Big Ten Expansion: Grid Of Judgment Comment Count

Brian December 15th, 2009 at 3:57 PM

The Crimson Quarry has an excellent post running down candidates in detail that sections of this post are derived from.

The Fringe

Schools that have been brought up at one time or another but are not worth a fuller discussion for various reasons.

Schools that would say no

Texas. Blame those Texas newspaper articles describing UT's flirtation with the Big Ten after the SWC exploded, but Texas comes up whenever this topic does. Despite the travel involved the Big Ten would do that in a heartbeat; Texas is a fantastic school that opens up copious television markets and is a national power in both football and basketball.

Texas would not, though. They are the master and commander of an entire conference with weak revenue sharing relative to the Big Ten. They have longstanding rivalries with virtually everyone in the Big 12 South. And their nationally competitive baseball program would be badly hurt by joining what's basically a mid-major conference.

Nebraska. Massive football tradition and geographically somewhat feasible but there's no way the Cornhuskers would give up a 100 years of rivalries for the Big Ten. Have no links to anyone in the conference.

Notre Dame. If the Big Ten is doing this when Notre Dame's NBC contract has six years to run, the Irish are not in the mix.

Schools that don't offer enough

Iowa State. Why on earth would anyone want Iowa State in their conference? No TV market and no success in either major sport. If Iowa doesn't want them, and I'm sure they don't, why would anyone else?

West Virginia. Tier III institution would probably get rejected by the presidents. Good programs in football and basketball but brings zero recruiting base and zero television market. If the only considerations were on-field performance they'd be the obvious #1 choice but all their peripherals are poor.

Cincinnati. Legitimate traditional basketball power (two national titles in the 60s to go with the Huggins era) and nouveau riche football school, but probably destined for a major drop with Brian Kelly out the door. Academically, a non-starter: it's a tier III commuter school.

Louisville. Geographically and athletically plausible but a tier III institution.

Prime Candidates

Rutgers. Hypothetically brings New Jersey and New York markets into play, except few really care about Rutgers when they're not good and they've rarely been good. Very rarely. Basketball program a nonentity; football was a nationwide punchline until the arrival of Greg Schiano, at which point they've had one standout year and a bunch of middling ones that end in nondescript bowl games.


Missouri. Geographically adjacent and has longstanding, if on-and-off, rivalry with Illinois. Good, not great, state school that would be the worst-ranked school in the league but not by much, especially after a post-CIC bump. Brings a new, large TV market into play. Also brings Don Draper with it.

Negatives: neither football or basketball is the sort of program that brings any wow factor, though the football program is a solid and developing one under Gary Pinkel. And Mizzou has been in the Big 8/12 since its inception. Fevered rivalry with Kansas and the sort of non-rivalry with Nebraska that saw Mizzou on the end of dozens of heinous beatings to the point where if Pinkel hadn't run up the score in the final year of Callahan he would have taken he would have taken heat for it.

Would Mizzou go? I mentioned them on the radio yesterday, at which point someone who grew up in the area called in to cast doubt on the possibility the Tigers would even consider leaving the Big 12. He certainly knows better than I do. On the other hand, some Mizzou folks have started a pro-Big Ten blog and the Rock M Nation thread discussing BHGP's discussion of a potential move is split down the middle. The local paper's Mizzou beatwriter, however, is adamant:

RT @Kevin_Baum What's your take on mizzou's chances of joining the big 10? ... To quote Dean Wormer, Zero Point Zero

I don't know. I expect that Mizzou would at least flirt with the Big Ten in an effort to get the Big 12's revenue sharing increased.

Pitt_mediumPitt. Obvious natural rivalry with Penn State that makes the Nittany Lions less of an odd duck in the league both geographically and culturally. Brings another TV market, though Pittsburgh is an area that already gets the BTN. Rich tradition in football and has been intermittently decent over the last decade; basketball program has recently built itself into a national power but has little in the way of history.

Scholastically Pitt would be an average Big Ten team, which is very strong relative to other serious candidates. And there's no question whether they would jump or not: Pitt would kill to get in the Big Ten. They'd get to play Penn State, they'd get a ton more football revenue, the basketball would be fine, and they could play WVU out of conference.

Negatives: they play in a sterile NFL stadium that's usually half-empty, though a Big Ten fan with road-trip inclinations could view that as a positive. And adding Mizzou or Syracuse or whatever puts another state in the BTN footprint; Pittsburgh doesn't. And you could see this hurting Big Ten schools' Pittsburgh-area recruiting. Now players in the area can pick between the Big Ten or staying close to home; in the future they can have both.

Syracuse. Geographically somewhat awkward; football program has totally imploded since Paul Pasqualoni fell off. On the other hand, an excellent school (almost exactly on par with Pitt) with a powerhouse basketball program. Their location is a blessing and a curse: it's far away but also makes the Big Ten considerably more important in New York (state, not City).

Syracuse might like it in the Big East enough to shoot down an overture, though. They're decidedly more eastern than a lot of Big East schools.


Grid! Grid of judgment!

A legend: teams are graded on a 3 point scale, where 0 is uncatchable a factor so poor it disqualifies the program in question, 1 is is an active detriment, 2 is "meh", and 3 is a positive. The "average" column does not include "willingness," since it's an attempt to judge the attractiveness of the teams only.

"Other sports" rankings derived from Director's Cup standings.

School Willingness Academics FB BB Other Loc Market Footprint Avg.
Texas 0 3 3 3 3 1 3 3 2.7
Nebraska 0 1 3 1 2 1 1 1 1.4
Notre Dame 0 3 3 2 3 3 3 3 2.9
Maryland 1 2 1 3 3 1 2 2 2.0
Iowa State 3 1 0 0 1 3 0 0 0.7
West Virginia 3 0 3 3 2 3 0 1 1.7
Cincinnati 3 0 2 3 1 3 1 1 1.6
Louisville 3 0 1 3 2 3 2 3 2.0
Rutgers 3 2 1 1 1 1 3 3 1.7
Syracuse 2 3 1 3 1 1 2 2 1.9
Pitt 3 3 2 3 1 3 2 2 2.3
Missouri 1 1 2 1 3 3 3 3 2.3

Your winners amongst the even distantly feasible: Pitt and Missouri, and Missouri is only distantly feasible. Both are clearly poor options relative to Notre Dame, but that ain't happening. Your projected 12th Big Ten school: Pitt.


Enjoy Life

December 15th, 2009 at 4:01 PM ^

All conferences will go to at least 12 teams in order to establish a conference championship game and the $$$$$$ that go with it.

It is also an essential step to get to a FBS playoff with the conference championship games being the first round of the eventual playoff system.


December 15th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

I am not opposed really to either school. Notre Dame would be nice but does that take away from the strength of our out of conference scheduling? We won't take on another tough team so we will get 3 early pancakes with ND in our conference schedule every year and with MSU and OSU as guaranteed conference foes we will have a rough road to hoe every year.

Pitt on the other hand could be a great fit but I have to agree that their stadium would not be a great fit for college football. I am a Steelers fan and I have made the trek several time to Pittsburgh and for the Steelers I think it is awesome, but for a college game I am not sold.

I agree that these are the better options out there for the Big Ten. I would not be upset with Kentucky only because it gets us more exposure to the South but I doubt they would leave the SEC.

Anyway, my two cents.

Go Blue!!!!


December 15th, 2009 at 9:21 PM ^

Steelers fan here too and live in Pittsburgh. I think the stadium would be fine with some big football schools with big/loyal fanbases coming to town. I went with a friend to both Pitt/ND and Pitt/Cincy this year and the atmosphere was actually pretty good. I think it would only grow stronger as they built some history in the B10. But yeah, I wish they still had Pitt Stadium on campus.


December 15th, 2009 at 4:17 PM ^

You mentioned it in the Pitt discussion and I definitely think this is a huge factor (maybe one that could have been put on the grid of judgment). If the Big Ten goes with Pitt they're going to get a ton of Michigan fans traveling to Heinz Field from Cleveland, Cincy, Philly, D.C./ VA areas, etc. whereas Mizzo can't offer that sort of day-trip drive distance. Same holds true for OSU, PSU, MSU trevelers. I'm personally hoping for Pitt for this reason.

los barcos

December 15th, 2009 at 4:22 PM ^

some sort of contract that allows for notre dame to keep its ties with nbc without revenue sharing and then phasing that out over a certain period of years (say 10). in that scenario, nd keeps its ties and money with nbc now, but then slowly and surly pays into the revenue sharing of the big ten.

as i write, i realize its probably not feasible. however, i would hate for the big10 to take a team for the sake of taking a team. pitt had its best year in years and Still finished 9-3 in a big east conference that is traditionally "meh". mizzou is another team that would cause a collective shoulder shrug.

i would hope its nd or nothing.

Sgt. Wolverine

December 15th, 2009 at 4:23 PM ^

After watching a couple Pitt games on tv this year, I concur that sterile is the best word to describe Heinz Field as a college venue. Even on tv, the game atmosphere felt bland and dull. I don't know who at Pitt thought it would be a great idea to raze the on-campus stadium in favor of sharing an NFL stadium, but they were incredibly misguided. Minnesota finally saw the error of its ways and fled its NFL home for a dedicated on-campus stadium; we can only hope Pitt eventually heads in that direction as well.

Otherwise, though, bring on Pitt.


December 15th, 2009 at 8:14 PM ^

Not only that, but more Pitt fans will come out to see their team if the opponents are big name players. If I'm a Pitt fan, and instead of UL/UC/WVU/Rutgers coming in we got to see OSU/UM/PSU/Wisco play, I'm much more likely to buy a ticket. Compound that with Big Ten fans travelling better (and by and large, living closer) and I bet you'd see a much larger crowd at Pitt home games.

John M

December 15th, 2009 at 4:38 PM ^

Well, Pitt demolished its football stadium for the purpose of building a state-of-the-art basketball arena, and since then has transformed from a middling program into one of the country's top basketball programs. So even if we presume that the move damaged the football program, it has substantially improved the basketball program.

I've never been to Heinz Field, but I think it looks pretty nice, and as others note, the Big Ten schedule and traveling fans probably would help fill the place. I think the biggest problem with the Metrodome wasn't that it was off campus, it's that it was the Metrodome.

Sgt. Wolverine

December 15th, 2009 at 5:30 PM ^

I think it's extraordinarily difficult to make an NFL stadium into a good college venue. Actually, I think it's extraordinarily difficult to make any stadium into a good home venue for two different organizations -- think of the Giants and the Jets -- but when you put a college football team up against an NFL team, the former is always going to be playing in an NFL venue. You could drop any college team into Ford Field, Lucas Oil Stadium, or Soldier Field, and no matter the strength of the team or the conference, their gameday atmosphere just won't be the same because they're essentially an away team at their home venue.

So while Big Ten fans might help improve Heinz Field's college atmosphere, they won't be able to make it a true college venue.


December 15th, 2009 at 10:11 PM ^

I've seen where the old football stadium was, right next to the now Peterson Events Center (which hosts the basketball team and a lot of other fancy stuff). It's really sad, the spot is a natural dip in the ground that forms a perfect bowl. It reminds me very much of Michigan's stadium site, which is also built in a natural depression.
As far as Heinz Field goes, the students definitely miss the old stadium. Even the band is sad about having to go to Heinz, and the university has to bus students there on Saturdays because it's miles away from campus. This year's Pitt-Notre Dame game was actually the first time they've ever sold out Heinz Field, as far as I know.
On that thought, though, I've been to a number of Big Ten games in sad, small stadiums that weren't sold out (Northwestern and Indiana to name a few). Is that really such a big deal?

Steve in PA

December 15th, 2009 at 4:24 PM ^

Even though Paterno has come out publicly in favor of Pitt, he wants nothing to do with it. C'mon they don't even play each other now. It's because Paterno has made it clear he does NOT want them on the schedule.

As it is, Pittsburgh kids either go to PSU or OSU if they are good enough. There isn't enough recent tradition to get kids jazzed about Pitt. Drop them into the B10 and suddenly PSU and OSU lose players. You can pick probably half a dozen kids off each roster from the greater Pittsburgh area.

Nope. My $$ is on Mizzou, but then again I thought Edsell was going to ND.


December 15th, 2009 at 4:25 PM ^

Brian's previous post (below) mentioned BC as a somewhat attractive dark horse possibility. Unlike Pitt, it would offer a new market for the BTN and the Big Ten in general. The distance involved probably isn't a dealbreaker either. And though it's not an AAU member, its academics are very strong. My entirely uninformed opinion is that BC would have a stronger fanbase than Rutgers, and at least on par with Pitt.

Is BC no longer considered a possibility?

His Dudeness

December 15th, 2009 at 4:25 PM ^

Can we please get another Big Ten-elve school in coddamn Ohi-uh!?! SUMMBITCH!

Seriously though we have a hard enough time recruiting against them now, they need another school to trim off some of their recruiting base kind of like State likes to do to us.

Yinka Double Dare

December 15th, 2009 at 4:49 PM ^

"Nebraska. Massive football tradition and geographically somewhat feasible but there's no way the Cornhuskers would give up a 100 years of rivalries for the Big Ten. Have no links to anyone in the conference."

The Nebraska boards seem to indicate otherwise (at least according to my Husker friend), it sounds like they're a lot more open to the move than is Mizzou. The only team in the Big 12 North they give a rat's ass about is Colorado. The only other team they have a historical rivalry with in the Big 12 is Oklahoma, who regularly drops off their schedule. They really don't care about most of the rest of the Big 12. Academically, they're an AAU member and might like to be associated with the more academically prestigious Big Ten. Their only worry is whether it will mess up their recruiting in Texas, but they recruited there OK during the Big 8 days when they had no Texas teams in conference.

And they will travel to every one of our stadiums. Those fans are insane. When they played at USC a few years ago a bunch of them bought USC season tickets to guarantee they'd have good seats for the Nebraska game there.


December 15th, 2009 at 4:26 PM ^

They have had a decent football program (this past season not withstanding), long basketball tradition, and have generally balanced athletics across the board. They always compete with Penn State for recruits, so they could have a great MD-PSU rivalry going.

Academically it is also a solid institution, so I don't see why it wasn't spoken about outside the grid. It would make great sense to me...


December 15th, 2009 at 8:54 PM ^

They're already an AAU school and a big public research university so I agree that they'd fit in well academically. The biggest advantage IMO would be expanding the Big Ten footprint into DC/Baltimore. I just don't know if they'd leave the ACC which is a pretty good athletic/academic conference in its own right.


December 15th, 2009 at 4:32 PM ^

I wonder what ND thinks about all this. The reality that is in 10 years the conferences and their structure will basically prevent ND from ever reaching a NC game.

We could play the "what if" game all day but would voters put a 11-0 Notre Dame team in the NC game over a 12-0 SEC, Big12, Big10, or Pac10 champ? I don't think so.

To me, this would seem to be their best, last chance to join a conference.


December 15th, 2009 at 4:30 PM ^

It looks like we don't have a shot of the Big Ten picking up a major program as we did with Penn State. I love the Nebraska thought, but I guess that's not too likely. PITT and MIZZOU are decent, but I don't think they bring the strength that PSU did. Maybe a major move isn't possible these days.

Judge Smails

December 15th, 2009 at 4:31 PM ^

We're not going to get anyone from the Big 12 that isn't a bottom feeder. Missouri is out. Same for Neb. I know this is a ridiculous longshot, and hasn't been mentioned by any pundit, but what about A&M? They're still trying to get back on their feet, they're completely non-competitive in the B12 now, and it would open up Texas for us. I bet they'd jump at the chance, and they could still play UT in non-con. Classic program. Great fanbase. Decent in hoops. Would love to see it. Yes, I realize it will never happen...

December 15th, 2009 at 4:33 PM ^

1) Nebraska is not as unmovable as you think. They have been dissatisfied with the new BigXII and have gone head to head with Texas on numerous issues and come out on bottom.

2) Notre Dame joining the Big Ten is inevitable. It WILL happen. It's like North Korea / South Korea unification. It may not happen this decade, it may not happen in 3 decades, but it WILL happen. Notre Dame and the rest of the Big Ten share a culture and an intertwined history that will ultimately lead the two to unite.


December 15th, 2009 at 4:36 PM ^

It would do well to remember that some of the smoke and heat of Big Ten expansion discussions of recent vintage have been due to high level discussions among the five Big Ten hockey schools and the Big Ten Network about the possibility of a Big Ten hockey conference. While those talks did not go anywhere this summer, if you're adding a 12th team, would you want to find one that has hockey, to give you that sixth school, that conference autobid, and weekly Friday night content for the Big Ten Network from November through March?

What I would wonder, were the economy not so down, would be with the Penguins new arena opening up next year, would Pitt be a logical choice to add a hockey team, since they would have a downtown arena that might be looking for dates?

I'm just spitballing here, because I know everyone is looking at the football/basketball aspects of it, and I am certainly not in favor of decimating the CCHA and WCHA for the sake of the Big Ten hockey conference, but it is interesting that there were high level discussions this summer.


December 15th, 2009 at 5:05 PM ^

Agreed. People don't seem to realize that this decision will be governed by money (and, secondarily, academics). That's why Pitt will never happen; given their financials, they can't prove that they won't take more out of the pot than they'd contribute. Given that there's very little upside to adding an academically-middling, big city school that doesn't have a well-established tradition in any sport, the Big Ten would be crazy to take a gamble on Pitt.


December 15th, 2009 at 6:46 PM ^

No, I'm serious. I really don't understand why Pitt's name keeps coming up. Expansion only makes sense if it's financially advantageous, and I don't see Pitt putting more into the pot than they would take out. Their current annual revenues put them behind every single Big Ten school and in the bottom half of the Big East's football group (which is already financially the weakest BCS conference).


December 15th, 2009 at 7:07 PM ^

Inherently that argument doesn't hold much water because by simply joining the big ten and getting a slice of the pie, (which is waaay bigger than the Big East's - and would be significantly bigger with the addition of a 12th team and a championship game and a focused ad market of roughly 3MM televisions) without looking at the numbers, I'm guessing they would surpass every Big East team in revenue. And I have a hard time thinking that PITT athletics are not significantly more marketable than several current Big 10 teams.


December 15th, 2009 at 8:20 PM ^

Fine, but the question is: would they bring more to the table than they would take away? AD revenue consists of money from a variety of sources, not just conference draws, and is a solid indicator of where a school stands in the college football universe. I have a hard time believing that a school that trails Northwestern in overall athletic revenue is worth "opening up the books" for, so to speak.

DC Blue

December 15th, 2009 at 9:58 PM ^

There are very few teams which make sense to change the denominator from 12 to 13.

In FY09, each conference team got $17.5M from the B10. Adding another team reduces that to $16.2M. That means the title game (and other revenue) has to bring in $1.3x13 = $17.5M to break everyone even.

Assuming you can sell 100k tickets at $75/ticket = $7.5M [minus expenses].

Now find $10+M/yr in additional revenue with only 13 extra football games (12 of which are one team) and 30 basketball games to sell.

ND's NBC contract that ended in 2008 gave them $9M/yr.

* Numbers based off quick google search but should be in the ballpark

Of the ones Brian listed, the "0" willingness ones are the only ones worth getting.

DC Blue

December 15th, 2009 at 11:10 PM ^

The ABC/ESPN deal is $1B for ten years (08-18), this includes the bball and fball games.

The B10 Network deal is for 20 years with estimates of S112M/yr average (each team appears to have got $66M in 08).

CBS basketball also, not sure the numbers there.

Of interest, ND gets ~$11M from TV (9 from NBC, 2 from Big East BBall).

Pitt really brings little to the table. They are in a market already covered by the B10 network, they aren't a big draw for the ABC/ESPN contract, but do provide something for CBS w/bball.

This would be more for convenience than forward looking and revolutionary. It has potential to lock the B10 in with another mediocre member that leeches off the big 3.

I'd rather see the B10 merge with the B12 and form a 20 team super league and use a four team playoff.