Saturday, January 30, 2010
OK, Big Ten expansion made the national media over this weekend, and the ES is happy to see his buddy, Kyle Sweitzer, mentioned in the NY Times to better understand the relation of what Big Ten membership means to academic prestige. As the ES has said once and said again, AAU membership is an important factor in determining access to the Big Ten -- but it IS an athletics conference.
So, considering all the factors including not only AAU membership and academic prestige, geographic proximity, history with the Big Ten in football, broad-based athletics program (eg. lots of sports offered), current conference athletic affiliation, and television draw/current contracts, here is how the ES handicaps potential Big Ten conference teams joining in 2012. Shown in parentheses are distance from EL and Learfield/Sears Cup (LC) standings as of January 11, 2010 (MSU is #15 overall, impressively).
1. Missouri (411 miles from EL, #121 LC). Everything you read from Missouri, and the more you figure this institution will be the next team, regardless of any decision by Notre Dame. As said by the Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, would "rather the state’s flagship school hang out with Northwestern and Wisconsin than Texas Tech and Oklahoma State." Over at StLouis Today, they are already bracing for a Mizzou departure, and begging the Big Ten to take Kansas with and not moan an end to the Mizzou-Kansas "Border War." Adding the St Louis television market is revenue, and it is all about money, no (In 2000, US Census ranked St Louis Metro area as #18 in the nation at 2.7 million)? If it smells like fish, is it chicken? Give this a 75-25 shot.
3. Notre Dame (147 miles from EL, #26 LC). It is in the heart of Big Ten country. Again, ND has its own football contract and independence... but it can be easily traced that ND athletics has lost an incredible amount of prestige since the departure of Lou Holtz and the beginning of the information age. Add the Big Ten network and its $80 million annual contract, and Notre Dame finds its football independence and non-football Big East affiliation to lack complete fulfillment. That NBC contract and Big Least affiliation is no longer the goose the laid the golden egg. Will the Irish priests-in-charge be so stubborn to allow them to miss their best (or last) opportunity for probably the next 20 years or more? The Big Ten won't offer anything more than an invitation. The ND would be foolish to blink, but may be stupid enough to do so. But, from a Big Ten standpoint, while ND has strong academics (and high minimum admissions standards), it also ain't AAU. This is a 50-50 shot.
4-10: Others (read ES examination): Syracuse (#34), Iowa State (#22), Rutgers (#49), Nebraska (#36), Louisville (#70), Cincy (#52), Memphis (#121). All are no better than 25-75.
What about Kansas? 771 miles from EL. Not ranked in LC standings. But, a long time AAU member (since 1909). It would be the new West and South border for the conference, and 1,200 miles from Penn State. If you bring Kansas because of the Mizzou-Kansas rivalry... OK. But this year the broad-based success just doesn't compare without any rating at all in the fall. Seems to me a school needs to bring more than just a rivalry with another. Maybe it does: it is only 40 miles from Kansas City, Missouri, which according to the US Census is the #26 metro area (1.8 million). So, if you added both Mizzou and Kansas, you are adding a potential 4.5 million individuals to the Big Ten, which is an ENORMOUS draw. The problem: look at the map. They are just way out there; at a time when institutions are hurting with money and trimming their budgets for travel, adding a team that extends the current boundary by more than 300 miles doesn't seem to make much sense. I'd say 25-75 shot.
What if Mizzou, Kansas or Pitt, and Notre Dame joined the Big Ten/14? What would the Big Ten/14 Divisions look like? Here is the most likely geographic division split.
Big Ten West
Kansas or Purdue
Big Ten East
Purdue or Pittsburgh
When will there be an announcement?
Despite rumors here or there, it will take time. University of Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther stated on January 11, "in the next six to 12 months, expansion will be addressed or not addressed." Which puts the earliest window at July 2010. The original statement from the Big Ten, released in December 2009, said it would take 12-18 months, which would put the earliest window at December 2010. So, don't believe the rumors. Getting 11 Big Ten presidents together in one place within a month is nearly impossible to begin with, let alone all the data and dialogue to approve and submit an invitation... this is higher education, not business. It doesn't just turn around on a dime. Or does it?