Conference Alignment and Research Dollars Reconsidered

Submitted by justingoblue on September 18th, 2011 at 7:56 PM

About a month ago, I wrote a diary using compiled research expenditures by school and athletic conference. The best expansion scenario featured Duke, UNC and Pitt, all of which are almost certainly off the table at this point (the ACC recently increased its buyout fees to $20m, yeesh). Here is a revised list of schools that I would consider available. Criteria for available: not an SEC, Pac, ACC or B1G school and currently in a BCS auto-bid conference (and ND). All numbers are five year aggregates and *1,000.

The Current Big Ten:

Wisconsin 4,116,318
Michigan 4,063,612
Ohio State 3,202,138
Minnesota 2,965,622
PSU 2,873,737
Illinois 2,457,119
Northwestern 2,093,400
Purdue 1,948,883
Iowa 1,650,222
Michigan State 1,580,244
Chicago 1,551,427
Nebraska 1,054,776
IU 678,879

Fun facts:

Total Spending 30,236,377
Median Spending 2,093,400
Average (includes <40,000,000 as zero) 2,325,875
Average Per Year 465,175
Highest Spender Wisconsin (4,116,318)
Lowest Spender Indiana (678,879)

Available schools:

1 Texas 2,126,324
  Big Ten Median 2,093,400
2 Cincinnati 1,576,410
3 Rutgers 1,399,272
4 USF 1,366,260
5 Missouri 1,126,801
  Lowest B1G School 678,879
7 Louisville 675,035
8 Kansas State 627,893
9 Kansas 605,485
10 Oklahoma State 526,012
11 Connecticut 523,633
12 Notre Dame 398,712
13 Oklahoma 393,766
T14 Baylor <200,000
T14 Syracuse <200,000
T14 Texas Tech <200,000



KC Wolve

September 18th, 2011 at 8:02 PM ^

This is all really sad and I think everyone will regret it someday. Rivalries and fan access to games is taking a back seat to greed. It sucks really bad for me since I don't want "minor league football" and my alma matter K-State is about to be blown off the college sports map.


September 18th, 2011 at 9:44 PM ^

You're 100% correct. Regional rivalries based on sane geographical considerations have been the heart of college football since its inception, and for a good portion of the football landscape that's all getting blown to hell.

The old Big Eight made a lot of sense in that way; merging with the Texas-dominated remnants of the old SWC was a huge mistake. A Big East conference made up of teams in the northeast part of the country makes as much sense as a midwest-based Big Ten or a Pacific Coast Pac-10, but when you have quintessential New England teams like Boston College playing in the Mid- and South-Atlantic ACC and deep Southern teams like South Florida playing in the Big East, you know insanity prevails.

I've got deep family roots at Mizzou, and they, like KU and KSU, could be left out in the cold after the latest round of musical chairs, and that would totally suck.

Feat of Clay

September 19th, 2011 at 4:31 PM ^

I don't buy that argument.  Maybe if this were looking at schools according to their athletic revenue, I'd be with you.  But this is a measure of school's skill in attracting funding for its recognized excellence in basic and applied research.  It's a reflection of a school's prestige, reputation, and expertise in areas of inquiry our society deems important enough to fund.  Is U-M greedy when it seeks yet another grant to pursue a cure for a debilitating disease?  Is it sad that we're getting industry support for our research in alternative energy technology?  Is it betraying our heritage when we get a grant to fund a new cretive endeavor in the arts?

You can argue that it's not a great criteria for aligning universities into athletic conferences, and I might buy that argument.*  But you've got a long way to go to convince me that there is something untoward about large amounts of research expenditure.

*The asterisk pops up because when you're talking about the BIG, we have purely academic collaborations as well as athletic alliances within the conference, so in this case it absolutely does make sense to think about things like research volume.  I can't speak about other conferences.  I will withold a snarky SEC quip, fitting though it may be.


September 18th, 2011 at 8:03 PM ^

Cincy won't happen becuase Ohio will throw a fit. Iowa State won't  happen because Iowa will do the same. Rutgers or Missouri is the likely choices but I think only if Notre Dame comes with one of  them. Otherwise my guess is the Big Ten stays with what it has. 


September 18th, 2011 at 8:12 PM ^

Cincy's athletics remind me alot of Sparty's. They are traditionally a basketball school that were good at football at one time and every once and a while they spring up and have a good football season, followed by many years of misery. And they both are not known for having quality kids on their teams. They could be OSU's little bro.

Leaders And Best

September 18th, 2011 at 8:30 PM ^

Cincinnati is that high because of their medical school (top 50 school).  Same story with Pittsburgh which has a top 15 medical school.  Medical research accounts for a great deal of university research money, and a primary reason that Nebraska was given the boot from the AAU.  The medical school in Nebraska is at Omaha, not Lincoln.

Wolverine In Exile

September 18th, 2011 at 9:19 PM ^

First cincy as a city has a large presence from GE aircraft engines and proctor and gamble... they've got the industrial chops to add real research money to cincy the school. Also, wright patt air force base in dayton recruits cincy hard and since brac is bringing more research jobs to wpafb, UC with UD and Wright St are going to benefit.
Personally, cincy and mizzou aren't looking real bad to me...


September 18th, 2011 at 8:27 PM ^

I don't know a lot about how the CIC works. Is it really to the meaningful advantage of the existing B1G schools to go for the biggest research spender? Sports revenue (bowls, TV, etc.) are evenly redistributed among the members, but there is no such mechanism for resesarch money, yes? Spreading it around would be counterproductive, except perhaps in cases of direct collaboration between one or more school. I know the CIC promotes cooperation and sharing of some resources, but how far does it go?


September 18th, 2011 at 8:40 PM ^

Well, according to your numbers Notre Dame draws less money than any existing member. If they join, I don't think it would hurt Michigan and other schools, since I'm pretty sure there's no research funding being shuffled around. ND is relatively small and therefore not drawing megabucks, but they have prestigious faculty, so I think the 'networking' aspect of things would be enhanced.

I guess my point is that I'm not sure the raw total of research $ is highly relevant to expansion.


September 18th, 2011 at 11:33 PM ^

I've always heard that ND is less graduate-oriented than you might expect for a school of their caliber, but that's changing a fair amount now.

Research money isn't distributed among the schools, but being part of a great research organization like the CIC helps each member institution get more money. A small advantage are the basic services that are shared within the group (for example, you can get a library book/resource easily from any other CIC institution).

The bigger advantage to being a member of an organization like the CIC is that it becomes easier to land big grants. There are multi-institution proposals that involve faculty at several schools--that's helpful because there might not be the right match for a research interest at one school, and because big money sources really like that kind of mega-grant. Even if it's just a one-school project, that school can promote their willingness to share the grant's resources with other CIC schools. If memory serves, the supercomputing center at Illinois is more accessible to researchers in the CIC than outside researchers. Not only is that really helpful to other members of the CIC, but promising to set up that kind of easy collaboration probably helped Illinois land the center in the first place.


September 18th, 2011 at 8:41 PM ^

Boston College is under 400,000, so it isn't factored into the report I used to compile numbers.

Duke 3,357,452
UNC 2,304,624
Georgia Tech 2,272,260
Maryland 1,773,337
NC State 1,658,556
VT 1,620,709
U.Va 1,194,179
Miami 1,069,843
Wake Forest 926,498
Clemson 920,507
FSU 898,502



September 18th, 2011 at 8:45 PM ^

If we go 16 I think honestly ND, KU, KSU, Mizzu.  Expands research some, but adds basketball powers, and expands footprint while keeping/bringing new rivalries.


September 18th, 2011 at 9:23 PM ^

Why would 16 team conferences like the SEC consider the B1G as an equal, particularly in view of how poorly the conference has done in BCS games in recent years.  If the answer is that people have an interest in B1G games, I'd say a national football playoff would catch everyone's attention regardless. To me, it seems fundamentally unfair to give an independent or a smaller conference equal opportunity.

I think the ACC used basketball in the equation, as they just became an even better hoops conference, although the revenue stream is still on the football side of the equation by a large margin.  The ACC also pulled off an academic coup.

II'd bet Delaney isn't watching the NFL today.


September 18th, 2011 at 10:18 PM ^

"I'd bet Delaney isn't watching the NFL today."  Hey,  cool quote.

We seem to maybe be caught a little flat-footed by the monster we created.  We are running out of dates to ask to the prom.  The other guys aren't just waiting on the sidelines while we pontificate and analyze the decision that's just right for us.



September 18th, 2011 at 10:17 PM ^

If there is pressure to go to a 16 team super conference and there are no quality football schools availableothr than ND  then it makes a great deal of sense to bring in KU. As a traditional top 5 basketball program it does increase the overall prestige of the big 10. Also KU is Mizzou's big rival and brings the other half of the Kansas City Market, for what it's worth.

KSU not so much... I'd rather see Rutgers or another eastern school.

Finally in the 16 team scenario, I don't think we even want 3 1st class football powers if they were available. The bottom half of the conference would stand a chance of ever winning a championship ever. Better to have some balance so why not add a program that contributes to our BB prestige?


September 18th, 2011 at 9:09 PM ^

i like Baylor. They are located south. With the population redistribution going on, and Texas getting a large population increase, this would get the BIG into an area that will be a hotbed of talent and new fans. They have great research going on. They have alot of political power within the Texas government, yet they won't get too pushy since they haven't proved much yet. There football and bball programs are getting alot better and are located in an area hot in recruiting. Put them together with Notre dame, and you got yourself an increase in academic prestige, footprint, and solid athletics.


September 18th, 2011 at 10:12 PM ^

not disagreeing with you, but you got to take a chance with a school that has everything you want outside of athletics and a booming population. With the booming pop, you get more and greater talent. not all of that talent with go to UT or A&M...They will get better as the population over time. 


Mr Miggle

September 18th, 2011 at 10:35 PM ^

You're right about the demographics, but there are other negatives with Baylor. It's a bad fit culturally, not what we're looking for academically, and doesn't even draw well. They're only in the Big XII because of politics. If we're going to add a team that doesn't really fit it should be less of gamble in football.


September 18th, 2011 at 9:29 PM ^

All of this has been soemwhat noted but if you take ISU, who has no medical school, get them in the CIC, there is a huge potential. They have a 30K enrollment and sit right in the middle of the Ag landscape with a very good engineering department. They bring next to nothing in terms of athletics besides traveling well and good attendance, but on the academic side of things, they would be a no brainer.

Incredible Hoke

September 18th, 2011 at 9:48 PM ^

I would love Notre Dame and Missouri. 

Both with good football programs, and both pretty decent in basketball. I'm not sure about Missouri's academics, but I know Notre Dame would qualify in the academic area. 


September 18th, 2011 at 11:04 PM ^

I think everyone is thinking too small. Why stop at 4 mega conferences with 16 teams.  I say we drive all the way to 20 teams.  Then you just play the other 9 in your division and the two division winners play for the conference championship.  So instead of wasting my time trying to figure out what the next 4 teams will be, I'm double dog daring everyone to come up with the next 8.

I'm going with:

1) Pitt (yes we will steal them back from the newly developed ACC) Instant rivalry with PSU

2) Louisville - and you can't have one without the other

3) Kentucky - They never really seemed like the right fit with the SEC

4) Iowa State - Can't get enough of the Cy-Hawk trophy debacle

5) Missouri - because some one has to show me

6) Kansas - love the basketball tradition

7) ND - already in the footprint and someone will have to take them.

8) Cincinnati - just to piss off Ohio!!!



September 18th, 2011 at 11:04 PM ^

The way things are looking for the Big East right now, i would not be surprised if TCU becomes available.

They would bring a huge TV market with a lot of UM fans in the area. Don't know how they stack up AAU-CIC wise, though. Plus the Big Ten gets a good Texas school with out the Texas politics.