Logistics of a Big Ten Superconference – Part 1

Written December 4th, 2012 by Eric

Red Alert! It's a B1G Cube! (Haha, get it? "B1G Cube"...no seriously, I'll be here all day.)

The conference expansion discussion is heating up once again. The B1G has taken stabs at both the Big East and the ACC, nabbing academic powerhouses Rutgers, and Maryland to jump to fourteen teams. That move matches the SEC for total number of programs in each respective conference.

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?

Georgia Tech

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.

Pros:

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.

Neutral:

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.

Cons:

Travel – The trip to Georgia Tech from Wisconsin would cover 920 miles. From Minnesota is a cool 1,100+.

Likelihood

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.

Virginia

University of Virginia

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.

Pros:

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.

Neutral:

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.

Cons:

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.

Likelihood:

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.

North Carolina

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

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.

Pros:

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?

Cons:

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.

Likelihood:

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.

Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame

I know, I know. Bear with me.

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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.

Likelihood:

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

University of Texas

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.

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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!”.

Likelihood:
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.

21 Comments

  1. SteveNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Hello. As a Georgia Tech alum and fan, I would be very pleased to have Georgia Tech join the Big Ten. In my opinion we are a good fit academically and athletically. Our Basketball team (despite going down to Illinois recently) is young and on the upturn and the baseball team is perennial top 20. Women’s basketball, softball and tennis are all strong points too. Oh, and Urban Meyer’s daughter is on the volleyball team! The commute is not as bad as you might think. Flights to Atlanta are almost always direct given the size of the airport. And the university is less than 30 minutes from the airport. I hope we see “y’all” real soon!

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    ErictBBCNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 11:38 am

    All great reasons for immediate inclusion! Thanks for stopping by Steve.

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  2. C-DogNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I like this kind of discussion, but please, PLEASE, PLEASE, please, never mention Notre Dame again.

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    ErictBBCNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I would like nothing more. And, to be honest, it probably will be the last time, unless something unbelievable occurs…(cue eerie music) #DOOM

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  3. YenserbNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Here is an idea, if we are going for ACC schools, why not try for GT, NC, and FL ST, that would give the conf some deep roots in the south, with fair to strong sports programs, they may not all be AAU schools (not sure if they are or aren’t) but given NC standing on that we can give a little, then head out west and try to get Kansas, Texas or OK, those three schools would give a strong roots in the west, am i saying that it will happen, not a chance but these schools make more sense than going after VA, we already have maryland in that area and for the most part the B1G is the strong conf in the north east, so why not move south and west,

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    EricNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    FSU is an interesting option – and one I’ve debated about on Twitter. They are a decent research academics institution (they have the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the grant to which was snatched away from MIT a number of years ago, for instance) with solid athletics, a decent television footprint, and are located in a recruiting hotbed. They would certainly be a nice addition.

    The problem with FSU is this – they’re not an AAU school. The same goes for Oklahoma. Texas and Kansas are, but Texas is, as mentioned, problematic, and Kansas provides almost nothing in the way of television interest. While they aren’t far outside of Kansas City (Lawrence is within an hour’s drive, IIRC) they don’t have the football chops to drive the TV interest in the area. Essentially, they have the same problem that Syracuse did a couple years ago – mediocre control over a big market (though no-where near as big as New York) in the off-brand revenue sport.

    Outside of Oklahoma, those are at least reasonable options – except FSU not being an AAU member, though I honestly believe they should be.

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  4. JimNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Add UVA, KY, Kansas, MO. Looks about right

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  5. MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    There was a concerted effort back in the early 20th century by Fielding Yost (and others) to keep Notre Dame out of the B1G… there’s still some animosity.

    There’s also concerns from Notre Dame faculty and alumni regarding the amount of stem cell research that the CIC does; it may be a sticking point for any conference-academic ties, given the religious guiding principles of the school.

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  6. KenNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Not to thread-jack, but Bielema to Arkansas?

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Yup. SBP is on it for tomorrow… :)

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  7. KenNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Jeesh, Eric, a lot going on here with potential Big (Pick-a-Number) Conference expansion.

    For their self-serving attitudes, I just don’t see Texas nor Notre Dame joining. Which is OK with me. I’d take MIT in a heartbeat ;)

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    ErictBBCNo Gravatar
    December 5th, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I would too. What a great addition they would be!

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  8. Go TerpsNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Terps fan here. Great blog site and I wanted to add a couple of comments.

    First, thank you Big 10 for saving our butts. Debbie Yow ran us into the ground and our move to the Big Ten gives us hope again.

    If we are assuming 16 is the magic number than there is a lot of posturing going on. Honestly, I could see more than 16, and if that happens I believe it will be the Big Ten.

    All of this it seems is to get to four Super Conferences that will each have one representative play in the National Title playoff. Those four Super Conferences are SEC, PAC Ten, Big Ten and Big 12.

    If Georgia Tech is next, and the Big Ten is sticking with 16, then I think it’s between UNC and ND. On the ACC blogs the debate is about North Carolina and the Big Ten’s efforts to lure them to the conference (could Georgia Tech just be a bluff to get UNC to move fearing a GT, UVA offer?)

    After all, one plausible realignment scenario is Virginia Tech and NC State to the SEC (freeing up Virginia to move); Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami to the Big 12, and Virginia and UNC to the Big Ten. Most of what I have read has Virginia and UNC the real targets of the Big Ten with Notre Dame the wild card.

    If you are UNC and wait for everything to unfold, could you get left stuck in a weakened, ACC conference that merges with the Big East? Yes.

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    JeffNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    First off,
    Welcome to the bigten, hoping you enjoy and thrive here.
    Secondly,
    Yes it seems we are on a run to get to 16. If this is the case, the someone will be left out in the cold. Hopefully, notre dame is that school.
    Yes, Looking at GT and Virginia, if this is the case, NC will be outside looking in. Sucks, but its the way the cookie crumbles.

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    Go TerpsNo Gravatar
    December 4th, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Boston College is also in the Big Ten mix, albeit probably less likely unless Virginia, ND, and UNC all decline.

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    NorCal BuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 5th, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Regarding BC, see the notes about the AAU membership. Looks like a shop-stopper (and the word was the B1G presidents were a tad less than excited about Nebraska losing theirs). It’s the moral highground BS that allows those presidents to justify to themselves and their school leadership that this is all OK. Academics & research, of course.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    December 5th, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Lets put it this way. The graduate advisor for physics at Michigan State expressed his extremely negative feelings to me regarding Nebraska joining the B1G from an academic standpoint, and not surprisingly, he wasnt anywhere near the decision making for that one. And that was before Nebraska lost their AAU status.

    There ain’t no way in hell the university presidents allow BC into the Big Ten as a non AAU.

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    ErictBBCNo Gravatar
    December 5th, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I should emphasize my point a little bit better. This is a guy who you might think is so far out of being in a position to care about the academic quality of schools being added to the Big Ten. However, he cared a great deal about it, and was worried about the impact the non-AAU Nebraska would have on the CIC.

    This is all a huge deal for the Big Ten schools. If your school isn’t up to snuff, you’re not even going to get a sniff at an addition. And the Big Ten is more than happy to sit at some bizarre state (like, say, 15 teams) than add a school that the Presidents and academicians hate.

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  9. bob sykesNo Gravatar
    December 19th, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I think the endpoint for the B1G is 20 or 24 schools. This could come from a merger of the B1G and ACC. In fact, the absurd exit fee (thinking of Curt Flood) and the unified President’s statement looks a lot like a bid for a merger.

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  10. Big DadNo Gravatar
    December 22nd, 2012 at 2:36 am

    The Big 10 can’t afford to add anymore weak teams like Maryland and Rutgers if they want to compete with the SEC, PAC 12, BIG 12, they need to ad stronger teams because let’s face it the Big 10 is really weak these opast years and especially this year. If the Big 10 ads teams like Florida State, Notre Dame etc… that would ad a ton of strength to the conference in many ways.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 22nd, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    That’s a solid point, but it should again be emphasized that schools are added via multiple factors. TV Access/Revenue Possibilities (NYC and DC Markets) as well as Research Dollars (CIC Money dwarfs the TV dollars for these schools).

    Heck, if we were looking only at being uber-competitive, we’d just kick out Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois. :)

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