Expansion Mailbag: About Expansion

Submitted by Brian on November 20th, 2012 at 11:03 AM

this song is exactly like adding Rutgers and Maryland because it is waste and terrible and has pointy hair

A side note: the poll from late Sunday is running 83-17 against Rutgers and Maryland.

Ok, so I find this Maryland/Rutgers thing agitating from a tradition standpoint and pointless from a $$$ standpoint. Michigan, Ohio State and PSU probably have the lion's share of CFB fans here in NYC already.

While meanwhile BTN is on the basic sports tier for $3.95 or something so anyone who wants it (and a ton of people who just want Fox Soccer or whatever) already has it.

The one group BTN _could_ conceivably seize in this area is Notre Dame fans. If this is a play to strangle ND's other avenues (ACC, Big East, with Big 12 already raided for Nebraska), it starts making a little more financial sense and becomes more palatable from a tradition standpoint.

Have you heard any rumblings to that effect? If that were in fact the idea, would you get behind it more?


Ben. You are a crazy bastard. Snatching one team from a 14 team conference that can immediately consider a near-equivalent—possibly an upgrade!—in UConn or Louisville is nowhere near destabilizing enough to do anything to Notre Dame, an institution looking saner by the minute for opting out of this conference business.

In fact, I would be infinitely happier with Louisville than either of the selected teams. You can drive there, they are the biggest thing in the city that is not a horse, and they are at least as good as Maryland in basketball with more promise in football.

What do you think the Irish fanbase's reaction to the Big Ten's Semisonic move was? I'll tell you:

  1. gales of laughter
  2. yet more gales of laughter
  3. that point after gales and gales of laughter where everything's petering out and you can't summon the oxygen to continue but you have that lovely, blissful aftertaste of laughing at everything for so long
  4. a silent prayer of thanks for Notre Dame's obstinate insistence at independence even if it requires playing a bunch of middling ACC teams each year
  5. oh my god the Big Ten voluntarily sucked up a middling ACC team and Rutgers
  6. gales of laughter
  7. ad infinitum

Notre Dame's avenues are broad and gilt-lined. As long as they can assemble a schedule that can get them into a four-team (and possibly expanding) playoff, they can tell anyone they want to FOAD.


Let me start by saying I hate the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten. They're crappy teams with insubstantial fanbases who've pretty much never been good. It's clear the decision for them to jump ship from the ACC (Or Big East, or whatever) to the Big Ten is based on a desire to make more money, as the Big Ten can afford them more money. Assuming that's true, do you think that increase in revenue can help them to eventually become better teams?

The obvious answer is no, you can't just throw money at a program and magically solve it's problems. But one can't deny the correlation between successful football programs and the endowments of those universities. Maybe Delany's thought is that he can grow Rutgers and Maryland's program into respectability over the course of time. During that time, he has new television markets he can get revenue from (theoretically), and new fanbases to own. I don't know, that's honestly the best explanation I can think of. Your insight, as always, is appreciated.


Ah. I see you are also in the bargaining phase. Welcome. It is slightly nicer here than depression.

I don't see how it happens. Loyal fanbases are built with wins or boredom. The fundamental problem with the awesome TV markets of Maryland and Rutgers is they are occupied with everything else in the world. The only way either of those programs is ever going to be anything more than they are right now is by beating M and OSU, or at least playing them with major stakes. That doesn't look like it'll happen, and the instant any of those teams falls off the map whatever bandwagon has assembled will dissolve into one of the other eight-six available teams. At best you're looking at an Iowa/MSU/Northwestern thing where they pop up to be interesting two years in a decade.

I think the chances of building something at Louisville would have been much greater, academics be damned, TV markets be damned. The city of Louisville doesn't have two pro teams in every sport sucking up all the oxygen.


Not to make this even worse, but with the way the BTN contracts with cable operators are set up, adding Rutgers will NOT (at least initially) require cable operators to launch BTN on expanded basic in the New York market.  The addition of schools is set up on a state-by-state basis, meaning that Rutgers will require a move of BTN to expanded basic in New Jersey ONLY (half of New Jersey already should have BTN on basic b/c Phili market is considered part of Big 10 core footprint.  Big 10 core footprint is all states with Big 10 schools plus the Philadelphia and St. Louis markets).

Some caveats:  If a cable operator in New York market already carries BTN on a sports tier, and has a contract up for renewal soon, you can bet the Big 10/FOX will force BTN onto expanded basic.  And if a cable operator doesn't carry BTN at all, you can also bet the Big 10/Fox will require expanded basic carriage if the operator wants to launch it.

That said, it could be a bit awkward to see Rutgers come in and BTN not go into New York City TVs, at least initially.  PR-wise, the hit might be rough, although this is already a garbage idea anyway.

-credible anon guy

You did make it worse. Actually, wait. Michigan is putting a quarter billion dollars into nonrevenue sports. I don't care about money. I will never, ever again say "this will put the Big Ten on good footing relative to other conferences." I'm done.


dog groomin'

I became a CF fan 10 years ago because I got tired of the NFL and was attracted to the tradition and pageantry of CF. I love the big stadia filled with young fans and the regional rivalries with trophy games like the Paul Bunyon ax and the Bowl games. Now it appears that CF is trying to become the NFL-Lite with super conferences that are destroying ancient rivalries and playoffs that threaten the bowls. Now we have two mediocre teams added to the Big Ten that will do nothing for the conference on the field. At some point don't you think that CF fans like myself ( and I am sure there are many like me) will become turned off, that any new fans will be offset by those like me who, if we want to watch the NFL, will simply watch the real thing?


Yes. This is the most irritating thing about the band of folks who tell you "no you just don't get it, this is about the future." This is a short-term money grab based on nothing else but the possibility of putting a cable TV channel on some homes that do not already have a cable TV channel.

The problem is that in five to ten years when some modicum of financial benefit is being realized—and that will be a boost on the order of 10%, not 100%—people will have ever-fatter internet pipes and start bailing on cable for internet streaming. Watch what happens in Kansas City now that Google fiber is in place. The ability to bilk old ladies out of a dollar a month because they want to watch Matlock marathons is rapidly ending. The Big Ten Network will be an ephemeral bridge between an era when gatekeepers kept all the things and one where epic bandwidth means you get only what you want—you pay only for what you want—always.

Once the cable barriers come down, as they inevitably will, this comes down to committed diehards per school. How many people will pay you specifically instead of allow themselves to be roped into an expensive package of channels they largely don't care for but have no choice about?

Maryland has several, but not many compared to most Big Ten schools. Rutgers has one, he's a nice guy, he is @ruscoop. I don't think that's enough.

For this short-term gain, you dilute the long-standing rivalries, the decades-long narratives, the very heart of the thing that differentiates college football from all the other things competing for attention. It's the same thing Brandon has done to Michigan Stadium—in an effort to make its appeal the same as everything else he has sacrificed anything unique about it that might make one love it.

There are still things to love about college football—I mean, Denard—but increasingly they are surrounded by crap that you tolerate. The future is the niche, even at macro scales, and broadening out your product to be a Midwestern sports Two and a Half Men is a losing idea created by men with no imagination who rely on spreadsheets to create the future.

I mean, who's crazy here: the fans who were generally okay with the additions of Penn State and Nebraska or the men who added nonentities the entire league has to fly to so they could get a TV channel in some extra homes?

I can't tell if Rutgers has a D1 hockey program. If not, doesn't that scuttle B1G hockey? IIRC, the B1G by-law requires half of the conferences schools to field a D1 roster in order to have in conference competition in a given sport.


They do not. Neither does Maryland. Neither will add hockey any time soon because they are still crawling out from massive piles of debt, which should make you think about who is using who here. Note that most other ACC programs are doing just fine financially, and Maryland would not be interested in moving from the conference they were a charter member of except for the fact that they have bungled everything so badly they need the Big Ten's money. That's our prize.

It won't affect Big Ten hockey for the same reason that this is happening in the first place: the BTN needs content and the BTHC provides it. The most interesting impact this thing may have on college hockey is that if UConn is the pick for the ACC, they'll be one program away from having to launch an ACC hockey conference. [HT: BC Interruption.]

I'd actually be in favor of that; the best way to get college hockey to expand is to break up the ice-floes that are 12 team conferences and provide inviting homes for startups large and small.

Regarding Big Ten expansion in general, and adding Maryland and Rutgers (lol, wut?) specifically.

Also, and somewhat random, am I making a correct observation that OSU has the easiest road to the CCG for the foreseeable future? Outside of Michigan, who else can legitimately challenge them on a consistent basis? PSU, with the scholarship reductions will most likely bottom out some point soon. Wisconsin is coached by Bielema ('nuff said right?) who likes to run the ball with no timeouts left down a score late in the fourth and then again when it's 3rd and 7 in overtime. Then you factor in general superiority in coaching and players and it really adds up to a frequent cakewalk to Indy. (Obviously not everything is written in stone, but just playing the odds, yuck).

I don't know Meyer's health condition, but it really seems like he's the kind of guy who likes to win and he'll do what it takes to make it as easy as possible i.e. leave the SEC where his teams started to decline post-Tebow, to the weaker Big Ten with Miller already on the roster.


Well, our collective freakout about the divisions may be premature. Delany said some business about not having anything predetermined at the moment, and while anything that comes from an executive has to be taken with a grain of salt… let's latch on to that super hard you guys.

The Big Ten needs to stop looking at Penn State as some sort of historical juggernaut and consider what it's done since entering the league. I had to go back to a 2011 revision of Joe Paterno's wikipedia page to get this, but here is PSU's record against the four Big Ten teams (along with Nebraska) that were considered plus programs when they put these divisions together:

  • Wisconsin: 6-7
  • Iowa: 7-9
  • Ohio State: 7-13
  • Michigan: 6-10

They're 0-2 against Nebraska; their game against Wisconsin is pending.

The vast bulk of the results were compiled before Joe Paterno was hurled from his pedestal and Penn State was hit with the most serious NCAA sanctions since SMU. At best they are a Wisconsin/Iowa equivalent.

Yeah, Michigan and Ohio State are likely to be the best two programs in the league over a long period of time but in any given year the best program from the Nebraska/Wisconsin/Iowa/Illinois* group is going to be a stiff test. A hypothetical division with M/OSU/PSU versus the hate parallelogram is

  • winner of A/A/B program fight versus
  • winner of A-/B/B program fight

It is less than ideal, but this is a conference that just added Maryland and Rutgers. In terms of less-than-ideal situations it is far from the least ideal. It is a lot more intriguing than a division in which Wisconsin/OSU is the championship game for the next decade.

*[Illinois is good sometimes. I know it's weird.]



November 20th, 2012 at 11:51 AM ^

I grew up in Maryland, down the street from College Park (my middle and high schools were on University Boulevard, so named for UMCP). I know this is a B1G-focused blog for obvious reasons, but let's not forget that this move fucks the ACC, too. Maryland is losing its most ferocious rivalry, and Duke is losing its Michigan State. Among everything that sucks about this for the B1G, that's really sad in my book.

It's my damn birthday today and I was looking forward to potentially two (!) consecutive years of birthdays unruined by college athletics.

This sucks so much.


November 20th, 2012 at 11:54 AM ^

@ Ben, you are incorrect. It costs $6.95/ month to add the Sports Tier, which includes the BTN.

Rutgers also has >200,000 alumni in NJ alone (not counting NY or NYC) and the school has 58,000 students enrolled. That’s massive.

I would argue that if Rutgers is decent to good, people watch the games (see the ratings for Rutgers vs. Arkansas on ESPNU in the Metro NY Market, it was the highest rating ever for ESPNU).

Also, Metro NY Alumni would go to the games (could even be in Giants Stadium), which gives the alumni associations a great opportunity to hit them up for donations. Financially, it’s a great move.

@beenplumb, Michigan just threw massive amounts of cash into the basketball program, and now we are a Top 5 team (please let this be the case in March!). Facility upgrades leading to 1 or 2 recruiting cycles can do wonders for a team.



November 20th, 2012 at 12:01 PM ^

Dunno if it'll be ND as Ben (not me) postulates, but those could be the bigger fish. Remember, the B1G knocked it out of the park with Nebraska, while the other "for sure" power conferences added Texas A&M and Missouri - two football "mehs" and Colorado and Utah (what's worse than terrible? and Utah)

There are a few bigger fish out there who will need homes if the ACC goes down:

FSU, Clemson, UVA, VaTech, GT, Louisville, ND, Miami

The SEC will take 2 more. We'll take 2 More. The rest will go to the BigXII to make 16... unless the Pac12 takes Texas, Oklahoma, and 2 other relevant BigXII teams.


November 20th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

The ACC is pretty much FSU and Clemson from a football standpoint. FSU is leaving the ACC.  its just a matter of when.  When you have the FSU president stating that he would be very interested in how the battle between Maryland and the ACC goes over the exit fee its pretty obvious they are planning to leave.  There have been Louisville Big12 rumors for quite a while and if your Louisville what on earth would make you want to join the ACC over the Big12?    


November 20th, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

Can we at least make it a contingency of entrance to the league that they stop wearing the vomit inducing uniforms they've had recently?  

State flags do not make football uniforms. 


November 20th, 2012 at 12:26 PM ^

For purposes of conference quality recognition, isn't it a good thing that we're adding two cupcakes?  The SEC effectively added three cupcakes this year - Missouri, Arkansas and Auburn - and the SEC's non-cupcake rankings have soared.  Georgia is 1-1 against good SEC teams (really, good teams, period), has destroyed unranked teams, and for that is somehow deemed the third best team in the nation.     

It seems like the best scenario is to have six really good teams, and eight (or more) crappy ones.  The problem isn't Maryland or Rutgers; it's that MSU, Iowa and Wisconsin underachieved, and OSU and PSU got into trouble. 

matty blue

November 20th, 2012 at 12:30 PM ^

as technologoy advances, cable television will be about 99% irrelevant inside of 10 years - quick, if you had an opportunity to ditch cable for ala carte television, would you do that?  of course you would, the cable business is fundamentally unsustainable.  with its eventual, inevitable irrelevance the money from it will dry up, and we'll be left with rutgers.  fucking rutgers.

one of the mailbag items referenced endowment as an indicator for football success.  i won't argue that, but i would point out that there are 77 universities with endowments over $1 billion, including all twelve current big ten schools.  missing from the list:  maryland (about $790 million in 2011) and rutgers (less than $500 million in 2008 - "relatively modest," according to rutgers' own website).  they will have the two smallest endowments in the conference.  so - mediocre academics, low endowments, small stadiums.  but tv sets!  supposedly!


November 20th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

Matty Blue - I don't disagree about cable going away, but I do disagree that fact somehow eliminates the need for people to pay for content - regardless of how it is provided, so OWNING markets and creating demand from a locale will remain key sources of revenue.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 20th, 2012 at 12:59 PM ^

Right, but there's no demand for Maryland and Rutgers football in their markets.  As Brian noted, this expansion is a play for the special, temporary, doomed economics of the cable industry wherein people in NY and DC (might) be forced to pay for the BTN even if they've never watched a football game in their lives -- just as all of us now are forced to buy a bunch of channels we don't give two shits about so we can get BTN, ESPN, etc.

Once that model dies out, Maryland and Rutgers football will have to stand on their own, where they'll almost surely tread water or fail, as they have for decades.

matty blue

November 20th, 2012 at 5:20 PM ^

...and i'm obviously not breaking any new ground here, either...this just seems like the big ten is betting on the best buggy-whip company in the world.  it's all going away.

...and to pull up another favorite hobby-horse of mine:  between the ticket price bubble and the television bubble, there's some serious austerity a-coming.


November 20th, 2012 at 1:57 PM ^

What cable companies will do, since most of them are now the internet providers in the US and TVs have connectivity capability, is to offer that ala carte television to some degree. But unless cities start putting up hefty WiMax systems run as public utilities, someone's going to be the gatekeeper of that data we view as television.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 20th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

The purported YES/BTN tie-in is nothing special; it merely exemplifies the fact that the (temporary) economics of the industry depend on tying things together in bundles of properties with uneven appeal.  That model will end.

The natural value of YES and the BTN is the value of YES plus the value of BTN.  Temporarily being able to get more than that value does not alter that iron law.  (Just as the value of Maryland and Rutgers football will, in short order, revert back to what it's been for the last 50 years -- not much.  Delaney and Brandon bought Maryland and Rutgers at a market top.)


November 20th, 2012 at 1:15 PM ^

I'd actually be in favor of that; the best way to get college hockey to expand is to break up the ice-floes that are 12 team conferences and provide inviting homes for startups large and small.

That's what we were all hoping would happen when a few slots opened up in the WCHA and CCHA with Big Ten realignment but what actually happened was the remaining teams got all butt-hurt and obliterated those two conferences by forming the NCHC.

If BC, ND, UConn, etc form an ACC Conference, I bet you a nickel that teams like BU and Maine try to link up with the best teams from the NCHC and further screw everything up.


November 20th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

Maybe there will be a great revolution in how we view sports that will cut the cable companies and the networks out of it, but i wouldn't place any bets on it. One city in the entire United States has really, really good internet connectivity.

The BTN's of the world can start worrying if and when my "good" internet connection here in the United States ever catches up with the internet connection i had in S. Korea, almost a decade ago, that came with extreme apologies from my employer because my building hadn't been wired for what was good connectivity there and then.

And that ain't gonna happen in these United States because [no politics ... even though it's not so much politics as the ability to think long term, plan, and make actual investments in things]


November 20th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

Fans staying at home watching games on their 60 inch HD tvs is "unacceptable".  Perhaps it's a conspiracy where they know cable is a dying cash cow and plan to dump cable and promote crappy, slow, twitchy ala carte streaming feeds to induce us all to GO TO the games!!  Hail DB.