Saturday, July 28, 2007


Once again the Big Ten is considering expanding to 12 schools. The topic came up a few years ago when the ACC expanded to 12 schools in order to host a “money-making” championship game. At that time many people speculated that the Big Ten would add a 12th team so that it could host a championship game. Teams with strengths is basketball (Syracuse) and football (Nebraska) were mentioned, but in the end the Big Ten essentially took the position that the only team they had any interest in adding was Notre Dame. And as long as Notre Dame wasn’t interested in joining a conference, the Big Ten was going to stay at 11 teams.

Whether a championship game benefits teams in the conference probably varies from year to year. If your team is 3rd in the BCS standings and another marquee win allows you to jump to 2nd in the BCS standings, then clearly the championship game is worthwhile. On the other hand, if your team is 2nd in the BCS standings and loses in the conference championship preventing it from playing in the national championship, then the game is clearly a negative.

Detractors will point out that there will often not be a true champion in the Big Ten because the best two teams might not play each other. But, if two teams are undefeated in conference play, the Big Ten probably gets two BCS games, so the conference actually benefits when this unusual scenario plays out.

Yes, a conference championship game would be a big moneymaker, but would it diminish the value of the Ohio St.-Michigan game to close the regular season? Wouldn’t it keep kids out of the classroom when preparing for finals? After all, the Big Ten teams play a schedule with 12 straight weeks of games (no byes) in order to ensure that games are wrapped up before Thanksgiving.

In the end, whether you like the idea of a Big Ten championship or not, the advantages were not enough to sway the Big Ten to add a 12th team. Instead, the desire to add a 12th team comes from an unlikely source. The Big Ten has launched the Big Ten Network and wants to force it on cable operators. But, they’ve only had success in markets where Big Ten teams currently play. As a result, the Big Ten is looking to add a team with a big TV market.

If this is the rationale for adding a 12th team, it certainly rules out certain teams as possibilities. (I.e., there is no way the Big Ten would add Iowa St. when they’ve already got access to the Iowa TV markets.) Looking purely at TV market size, let’s evaluate who the Big Ten could try to add.

1. New York / New Jersey – Rutgers is a possibility but they do not guarantee access to the New York City market and considering their weak history in basketball and football they’d have to be considered a long shot.
2. LA – Travel costs would be immense. That would be OK for men’s basketball and football, but any team that joined the Big Ten would have to join in all sports. Therefore, we can rule out any west coast teams joining the Big Ten.
3. Chicago – The Big Ten is already present thanks to Northwestern.
4. Philadelphia – The Big Ten will not be adding Temple anytime soon.
5. SF – No West Coast schools.
6. Dallas (Texas Triangle) – It is hard to see the Big Ten convincing Texas or Texas A&M to join. Could TCU make its fourth leap in conference affiliation? They’ve already gone from the WAC to CUSA to the MWC. I still think TCU is a long shot, but if the goal is to add a huge TV market, TCU would be ideal. Also, Big Ten coaches might not mind having an opportunity to recruit within the Texas market.
7. Boston – Boston College would also be a good fit in terms of TV markets, but I doubt the team is interested in jumping conferences again or giving up traditional rivalries such as Miami.
8. Washington DC – Maryland is not interested in giving up its basketball rivalry with Duke.
9. Atlanta – I just don’t see Georgia or Georgia Tech being a natural fit with the Big Ten.
10. Houston – See Dallas
11. Detroit – Big Ten is already present thanks to Michigan and Michigan St.
12. Tampa – Too far south
13. Phoenix – Too far west
14. Seattle – Too far west
15. Minneapolis – Big Ten is already present thanks to the Gophers.
16. Miami – Too far south
17. Cleveland – Ohio St. has northern Ohio covered.
18. Denver – Colorado is the type of team that becomes a lot more attractive if the Big Ten is looking to add a strong TV market. While transportation costs would be high in other sports, Denver is a strong sports town with 4 pro teams and the Denver area has been growing in population. Colorado might not want to leave its rivals in the Big 12, but given the recent scandals, the school might appreciate an opportunity for a fresh start.
19. Orlando – Too far south
20. Sacramento – Too far west
21. St. Louis – Already a Big Ten area because of the Fighting Illini, but the addition of Missouri would solidify this as a Big Ten TV market.
22. Pittsburgh – A natural fit for the Big Ten and a good sized TV market.
23. Portland – Too far west
24. Baltimore – See Washington DC
25. Indianapolis – Big Ten already has a presence with Indiana and Purdue.
26. Charlotte – No teams are a natural fit
27. San Diego – Too far west
28. Hartford – Connecticut is also a long shot, but might be a natural addition to get access to east coast TV viewers. Connecticut has already indicated their dissatisfaction with Boston College for leaving the Big East, and might appreciate a new start.
29. Raleigh / Durham – No teams are a natural fit
30. Nashville – I don’t see Tennessee wanting to give up historical SEC rivals and I don’t see the Big Ten having much interest in adding Vanderbilt.
31. Kansas City – Missouri would be a double whammy because it would not only solidify St. Louis, but it would also provide access to the Kansas City market. Kansas seems unlikely to leave the Big 12, but given the conference’s weakness of late, it might be a darkhorse choice.
32. Columbus – Big Ten already has a presence because of Ohio St.

Conclusion: If the Big Ten wants to add TV viewers, I think here are the odds on a 12th team:
Favorites: Pittsburgh, Colorado, Missouri
Dark Horses: TCU, Rutgers, Connecticut, Kansas
Unlikely: Iowa St., Nebraska