And yet, the discussion is that the conference is planning on adding more to the pot. Several names have been thrown around in the last couple weeks, and just recently we had word that Georgia Tech and Virginia were slated to join as early as yesterday. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your preference, that didn’t end up happening as expected.
In this 2-part article, I want to look at the various factors involved in the driving of a legitimate Superconference. The first article will look at the names currently on the radar – at least those that have rumors with some legs to them – and establish how likely they are as a potential new member school.
Second, I’ll look at the actual logistics of how a conference would go about getting 14, 16, or even more schools to actually play each other. I’ll also take a look at what I consider to be the “critical mass” for conference expansion, and why such a critical mass might exist.
But first, let’s take a look at the names being suggested for the Big Ten.
Obviously, I’m not going to include “money” as a pro on any of these. We all know that’s one of the big driving motivators here, so lets just move right on past that, shall we?
Out of the ACC, Georgia Tech is a name that has been batted around as a possible candidate for B1G inclusion for a while. There was even some suggestion of it back in the first round of conference expansion, but those rumors quickly died out.
BTN Television – They want the Atlanta market, bad. Given that Georgia Tech is in Atlanta, it shouldn’t be hard to get BTN on the basic cable packages in that area.
Academics – The reason Rutgers and Maryland were good fits to the B1G is due to what they bring to the AAU/CIC table. Georgia Tech is no slouch in research either. Plus, they’re an AAU member.
Recruiting – The south has been fertile recruiting land for the past few decades. Adding GT will allow B1G coaches more of a chance to build southern interest in their programs.
Athletics – GT is not a great athletics school, but they’re certainly not bad either. Compared to Maryland and Rutgers, this is probably a wash.
Travel – The trip to Georgia Tech from Wisconsin would cover 920 miles. From Minnesota is a cool 1,100+.
High. Given what we’ve been hearing the last few weeks, and the fact that it seemed like it might even be a done deal on Monday (December 3rd), I would imagine that this is pretty much set in stone now.
Obviously things could change, but they’re looking favorable for Big Ten inclusion right now. Keep in mind, Georgia Tech fits a profile very similar to Maryland and Rutgers. It may simply come down to how desperately Georgia Tech likes money. I’m pretty sure we all know what the answer to that is.
Also out of the ACC, Virginia is an old and cultured institution that brings plenty of academic interest. Tailgating at UVa is supposed to be quite the different experience from what the typical Midwestern tailgate crasher is used to.
Academics – Do we really have to say it? Academics are such a huge part of this that any school mentioned better have this as a positive. They’re also an AAU member.
Television – Supposedly this move opens up more of the Virginia market than Maryland does. Other bloggers might have a better feel for that than I do, though it certainly stands to reason.
Athletics – Again, not unlike Georgia Tech, Virginia has a few strong healthy teams in the non-revenues, and the revenue sports themselves are not terrible.
Culture – The culture is not exactly a great fit in my opinion. That said, it might not work out so terribly in this case. The people are friendly, and as long as you’re okay with Brie at your tailgate, you’ll do fine.
Recruiting – I think you get the same recruiting access from Maryland, for all intents and purposes, that you do from Virginia.
Travel – It’s not Georgia Tech, but trips from the western side of the conference would not necessarily be fun.
Rivals – This is the big one in my mind, and is one of the reasons I don’t totally buy the UVa to the B1G talk. The likelihood that the Virginia Legislature would even allow Virginia to be in a different conference than Virginia Tech has to be slim (through the same kinds of pressure they applied to get VT into the ACC in the first place). Though, the $47 million expected per year might make that a moot point from Virginia’s perspective.
Moderate to slim. I have a very hard time believe that the Virginia Legislature isn’t going to pressure Virginia into staying with the Hokies. Granted, $47 million per year to the athletic department might be enough to sway the Cavaliers away, but it also might not be enough.
There’s been some talk here, even going back a few years. The Tarheels have been suggested to be too closely tied to Duke and NC State – the first being less of a problem than the second. There’s also the “Jim Delany did his undergraduate studies there” point, and you have a contender for inclusion.
Jim Delany – He probably wants him in the conference, just saying.
Athletics – Football has taken a bit of a hit recently, but Basketball is a power (of course). Also, the football hit may only be temporary.
Television – This clearly opens up the North Carolina market, and may get more national exposure in basketball.
Academics – They’re a great research and educational school, and a member of the AAU. Need I say more?
Academic Fraud – Oh, it’s a doozy. Years of possible academic misconduct at an excellent academic institution? Yikes. North Carolina is as toxic as can be right now, and I’m not certain the Big Ten wants to involve itself in another round of turmoil.
Travel – Like before, North Carolina is pretty well outside the typical Big Ten footprint. In fact, it’s about as far from the University of Minnesota to North Carolina as it is to Georgia Tech.
Rivals – This could potentially be a problem, but the North Carolina Legislature has not made it’s feelings as strongly known as the Virginia version. Perhaps there’s more of a chance here.
Moderate. Despite the toxicity of the program right now, I could at least see the addition being a net positive for the Big Ten. The B1G University Presidents would certainly be on board with that move. Therefore, you have to think that it’s at least not an unreasonable possibility.
That said, the move away from Duke and NC State is might be unattractive for UNC as a whole. And who knows what the North Carolina Legislature might want to do, especially if they want to tie the schools together to protect them from what might result in the destruction of the ACC. At least the ACC as we know it.
I know, I know. Bear with me.
Academics – They’re a solid academic research institution, though that probably comes as no surprise.
Athletics – They’ve been pretty strong in the revenue sports recently (very recently). Most importantly, they’re looking like they’ll be a football power for a while too.
Television – They could net national exposure for the BTN.
Geography and Culture – School and Alumni-wise, it’s a decent match with the B1G.
NBC – Yea, NBC lets go of their cash cow, especially now that they’re on the cusp of their first National Championship in just over two decades? Forget about it.
Alumni – The culture may be similar, but they surely want nothing to do with a conference. They lose far too many bargaining chips in College Football, and they just flat out value their independence.
Slim. I’ll believe it the day that Notre Dame officially plays a conference matchup with Michigan. Getting access to the CIC and AAU would be nice for them, but clearly the academic side of things bears little weight over the Alumni and Athletic Department.
Texas was one of the darlings of the first round of conference expansion. First the B1G, then the Pac-12, then the SEC, were all mentioned as possibly courting the Longhorns. Ultimately, Texas decided to setup the Longhorn Network and stay in the Big 12.
Academics – Hey, guess what, Texas is a member of the AAU. Don’t tell me you’re surprised.
Athletics – They’ve been a bit up and down in the revenue sports, but it’s the University of Texas. They’ll figure it out soon enough.
Recruiting – Texas is almost as fertile of a recruiting ground as California and Florida. Coaches would love to get a regular trip down there to try to nab some of those players.
Television – The B1G would love to get as many TVs from the state of Texas tuned to the BTN as possible.
Longhorn Network – Texas may not want to give up this cash cow so easily. It may not draw as much money as the BTN, but for a single school it’s not chump change.
Travel – They are pretty well outside the “traditional” B1G footprint. But with Maryland and Rutgers, and now the GT talk, we’ve pretty much shot that concept full of holes.
Southwestern Conference/Big 12 – We’ve all heard the stories. Texas has strong-armed every single conference they’ve been in, and have basically destroyed them all. There’s not enough space in the B1G for us and their ego.
Nebraska – Attached to the previous is the fact that the ‘Huskers are likely waving their arms in the air and screaming “No! NO! Oh HELL no!”.
Slim. In the final analysis, they are more likely to want to stick to the Big 12 where they can be one of the few true “big fishes”, as opposed to the Big Ten where they would be one of more than a few.
As for the Big 12, the conference may in fact want to protect itself as one of the major 4 conferences by snapping up FSU and Clemson, which should help hold on to Texas and Oklahoma. How much of the conference realignment is being driven by the 4-team playoff is anyone’s guess. It is, however, hard to ignore the fact that the ACC and the Big East are paying a steep price right now.
All of this leads to a final fundamental question. Who do I think the Big Ten will add along with Georgia Tech to make 16? It’s hard to say for certain, and I actually tend to believe the Big Ten would rather wait at 14 rather than taking a stab at 16. It could honestly depend on the results of the NCAA probe into UNC’s current troubles, or a probe into the strength of the Virginia Legislature.
Some might ask why I haven’t analyzed Boston College as a possible Big Ten member. To be perfectly honest, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would be a better fit. One is an AAU school, and the other is not. Without AAU membership, BC is a no-go in Big Ten alignment discussion.
Plus, MIT’s athletics are better (ZING!).
For those that comment that AAU membership is no longer a requirement because “Nebraska’s not an AAU school anymore”, you are forgetting a key fact. Keep in mind, Nebraska was an AAU member until they got into the Big Ten, and then the AAU kicked them out. Also, Nebraska believed they may not have been allowed to join the Big Ten except for their AAU membership. It’s pretty suggestive that you’re very likely to find the next B1G members on the list of current AAU member schools.
One thought that keeps bouncing around in my head is that the Big Ten is giving Notre Dame one last chance to join the conference. The Big Ten adds Georgia Tech, getting to 15, and then holds their hand out to Notre Dame. If Notre Dame again refuses, the Big Ten goes elsewhere and stops at 16.
You’ll see in my next installment why I think 16 is the critical mass for conference size, and how I think conferences will start scheduling games in that not-so-far-flung future.