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

Friday, July 27, 2007

Skip Prosser Dies

Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser died in his office Thursday afternoon. The first coach to ever raise Wake Forest to the point of being ranked #1 in the country, he will be missed. I have not followed Wake Forest personally, but I’ll always have fond memories of his top ranked 2004-05 squad, first because Illinois defeated Wake Forest to reach its own #1 ranking, and second because they played in one of the most exciting games in NCAA tournament history, a double overtime loss to West Virginia. (Sorry about the odd quote from Prosser in the link.) ESPN says everything I just said and more here. Andy Katz reacts here. And if I’m posting the ESPN links, here’s Dick Vitale.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bowl Bound at 2-6

Sports Illustrated had a preview of college football schedules Thursday, and that got me started on today's topic. The joy (or pain) of college football is the lack of overlap among football schedules, meaning that one can justify numerous different rankings of the teams. If you like to debate who is the best, this is ideal and highly amusing. If you like to see things settled on the field, well you are probably disappointed.

One ironic piece of recent development is that despite saying that a playoff would keep kids out of class (in Jaunary when there are no classes) the NCAA has approved the permanent addition of a 12th game to the college football schedule. With an 11 game schedule and a 3 game non-conference schedule, good teams often scheduled a home game with one BCS school and a road game with another BCS school (each as part of a home-and-home series). And teams used the 3rd game to schedule a cupcake opponent at home. One hope was that the additional game would now allow teams the flexibility to schedule more BCS non-conference matchups such as the neutral site Missouri - Illinois series which is slated to become a near-permanent rivalry starting this year.

Since the NCAA has determined that teams still only need 6 victories to reach a bowl game, teams seemingly have no need to schedule yet another cupcake for the 12th game. And yet, that's exactly what many have done. Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Arizona, and Arkansas have not scheduled a single game against a BCS non-conference opponent this year. In theory, if these teams win the games they are "supposed to win", they will only need to go 2-6 to be Bowl Eligible.

Two things work against teams setting tougher schedules. First, now that the smaller Division 1 schools (think MAC, Sun Belt) are required to have at least 5 home games a year in order not to fall to Division 1AA status, they are now negotiating more 2-for-1 and 3-for-1 contracts with the BCS schools. With BCS schools playing more road games at the cupcakes, they've been less inclined to play additional road games against BCS schools.

Second, the NCAA system continues to reward teams for wins, regardless of quality. It used to be true that teams could only count a win against a Division 1AA team in one out of 4 years for Bowl eligibility, but the rule has been changed so that teams can count a win gainst a Division 1AA team every year. And while a tougher schedule can help in the BCS standings, one loss is frequently too many, so why take the risk?

Overall for the BCS conferences, the teams have scheduled an average of 1.32 non-conference games against other BCS schools or Notre Dame.

Average Number of BCS/ND Non-Conference Games
1.88 BigEast
1.83 ACC
1.18 BigTen
1.17 SEC
1.10 Pac10
0.92 Big12

The Pac 10 may look low, but they also admirably increased the schedule to include 9 conference games. Meanwhile, with only 8 Big East teams, Big East teams play only 7 conference games. (And this ignores the fact that most Big East teams are not traditional BCS powerhouses.)

Average Number of BCS/ND Conference and Non-Conference Games
10.10 Pac10
10.00 NotreDame
9.83 ACC
9.18 BigTen
9.17 SEC
8.92 Big12
8.88 BigEast

Regardless, there are 48 non-conference games to keep track of when the season begins.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Summer Games

I just got back from the every-three-year family Pinochle tournament. We use a double elimination format, and I’ve invented a system where we switch partners after every round. If you’d like to see the bracket algorithm, send me an email at Did I mention that I love brackets?

I also played nine games of scrabble with the Blog’s mom. We keep track of our scores over time. It is probably coincidence, but since the advent of the 4th Edition of the Scrabble dictionary, with 2 letter Q and Z words QI and ZA added, I’ve been scoring about 40 points higher than my previous average.

While we’re on the topic of games, don’t overlook the under-rated Ticket 2 Ride. The game may seem simple, but it has some great strategy, especially with 4 or 5 players.