sports, etc.

I get your overall analogy that $10M is a lot of money (but this is for some of the top receivers of earmarks, and is a one-time thing rather than a sustained revenue source).  I just haven't seen anything that convinces me the CIC membership specifically would play any role in it.  Further, I think I tend to disagree that the conference realignment is substantially motivated by any of this.  In any of these conversations, the amount of money that may possibly be moved by it is just a drop in the bucket compared to the budgets that the universities and funding agencies are dealing with.


February 21st, 2013 at 2:00 PM ^

From the University of Maryland itself...

While no one is arguing that membership in the CIC was the primary motivation behind Maryland’s conference swap, it played “an essential and significant role,” in the decision, said Brian Ullmann, Maryland’s assistant vice president for communications and marketing.

Ullmann, the Maryland spokesman, stressed the importance of future research opportunities stemming from the CIC.

“When big grantmaking institutions, whether it’s the government or a foundation, when they’re giving out research dollars or grants, almost always those are given to multi-institutional groups,” Ullmann said. “It’s very rare that you get a large grant that just goes to the University of Maryland. Being a part of an $8 billion research enterprise we think will ultimately generate new incremental research funding for the university.



So you may be right, maybe the research dollars and CIC membership isn't the number one motivator for expansion (it's still athletic dollars), but it certainly seems like CIC membership and research $$ is a real part of the equation.


February 21st, 2013 at 4:04 PM ^

Hmmm...I'm very surprised to read that.  I totally agree with the statement that the trend is to multi-university awards.  But, when people are forming teams to compete for these awards, you look for the best technical people.  I've never heard of instances where people would try to arrange these teams based on conference (or in this case, CIC) affiliation.  I guess I'm still skeptical that it plays any significant role, but we don't really have a test case to check right now.  Let's wait a few years and then see if anything substantial has changed with Rutgers/UMD.  Nebraska probably isn't a fair evaluation, since their AAU status changed about the same time and you would never be sure which effect was most important.


February 21st, 2013 at 6:01 PM ^

but the whole point of multi-university affiliation is so you can pool resources, and would Maryland be as able to partner with Michigan/Wisconsin/Northwestern, etc. without the CIC affiliation, in order to share that pie? Most likely not. As you said, the best way to see how much of a factor it is would be to look at research budgets at CIC institutions as a whole compared to other AAU members in a couple years and see if the affiliation is making a difference in funding growth.


February 21st, 2013 at 8:55 PM ^

Yeah, I think we all agree that there is no way to know the answer to this until we have data a few years down the line.  I'm just expressing my opinion, from experience in this area, that CIC membership is unlikely to have the type of benefits that the OP is conjecturing.

Yes, UMD would easily be able to partner with UM on a large multi-university proposal (e.g., an STC from NSF or a MURI from the DoD).  This type of thing happens all the time, and it's not a big deal.  Look at the CIC website to see what kind of resources are being shared.  They're highlighting things like sharing some library/software resources, sharing some courses, etc.  While I'm sure there is some value to some of these things, it just isn't really a big factor.  If NSF is going to drop $50M on starting a new center at a group of 3-4 schools, they have a lot more to worry about in the evaluation then whether the schools have a good interlibrary loan program.  The considerations of the technical area and the leadership team are orders of magnitude more important than this kind of stuff.  Sharing of a major unique resource (e.g., a nuclear reactor, a state of the art clean room, etc.) would be a big deal, but this sort of stuff is handled separately regardless of the CIC.


February 21st, 2013 at 10:09 PM ^

I definitely respect your perspective and am glad you shared your experience. It's entirely possible that we are both right. There may be little in past experience to think that the CIC will benefit from such a strategy. That said, I think part of the opinion I expressed has been validated in that it seems like the universities themselves (even athletically bankrupt Maryland still takes time to highlight the importance of the CIC in the decision making) think the CIC is important, and seem to throw the $8 billion in research funds figure around a lot everytime they talk about themselves. In my experience, the only people who talk about how much money they make are Donald Trump, and people who want you to give them more money. It will take time to see how serious this talk is, and whether it will pay dividends (two different things). I'm happy to remain a skeptic until we get more proof.

In the mean time, a hypothetical would be fun. I'd be curious to know how you would react if you were at a CIC school, and the head of your dept (or the dean of the college, or even president of the university) told you that it would be in the university's best interest if there were more intentional cooperation between departments within the CIC? Would direct or indirect pressure be met with acceptance or revolt? How would you react if the president of your university made it clear that this was the new strategy? That's probably the most interesting question to me. I'd think the tendency would be to comply. I left academia for industry some time ago, so maybe it's just me, but I think that I might initially mildly resent being told to limit my options, and then get over it as it's not like I was being told to work with Grand Valley State, and that in the end, I'm not the one paying the electric bill.

Also, I got you to double your MGoPoint total in one thread, which as you're an obviously smart guy, has to count for something, amirite?



February 21st, 2013 at 10:43 PM ^

Interesting question.  It might get an attempt to comply by some people.  What's hard about that is that a specific project usually needs some particular expertise.  The affiliated schools may not have people with that expertise or may have people that are not the best possible option.  Do you reduce the quality of the team to comply with that sort of pressure?  So, my first guess was that it would largely be ignored by most people, except in cases where it worked out easily.  This is also supported by the amount of disrespect generally given by faculty to things like strategic plans and vision statements from administrators.

On the other hand, I'm in a city with another major university.  This other school clearly has complementary expertise to ours, and there is general encouragement to try and find collaborations.  On the whole, I am seeing a little increase in explicit effort to build joint programs and I think this is generally viewed positively by the faculty.  There are very obvious benefits here though.....same city and clearly non-overlapping expertises.  I don't know if you could extrapolate to the CIC where the schools are close but still not in the same city, and expertises are much more overlapping.  The motivation for the "encouragement" is still not clear to me, and therefore, it may be less interesting to the faculty that actually have to carry it out.

Yeah, I mostly lurk and read, but everyone once and a while there is something I actually know about and can contribute to.  At this rate it will only be another 15-20 years before I can start my own posts!


February 22nd, 2013 at 1:06 AM ^

a lot, and I see why MosherJordan is looking at it in the way he is. Basically, while Maryland and New Jersey are decent-sized states, they really aren't growing that fast, and locals just don't seem to be that excited about local college sports there, unless they're alumni of schools that have them, not necessarily even Maryland and Rutgers. Jim Delany must have the same info we do about cable models getting destroyed, demographics, athletic prowess, etc. Frankly, as most of us have seen, adding these schools doesn't make tons of sense on the surface in terms of athletics, and demographics is actually an iffier argument than it would be for more southerly states. So, that raises the question of why, given all that, these schools would still seem attractive. This leads to (I mean no disrespect whatsoever, but can't think of a better term) a "conspiracy theory", because all the stuff on the surface seems to say that doing this wasn't a good idea, and the wealthiest conference in the country doesn't get that way by doing stupid stuff. It's an attempt to ascribe meaning to something that seems senseless right now.

I don't know if there is an attempt to really make the CIC into something big for research, or to make the B1G the official public ivy league, or something along those lines, but it seems to make the most sense of all the other explanations we've heard.


February 22nd, 2013 at 11:40 AM ^

It's always possible that the answer is simple if unsatisfying. Delaney tells B1G presidents that 16 team superconferences are inevitable, and that it's better to be the first to 16 than the last. Presidents say if we have to expand, can we get closer to being the public Ivy? Delaney looks at the list of poachable AAU schools, sees that there are a few in nice fat TV markets, and says that he can probably do that. Everyone is blissfully unaware that the final B1G has a research footprint that could make it a force to be reconed with if it ever became self aware. It's possible. It just wouldn't be very smart.


February 22nd, 2013 at 10:54 AM ^

No, I totally understand.  I agree that there is something playing into it that we're probably not all aware of.  It seems like cable markets are getting talked about a lot, I also agree that this seems like a terrible idea looking forward (and I hope that they're smart enough to realize that....they do have a history of successful decision making, division names aside).

While I agree that looking in this direction from MosherJordan is worthwhile, my big original complaint is that the conclusions were way overstated.  It was claiming a causal connection from something that has a reasonable explanation just as a correlation.  If you want to claim causality from this, then you have to also include a reasonable mechanism.  That's the sticking point for me.  In my experience, I just don't see a mechanism in the federal funding process where this could result in a payoff of a big enough size to make a difference.  Given the quote from the UMD official above, maybe I'm just not looking forward enough.  Maybe there is speculation about a major change in the funding structure (which is entirely possible) that would favor something like CIC membership more than it is now.


February 22nd, 2013 at 2:41 PM ^

but perhaps as a "natural experiment", two schools in the same state, Iowa and Iowa State, have vastly different research expenditures according to this: http://mup.asu.edu/research2011.pdf. Iowa in 2009 did about $250 million in research, while Iowa State did less than $100 million. Same state, same population served, though Iowa has a medical school, while ISU has the ag school, a la Michigan and MSU, so I'm not sure if any firm conclusions can be drawn.


EDIT: Actually, according to that, Pitt has way high research expenditures, and would make much more sense in that regard.