BSD - Conference Expansion: Delany Goes Corleone

Submitted by MGoShoe on May 25th, 2012 at 11:54 AM

An excellent primer from Black Shoe Diaries on the impetus behind all of the conference realignments that occurred from the early 1990s to today. That impetus is, of course, cash money.

...why are universities so eager to realign today? As best I can tell, there are five top reasons, as follows:

  1. Money.
  2. Money, to fill gaps caused by bankrupt state budget cuts.
  3. Money, to fuel the fleet of university jets that universities can't afford not to have.
  4. Money, as future media rights payouts go through the roof. And,
  5. "Stability", defined as membership in a conference that will maintain its place at the (money) feeding trough.

More to the point, it's football driven TV money.

...the TV networks say that basketball sucks. ABC/ESPN told the ACC that they can have all the alley-oops they want; they can have a big alley-oop party in the middle of Tiananmen Square and it won't make a lick of difference, because basketball ads don't bring 30% of what football ads bring. Only football maters. Or, at least, that's how Clemson's Athletic Director explained it.

So what does this mean for the B1G?

...the payout to that 2-win Minnesota team (thanks, Hawkeyes!) is in the $20+ million range, and climbing. That's right, Tomahawk Nation. Minnesota and Indiana raked in north of $60 million over the last 3 years, winning an FCS-assisted average of a grand total of 3.57 football games, while you were making $11 - $12 million slogging it out against Oklahoma and Florida in your non-con. Doesn't that thought make you want to vomit? And that number is only going to increase, by the way.

The Big Ten Network is a cash cow that's only getting fatter; and, the Big Ten is the one power conference that has NOT renegotiated its first-tier (ABC/ESPN) football rights in the last couple of years, as far as I'm aware of. Yep - the Big Ten makes the most money today, with the oldest set of contracts, in a fast growth market. The ABC/ESPN deal expires in 2016/17. When that contract comes up for renegotiation, just watch out.

The post goes on to speculate about the desirability of several ACC schools and comes to the standard conclusion that Notre Dame is the only school that is worth the B1G's pursuit. My only comment to that is that perhaps it is, but if a next round of realignment occurs, the B1G will be looking for ND+1 or ND+3 or if ND stays steadfast in its desire to be an independent OR they go to the Big XII, the B1G will have to look for 2-4 candidates who may not be all that and a bag of doughnuts, at least from the straight cash, homie perspective. Candidate schools will have to:

  1. Help the B1G capture or solidify key TV markets (NYC, Washington, DC, Atlanta)
  2. Be good to semi-good in football
  3. Be good fits for the CIC
  4. Have intangibles that make up for something lacking in 1-3 (MBB, other sports) * +

Lots of ACC schools fit that profile to some degree or another, but especially Syracuse, Maryland, UVA, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech (geographically speaking (not only are these schools aligned north to south, but also east to west!)).

As a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia and a parent of UVA and VT students, my biases are plain. Get the B1G into the Old Dominion, Jim Corleone.

* My absolute favorite VT intangible.

+ My absolute favorite UVA intangible.


Blue Durham

May 25th, 2012 at 12:08 PM ^

Pitt used to be mentioned by some, as it is a pretty decent school.

Nebraska was a great get.  The problem is there are fewer Nebraskas out there. 


May 25th, 2012 at 12:20 PM ^

"Yep - the Big Ten makes the most money today, with the oldest set of contracts, in a fast growth market."

The B1G is a fast growth market?  Can't remember the last time I heard this region referred to in that way.  Both coasts and the south are much too fond of referring to this as the Rust Belt.  The author could be referring to CFB as the fast growth market, though that would seem redundant given the content of the article.


May 25th, 2012 at 12:54 PM ^

The B1G market does have one huge thing going for it - Big Cities. Maybe Detroit proper isn't as big as it once was, but the metropolitan area's growth has been flat (people leave the city for the suburbs). Not to mention nationally huge cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and to an extent Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Plus all of Ohio.

Check out the B1G footprint vs. the SEC footprint in terms of population:

States in the B1G Footprint: Iowa: 3M, Illinois: 13M, Indiana: 6.5M, Michigan: 10M, Minnesota: 5M, Nebraska: 2M, Ohio: 11.5 M, Penn: 12.5M, Wisky: 5.5M. Total of 69M people

States in the SEC Footprint: Alabama: 5M, Arkansas: 3M, Florida: 19M, Georgia: 10M, Louisiana: 4.5M, Tennesee: 6M Kentucky: 4M, South Carolina: 4.5M. Total of 56M People

Numbers rounded and taken from here:

The reports of population dearth in the midwest are exaggerated


May 25th, 2012 at 3:45 PM ^

It isn't so much about local economies as it is about viewership and rights, and those transcend traditional regional boundaries, of course.

As I recall, the Big Ten is second overall in football ratings per Nielsen, and first in basketball (behind the SEC in football, and just in front of the ACC in basketball). This site ESPN blog entry has the contract breakdown -

Some of the highlights -

* First-tier (ESPN): $1 billion through 2016

* Second-tier: $2.8 billion through 2032

* Select contracts with CBS (basketball) for $72 million through 2017 and Fox (bowl coverage) for $145 million through 2016 (although I wonder how this one actually works).

Whether the valuations of these contracts given the viewership numbers is appropriate would be a separate debate, but if Larry Scott can get a $3 billion deal for first-tier rights (and somehow still come in under Big Ten numbers in per school average revenue), then I'll say that rights and licensing in general is a growth market, and it is growing the fastest in conferences with greater viewership.

If the potential revenue from such deals is a primary driver in further realignment, then it is interesting to note that third in overall football viewership is the ACC.


May 25th, 2012 at 12:22 PM ^

I think Pitt is a good add. Revive that rivalry with PSU, although I guess you're not adding much in the way of new tv markets. I could get on board with VT and UVa (if we had to take UVa, which we would to get VT). Add GaTech if ND finally gets with the program, and you have yourself a 16 team conference.


May 25th, 2012 at 12:43 PM ^

I've lived in Pittsburgh and worked on Pitt's campus for two years now.  I disagree that they would be a good addition to the B10.  First, their football team plays in Heinz field and rarely if ever sell that out.  So much so they struggled to sell-out ND and WVU the past two years and those are their "biggest" games.  Secondly, Pitt has incredibly fickle fans.  Few people in Pittsburgh care about Pitt football because of the Steelers and not many more care about Pitt basketball unless they are in the top-3 of their conference (See 2011-2012 season and attendance figures).  Finally, adding Pitt adds no extra TV markets or regional draw.  PSU has already accomplished whatever the B10 could hope to accomplish with Pitt.  The only reason Pitt is thrown around is their relatively comparable academic standards.  I don't think it's a good fit as much as I enjoy Pittsburgh and Pitt athletics.


May 25th, 2012 at 12:25 PM ^

we don't need anybody else in the Big 10, 12 is plenty, and Va isn't good enough and screw V Tech, we dont need those kind of teams in our conference, no more expansion!!!!


May 25th, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

VaTech has fairweather fans that don't travel well. People say their fans travel well, except their AD is begging people to buy tickets most years. It is just like Nebraska football a few years ago when alumnus had to but a shitload of tickets to keep their "sellout streak" alive. You have 80,000 seats, no MSU, EMU, CMU and no other pro teams within driving distance. Yeahhhh look at you go! No more teams!

Wolverine 73

May 25th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

Fine for football, but there are plenty of other schools with better academics that would fit.  One of the unique things about the Big Ten is the high academic standing of the institutions, generally speaking.  I thought adding Nebraska hurt that a bit.  Virginia would be a great addition from the academic perspective, VT less so.


May 25th, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

UVA and VT are a package deal.  UVA was essentially forced by the state legislature to fight for VT's acceptance into the ACC.  Though VT isn't as great academically, they are no worse IMO than some of the lower tier B1G schools,  but what they do have is an energetic and large fanbase.

For me, the always fun hypothetical question of  "If we have to expand to 16 because super conferences are coming to eat our children" would be answered by adding ND, UVA, VT, and either Maryland or Rutgers.  I think that would keep balance in terms of academics and athletics, and then the conference divisions actually could be re-created to have an east/west balance for football that includes a power football/crappy football balance.

Mr Miggle

May 25th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

Going from the Big East to the ACC meant a lot to VT and UVA was in a position to either help them or blackball them. UVA won't have that kind of power again and VT might well find it's way into the SEC if the ACC were to disintegrate. Considering that expanding footprints is driving expansion, why would the Big Ten even consider adding two schools from VA? Any expansion candidates are going to compete with schools that add a desirable new market or a national following. 


May 25th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

that guarantees an LSU/Bama '11 situation every year, plus Appy State or Western Michigan advancing to the semi-final every seven years or so? This is fine by me, but imagine the howling if UGA had beaten LSU in their conference championship this past season.


May 25th, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

I like the VT bass fishing team. Man could the B10 use a bass fishing league or what, we have got the lakes and rivers that would clearly make us the top conference in that sport.



May 25th, 2012 at 12:36 PM ^

B1G Original Teams Division










B1G New Teams Division





Notre Dame

Boston College ( could replace with pick one of Maryland/Rutgers/Syracuse)

VA Tech

UVA  (could replace with UNC if VA legislature allows it)


Play 12 Conference games, sorry MAC and Pac12 see you in Rose Bowl, plus CCG.

7 intradivisional games + 2 permanent crossovers (Ohio and MSU) leaves 3 games out of 6 opponents.  So you would play everyone frequently.  Now that would be a schedule.





May 25th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

to be a big change, the first thing I would do is get UM/OSU back into the same division. I don't know how deadly serious DB was about prioritizing a once-every-nine-year-or-so UM/OSU matchup in the neutral-site conference championship; for me, when the annual UM/OSU matchup ceases to be a central event in CFB, then CFB is a strange and new sport to me. You can molify me if you move the championship to the home venue of the higher-ranked division winner and UM and OSU both win their division three years in a row. In the meantime, the split into separate divisions puts our favorite game at high risk over time.

As far as VTech, I'm not sure this conforms to what we learned last go-round, which is that Universities make ten or more times the money off research grants correlated to membership in the AAU than they do off Football/TV. When speculating on conference realignment, I would consult this list first.

What's the latest on Nebraska's AAU status? Apropos which, this guy said the following, which I hadn't heard before:

The application process to the AAU, assuming initial academic standards are met, requires a vote among the existing AAU members. A relatively small block of schools can blackball a university. For example, the 12 CIC (B1G plus Chicago) members were not able to protect Nebraska's membership from the jilted Big XII schools. As such, Nebraska's membership has been put on hold.


May 25th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

I really don't want Virginia Tech - they're a solid football program, but not histrorically, and they bring nothing else to the table.  I'd much rather have UNC, UVA, Maryland or Syracuse, in that order (in addition to ND, of course).  BC, no thanks.


May 25th, 2012 at 1:41 PM ^

I read your header and I was like EFF YOU and then I read your post and I was like NEVER MIND.

In all seriousness, I know I should be flattered when I see people say they want UVA in the B1G, but really the opposite is what happens because I don't want to be in the B1G at all.

And then really I take it a step farther than that, and can't understand why people aren't happy with the 12-team conference we've got.  I feel like it's some kind of new toys phenomenon.  Gotta collect em all.  But why should we (Michigan, I mean now) have any desire to play UNC or GT or UMD or UVA as conference mates?  Bored with Iowa and Wisconsin?  The B1G is a midwestern conference, I don't even remotely get the desire to start adding these outliers that are totally different from the schools we have now.


May 25th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

For my edification, what would be a scenario where the B1G needs to add anyone?  All I can think of: Needing a 14th team for balance if ND joins.

This is why, by the way, I think notions of the ACC disintegrating are far-fetched.  The B1G is much more likely to sit tight than to act as a lifeboat for ACC teams.  The B1G is in the best place of any of the major conferences.  Their renegotiation window is the soonest, and even then, they don't even have to renegotiate to boost their revenue stream.  The BTN will keep pumping out money basically forever.  ACC schools are roughly half the size of B1G schools, so I really don't think the B1G can add enough revenue with any of them to offset the extra payment.


May 25th, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

Yeah, the only scenarios where that would come up would be if ND wanted in and we needed a pair or the landscape was such that all major conferences needed 14 or 16 teams. 

However, I think a team like UNC would bring more than they take.  They would probably be slightly above average compared to other Big Ten teams in terms of revenue - their football team ranges from meh to pretty good (like much of the Big Ten), and their basketball, baseball and lacrosse teams are top notch.  They would be better than Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern and MSU in terms of revenue. 


May 25th, 2012 at 4:29 PM ^

And it's hard to see the second scenario, given that the Pac 12 is now landlocked by the newly stable Big 12. Since the Pac 12 is now fundamentally the Big 10's partner conference, I don't know where the outside pressure to expand would come from.


May 25th, 2012 at 8:54 PM ^

Delaney has said repeatedly that he would like to expand the B1G's footprint into areas of the country that are growing . . . Maryland/DC, Virginia, NC, Atlanta would all do this if he is indeed serious about it.  



May 25th, 2012 at 8:54 PM ^

The outside pressure I see is losing out on expanding the footprint of both the BTN and the ABC/ESPN teir 1 contract.  If the "good" teams, the ones that will bring in more large markets are snapped up before we get around to expanding the footprint, we stay put.  That may sound great to you and me, but to the AD departments of the exsiting B1G schools, that's unacceptable.  If the SEC takes VTU and NCST while the Pac 12 makes an Eastern Pod with UNC, Duke, UVA and Maryland and the Big XII snaps up ND, GT, FSU, Miami, Clemson, and Louisville, we can't expand the footprint and lose out on money.

The ACC, if it loses FSU, Clemson, and VTU will be severly hurt as a football conference.  Will it die?  Not in a million years.  But the money they can bring in will be severley hurt because they will become a non entity in the landscape of college football.  IMO, The B1G will make a play for some of those ACC schools when those schools realize that they can't make enough money to support their other programs (read Title IX).  If or when those schools are ready, the B1G will listen and probably expand.


May 25th, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

If you added ND, than Texas would be a willing participant to join the B1G. I think you could snatch both of them and add Syracuse/rutgers and Virgina and that in itself would bring huge payouts.

ND and Texas would minimize their losses by joining the same conference and something that was rumored to happen.


May 25th, 2012 at 4:32 PM ^

No one else is leaving the Big 12 for at least 6 years, since all the schools have pledged their first and second tier media rights to the conference for that time. That means that even if they were to switch conferences, the right to broadcast Texas games and the revenues that come from them, would go to the Big 12. 


May 25th, 2012 at 8:57 PM ^

Texas has alrady broken up two conferences.  

When a woman is smoking hot but you find out she's been divorced twice in a row, you've got to believe in the interest of self preservation that something's up.



May 25th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

If Miami somehow decides to stop all of the ridiculous violations could they be a plausible choice? We bring a national fanbase, a lot of tradtion, the most fertile recruiting ground in the nation, and our academics have improved drastically over the past 10 years.


May 25th, 2012 at 1:43 PM ^

Hardly, on all counts.  Does Miami have a national fanbase?  I've lived in a handful of places outside of the South, and I don't remember seeing many Canes fans at all. 

A lot of tradition?  Miami was a nobody team until the 80s, and they were a great program (from a W/L perspective) until about 2002, and now they're again just above average.  20 years of good football (that we now know was riddled with scandal) does not mean "a lot of tradition."

Academics are borderline (and not up to par with the other schools we would consider) and although the recruiting ground is certainly fertile, there are already tons of schools fighting over that area.  I don't think that's enough.


May 25th, 2012 at 2:45 PM ^

Okay, thanks for clarifying. I was just wondering where Miami might stand. I wasn't sure about the national fanbase idea, and it just seems that a large portion of our fanbase continuously plasters that on message boards. I would just like to see my school not get left out of a BCS conferenc. Where do you think, if anywhere, Miami will end up?

Zone Left

May 25th, 2012 at 7:35 PM ^

Miami may be in the process of getting nuked by the NCAA and until that's settled, they're probably radioactive (see the synergy there, eh??) to the power conferences. They also have never really been committed from a school standpoint to football. They don't have an on-campus stadium, don't sell out games, and have subpar facilities. 

Miami is a good fit for the SEC from a geographic standpoint, but otherwise, I don't see them as a great fit anywhere besides the ACC. Miami is a long, long way from Tallahassee, much less Austin, TX, which I think would be the nearest school to them in the current Big 12 membership.

Bottom line, I think they're going to struggle if another round of realignment happens soon. That said, Miami does have one of the best recruiting grounds in the country. If they get serious and start winning again, they can still be a player and be an attractive candidate for the SEC or Big 12 if things fall right for them.


May 25th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

I still don't understand why people ignore BC in favor of other schools. They are often mediocre in football, but they do occasionally have bouts of quality; meanwhile, you would suddenly be dumping the B1G network in the massive Boston metroplex. And if you're looking at schools like Syracuse, this is geographically more appropriate than a Southern school like UNC. 

The problem is that after a hypothetical pickup of Notre Dame, all the best football teams are off the table for the B1G (we are not getting FSU or Miami), so you're looking at secondary qualities. UNC and Duke as a package deal would expand the B1G footprint and be a monster basketball move, but UNC's football program isn't very good and Duke would fight Indiana for the basement every year. Va Tech is a football plus, but they aren't a "name brand" and UVA is no better at football than BC. The upside is that the B1G Network could move in on the DC metroplex. 

I suppose Georgia Tech, allegedly a sound academic institution, would be a nice add to get a foothold in the South, but... Georgia Tech?



May 25th, 2012 at 2:47 PM ^

I lived in Boston for four years, and I didn't get the impression that many people cared about BC.  I didn't get the impression that people cared much about football at all until the Pats started winning...I'm not saying that my impression was necessarily right, but I do question NE as a college football market. 


May 25th, 2012 at 5:03 PM ^

The last time big-time college football mattered in the Northeast was when the Ivies were still giving out athletic scholarships and Army was a top 5 program.

First off, like New York, Boston is a pro sports town. Secondly, there are very few D-IA schools in the area. In the 6 New England states, only BC, UConn, and I guess now UMass are D-I. Only BC has any history and it's a small, private school to begin with.

So you have a school with few alumni in the area for a sport that isn't supported in the area in the first place. High school football isn't particularly big in this region as well and other sports do fill the void: lacrosse, hockey, etc.

It's somewhat analogous to Rutgers in New York, although at least that's a state school and New Jersey really likes its high school football.