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Random Thoughts About the Big Ten Expanding
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The Big Ten Looking to Expand to Twelve Teams
Well in March 2009, talk surfaced about the Big Ten looking into expansion. The talk is starting to grow a little louder. The Big Ten announced on Tuesday, December 15th that they will conduct a study a twelve to eighteen month of adding the conference's twelveth team. There are so many possibilities of who would be the best fit. Here is my take on some of the rumored schools and their possibility of entering the Big Ten:
Notre Dame - Notre Dame has always been talked about as the most logical fit because of the academics, athletics, and geography. Located in South Bend, Indiana, Notre Dame is an hour away from Chicago. The Fighting Irish have natural rivalries with many of the schools in the conference. The Irish play Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue on annual basis. The reason why Notre Dame will not come into the Big Ten, they will not give up their exclusive TV contract money they receive from NBC. The contract with NBC does not expire until 2013. Plus, they will not share revenues with the other Big Ten schools. They would rather follow the beat of their own drum and stay independant before joining a conference. If Notre Dame joins a conference, it should be the Big East since they participate in all athletics except football. For Notre Dame, the Big East makes logical sense to join and that will be their decision.
Missouri - Missouri may take a serious look into an offer from the Big Ten but I do not think they want to lose their rivalry games versus Kansas. Illinois is the only natural rival Mizzou has in the Big Ten and they will continue that rival especially in basketball. The annual football game against Illinois will expire after the 2010 season since both schools decide not to renew the rivalry. They may not get the same financial revenues in the Big 12 as the Big Ten does but I do not see this move happening partly because of the Kansas. This is an important rivalry for both schools. Plus, Missouri has some great competition in the Big 12 with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State.
Syracuse - Syracuse may be one of several schools the Big Ten pursues. Syracuse is a very popular school, good academics and athletics. The 'Cuse is located in western New York state. They have a great history in football and basketball. The Big Ten really would love to have the New York market to draw from. Syracuse played three Big Ten schools during 2009 football season. Syracuse would be a great fit if offered the twelveth spot in the Big Ten.
Pittsburgh - Pitt would be a great addition because of the rivalry with Penn State and bringing in the western Pennsylvania market for viewership. Pittsburgh is a great hotbed of football. Look at all the Hall of Fame football players that grew up in or near Pittsburgh. Pitt is a good school with good academics and top-notch athletics. Geographically speaking, Pitt will fit nicely with the Big Ten. Athletically speaking, Pitt has a very good football and basketball program that are ranked in the Top 15 each year. Penn State may not like this too because they have not played Pitt for several years but it brings back a great college football rivalry.
Rutgers - Rutgers is another school that the Big Ten would love because of the New York television market. Rutgers athletics have been on the rise in the last five years. Rutgers would definitely jump to the Big Ten if they are offered. I believe Rutgers would love to help the Big Ten showcase itself as one of the best conferences in the country. Lastly, how could you not pass on the New York viewing area and imagine all the recruiting that would take place in the NYC.
Iowa State - Iowa State would have their natural rivalry with Iowa plus they would be a great fit geographically. Any move to the Big Ten would certainly not hurt. I really do not see this happening because of Iowa State pretty much will draw from the same area as University of Iowa. Iowa and Iowa State are pretty big in-state rivals playing each other in just about all sports. Iowa State, just like Missouri, would be better off with staying in the Big 12.
Louisville - Louisville has been brought up in this talk. Honestly, I really do not see them as being a great fit. Louisville does have good athletic teams especially in basketball. It does not hurt when the coach of your basketball program is Rick Pitino. I think they are very happy with the Big East. Louisville has a big rivalry with University of Kentucky in all athletics. That is a big in-state rivalry between the two schools.
Cincinnati - Cincinnati would make plenty of sense having a natural in-state rivalry with Ohio State. Also, geographically speaking, Cincy is not far from most Big Ten schools. Travel would be pretty close for just about all the schools with the exception of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. I could see an invitation made to Cincinnati if they are interested. Cincy has built a very reputable football program. Thanks in part to new Notre Dame and former Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly built up into a Top 5 program especially this season. Also, the basketball program has been very good over the years. Many great athletes have come from University of Cincinnati especially Hall of Fame Basketball player, Oscar Robertson.
There also could be many other schools not mentioned that are in consideration. Some of those schools include West Virginia and Nebraska. Although, I do not think it is very likely these schools are in consideration.
The Big Ten, from what I gather, is looking to expand eastward. I will not be surprised if Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers, or Cincinnati is offered an invitation to join the Big Ten. If the Big Ten is looking to expand for television reasons, Syracuse and Rutgers will be the direction they go. If the conference looks at geography, Pitt, Cincinnati, Missouri, or Notre Dame make sense in the decision making.
I really do think Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney and the rest of the conference members will really consider what is best for the Big Ten to grow. I would say this has alot to do with money, especially having a football championship Saturday. Imagine, seeing over 65,000 fans at Lucus Oil Stadium in Indianapolis or Ford Field in Detroit cheering on their favorite Big Ten school. Another reason for the Big Ten to have a championship football game is the ad revenue that would be made especially for their own cable network, Big Ten network. Big Ten Network showcases all sports of the Big Ten but the big sports for ratings are football and men's basketball.
My hope is that Big Ten picks a school that will be a good overall fit with other eleven member schools. My prediction is that it will be either Rutgers or Pitt as the twelveth member of the Big Ten Conference.
6/11/10 Update - It was announced that the University of Nebraska has accepted an offer to join the Big Ten Conference beginning July 1, 2011. Nebraska will become the 12th member school to join Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. There has been talk of the Big Ten expanding anywhere from one to six more schools. Nebraska is the second school this week to leave the Big 12 Conference for greener pastures in a new conference. Yesterday (6/10/10), the University of Colorado became the first school to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10 conference. These two moves are the first of many in NCAA conference realignment. We will see how the chips fall in the next weeks and months.