The Big 14

Submitted by the_white_tiger on January 12th, 2010 at 8:43 PM
We all know about the upcoming plans for Big Ten expansion. The potential teams and alignments for a twelve team league have been discussed ad nauseum (but there is a good breakdown of possible choices, the probability of these choices , and possible alignment issues.) There is little doubt that the Big Ten needs to move in a positive direction, it is currently the only FBS conference without a full round-robin schedule or a championship game. Conceivably, two teams could finish undefeated without playing each other in the current system. It is consensus at this point that the Big Ten should make a move to twelve teams. A conference title game would bring in added revenue and media attention, while possible expansion into untapped media markets would greatly enhance the Big Ten Network. More sponsors would roll in, thereby forcing Ro*Tel with Velveeta from having an ad every commercial break (I can always hope).

The teams involved are up to wild speculation. Texas? Notre Dame? The Cleveland Browns? Logically, there are only a few schools that fit the right criteria to include into the conference, without an unforeseen massive expansion to the south or west. These schools (Missouri, Maryland, Pitt, Rutgers, and Syracuse) may or may not be willing to enter the conference. For the sake of discussion, let's just all assume that these schools would be willing to become a part of the Big Ten for the academics, revenue sharing and lucrative T.V. contract.

My idea for the new Big Ten (I am not creative enough to come up with a good name for it), is to make it the Big 14. It's not outside of the realm of possibility.
A conference statement spoke of an "evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion."
"Anything is possible," one source said, beyond the conventional wisdom of simply adding a 12th school.
This idea largely hasn't been approached, but it could work if the Big Ten decides to aggresively expand to fourteen. A split into two seven-team divisions would be obvious, as would the addition of a ninth conference game (like the PAC-Ten, who plays a round-robin with 3 OOC games). The real question would be if it is really worth it for the Big Ten to expand to fourteen. The WAC had a 16-team conference, and it was inevitably doomed due to its size. Teams would lose out on additional revenue with the loss of an OOC cupcake home game. Teams in different divisions would rarely play each other. The divisional champions would have to play a total of 10 conference games, which would make it hard for a team to run the table or receive a second BCS berth. These are all legitimate reasons not to make the jump from eleven or twelve to fourteen, but there are plenty of incentives to do so:

  • The conference would generate much more T.V. revenue, due to the expanded T.V. markets and alumni base, as well as the conference championship game
  • More schools would receive bowl and NCAA Tournament appearances from the conference
  • The conference would become the elite conference in all of college sports and there would be a large increase in national attention to the conference
  • An undefeated football champion would all but be assured of a national championship berth, and a one or two loss team would be assured a BCS berth due to strength of schedule
  • A conference with more than twelve teams (the MAC) has not experienced too many problems
  • A team would not go three years without playing a team in the other half of the conference (see below)

Breaking the conference up into divisions would not be too difficult depending on who is added. There are already three states with two existing Big Ten teams, and if Pitt enters, that would make four. breaking up these in-state rivalries would not go over well, so Michigan-Michigan State, Indiana-Purdue, and Illinois-Northwestern (and maybe Penn State-Pitt) would be in the same division as their rival. Selfishly, we can add Michigan and Ohio State to the teams have to be in the same division. These fanbases can agree that playing the rivalry twice in the same season would not be good for the rivalry, and both parties would be vehemently opposed to being in different divisions. Dividing the proposed teams into East and West, there are four teams to the east (Maryland, Pitt, Rutgers, and Syracuse), and one to the west (Missouri). Therefore, the only possible combinations for adding teams would be adding two teams to the east and one to the west or adding three teams to the east.

Adding three teams to the East would be easiest (a team is across from its permanent rival, some of which are arbitrary):

Michigan Minnesota
Michigan State Purdue
Ohio State Illinois
Penn State Iowa
Maryland* Northwestern
Pitt* Wisconsin
Rutgers* Indiana

*any of these three can be switched for Syracuse

However, adding Missouri would put the Big Ten into quite a conundrum, some rivalries would inevitably be split up (and I know that the geography of the divisional names is not quite correct):

Michigan Iowa
Michigan State Purdue
Wisconsin Minnesota
Ohio State Illinois
Penn State Indiana
Maryland* Northwestern
Pitt* Missouri

*either Rutgers or Syracuse could be switched in for Maryland or Pitt

The schedule would work something like this (if there is an East-West alignment), a team in the East would play all of the other six teams in the East, their permanent rival in the West, as well as a two out of six teams from the West that rotate yearly off the schedule so that the team in the East would play their non-rivals from the West once every three years.

For example, Michigan's schedule may look something like this:

2011 2012 2013
at Michigan State MICHIGAN STATE at Michigan State
at Maryland MARYLAND at Maryland
at Rutgers RUTGERS at Rutgers
WISCONSIN at Northwestern PURDUE
at Indiana IOWA at Illinois

So logistically, a move to fourteen is feasible. The practicality of it is in question, but it is the offseason and thus it is the time for wild speculation. Any thoughts?



January 12th, 2010 at 8:50 PM ^

not enough money to go around. that's the failing point right off the bat for a such a major expansion. right now, big ten teams make 22 mil off of TV revenue, right? each new team has to contribute AT LEAST 22 mil EACH to make their addition a break even proposition.

and dont get me started on having UM, OSU, and PSU in the same division.


January 12th, 2010 at 8:52 PM ^

Good work and an interesting post, although 14 would really be a huge jump. I understand there is probably no perfect way to assemble the divisions but especially if Pitt continues to progress under Wannstedt, the East/Lakes division would be more loaded than the Big 12 South.


January 12th, 2010 at 8:55 PM ^

Back when the ACC gobbled up Miami, Virginia Tech, and BC, I thought the Big Ten should have tried to get to 14 with WVU, Syracuse, and Pitt.

I still like the idea but I'm not sure the schools you've proposed are realistic--why does Maryland leave the ACC? Why does Missouri leave the Big XII?


January 12th, 2010 at 9:27 PM ^

Admittedly Maryland is a longshot, but they could leave if there is enough financial incentive and the allure of the academic prestige of the Big Ten is enough. As for Missouri, they complain about the Big XII's lack of revenue sharing and preferential treatment of the Texas schools and Oklahoma, plus admittance to the Big Ten would improve their academics drastically. So leaving Kansas may not hurt too much, as Kansas really is their only big rival so they can schedule them OOC. Missouri is not too improbable, but there will be backlash from fans if a move is made. IIRC, they expressed interest to hear the Big Ten's offer.


January 12th, 2010 at 9:05 PM ^

Michigan, Mich State, Penn State, and OSU... All in the same division? That sounds like a slaughter house to see who plays Iowa every year. That would be pretty lame...


January 12th, 2010 at 9:19 PM ^

Not exactly. Michigan is down right now. It still remains to be seen when we'll recover. Besides, the power of a conference shifts back and forth. At first power was centralized in the Big XII North, now it is obviously in the South. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Northwestern are all experiencing varying levels of success and all seem to be improving. Michigan State probably had an aberration in 2008 and is no set up to succeed. Penn State was down in the early part of the 2000's. Yes, the three traditional powers are in one division, but that does not necessarily mean that the power would entirely be in that division.


January 12th, 2010 at 9:45 PM ^

Okay, the divisions were just suggested and not really central to the main point as I'm sure that there is some conceivable way that the conference can split from 12 or 14 without putting UM-OSU-PSU together.

January 12th, 2010 at 10:56 PM ^

7-team divisions don't make sense. One more team and you've got then entire Big East conference. You're basically two independent conferences playing eachother at the end of the season for some reason.

Adding teams that don't increment total BT revenue by at least $22M via national interest for TV or new population doesn't make sense.

And finally, your divisions don't make sense.

Basically, this is nonsense with nice formatting.


January 12th, 2010 at 11:05 PM ^

* The conference would generate much more T.V. revenue, due to the expanded T.V. markets and alumni base, as well as the conference championship game
# I disagree here. Conference championship is the potential revenue enhancer and the conference gets that with 12. The other increases will be more than offset by having to share the booty with 2 more teams

* More schools would receive bowl and NCAA Tournament appearances from the conference
# NCAA bids - Not necessarily. A smaller percentage of ACC teams have received tourney bids since it expanded from 9 to 12. Any additional bowl bids would be to low-level bowls that would cost more to participate in then the proceeds. If the conference went to 9 game conference season, a greater percentage of teams would be bowl ineligible because half the teams would lose a cupcake win from their schedule.

* The conference would become the elite conference in all of college sports and there would be a large increase in national attention to the conference
# Quantity of teams added does not make it elite. Quality of teams would. The teams suggested don't raise the overall profile of the conference. Texas and Notre Dame yes, not these.

* An undefeated football champion would all but be assured of a national championship berth, and a one or two loss team would be assured a BCS berth due to strength of schedule
# How is this different from the status quo?

* A conference with more than twelve teams (the MAC) has not experienced too many problems
# Comparing MAC to Big 10 is apples and oranges.

* A team would not go three years without playing a team in the other half of the conference (see below)
# Still many fewer games in both football and basketball against longstanding rivals. As someone that lives in ACC country and is a Maryland basketball season ticket holder, it sucks that UNC, Wake, NC State, and Clemson aren't on the home basketball schedule every year. The fans would rather see them than Miami, Va Tech and Boston College.


January 12th, 2010 at 11:34 PM ^

You could easily just realign the divisions after each year putting the odd places in one division (1st/3rd/5th/7th/9th/11th) and the evens in the other division. You then just have a standard schedule playing 5 games in your division and 3 in the other division. That gives you room for 4 OOC games (3 if you have 14 teams). It wouldn't be hard to formulate a schedule whereby the rivalry games were played each year even if they end up in opposite divisions (if OSU & UM in opposite divisions they always play in week 6, or whatever -- that would be one of your 3 non-division games...the others could be based on where that team lands withing that division so that you don't end up playing a ridiculous schedule --though the last time we were undefeated, we played a ridiculous schedule).

This years alignment would be like this:
Division 1:
Division 2:
Iowa, WIS, MSU, MINN, Michigan, NEWTEAM

**You could even have 'rivalry week' where every year the rivalries are played in week 6 (or whenever)so you could alternate home teams.

(the new team may change the rivalry alignment)

theres 2 cents for ya


January 17th, 2010 at 5:57 PM ^

If we added three teams, it's because we can't say no to at least two prospective members.

I think you got one of those in Maryland. Maryland is a top-notch research institution and I would bet that the CIC would enjoy having a member in the DC area. They're a mediocre to bad football team, but otherwise they have very good athletics. They bring a very nice local market in DC/Baltimore, but just an average national following. The problem with Maryland is that their administration would face resistance to leaving the ACC from many fans and alum. We probably can't say no to them, but we probably wouldn't have a chance anyway.

The other school we couldn't turn down, I'd say Texas. Yeah, the geography sucks, but everything else is top notch. Huge local market (entire state of Texas) plus a strong national following, top-notch athletics across the board, top-notch academics, big-time research institute. Like Maryland, they probably wouldn't give us a chance to reject them anyway.