Big Ten expansion (part 1)

16 02 2010

Ever since Penn State joined the Big 10 in 1990, creating an obscure conference with 11 teams, adding a 12th team was as obvious as night following the day. It was coming, everyone knew it, the only two questions left were “Who?” and “When?”.

Over the next few days, I will dissect the contenders and the pretenders, the fantasy and the reality, as well as tell you who the Big 10 will ultimately choose and who they won’t. Most importantly, I’ll tell you why.

The Big 10 obviously needs a 12th team to divide into two divisions (most logically the East and the West) in order to facilitate a conference championship game. This will put the Big 10 up with the SEC and Big 12 and the dominant conferences having a conference champion determined on the field and not in a press room somewhere. I will cover who is the best fit and how the divisions should be stacked.

First, let’s take care of the business of discarding the obvious names being thrown around that will NOT find themselves relocating to the conference headquarters in Chicago.

BYE BYE BIG 12

The sexy name to throw around when the discussion of Big 10 expansion comes around is TEXAS. But the Longhorns seriously consider joining the Big 10 shortly after Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News or ESPN the magazine hire me as a columnist. Don’t hold your breath, sports fans. Texas is coming off a National Championship game and does not want to be another big fish in the pond. The Big 10 pond has Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State as its hallmark programs. Texas will not join the Big 10 to be “just another team.” They are the top dog in the Big 12. And when Oklahoma has a down year, no team (especially in the Big 12 North) can hold a Gatorade bottle next to Texas. Texas doesn’t need the added revenue of the Big 10 Network, and the Big 10 doesn’t need Texas to help boost its credibility or competition. It doesn’t make sense for either side, especially just for the sake of adding a 12th team.

There will be a Texas team in the mix for the 12th spot, but it won’t be the Longhorns.

Next is MISSOURI. Many have made the suggestion that its location in Missouri makes it a logical contender. But there is just not enough smoke to even look to see if there’s fire. Mizzou in in Columbia, Mo. That would put in in one of, if not the smallest, markets in the Big 10 (with Lansing, Iowa City and Madison). And Mizzou just does not have any sex appeal. The fan base is not substantial enough, there are no obvious rivals in the Big 10 and the level of competition and talent at Mizzou is too suspect for serious consideration.

Yes, Illinois and Mizzou have tried to create a rivalry with the game in St Louis the past few seasons, but that was about as exciting as House debate on C-SPAN. Yawn. I have yet to see ESPN College Game Day fighting off the competition to get into St Louis for the week of the big Illinois vs Mizzou game.

Mizzou would only consider joining the Big 10 for their own monetary and exposure needs. Their revenue would increase both from being in the Big 10 and on the BTN. Not enough up-side for the Big 10 to make the move to take the Tigers from Columbia.

And then there’s IOWA STATE. Iowa versus Iowa State is the biggest sporting event in the state of Iowa. It’s for bragging rights and the key to recruiting classes within Iowa. But that’s not enough to put Iowa State in the mix for the coveted 12th seat at the Big 10 table. ISU’s fan base, local audience, and tradition is not going to WOW any Big 10 members. Yes it makes for good, exciting football in the non-conference season for both schools, but Iowa State gains nothing by moving conferences. They will only gain the exposure of getting beat up by superior Big 10 competition on a weekly basis on BTN. The Big 10 gains nothing in return. No excitement. No media market boost. No recruiting advantage. Nothing. Sorry Ames, but we will have to take a pass. Where is Paula Abdul when you need her to let someone down easy?

Basically any Big 12 team is out of the running. For the Big 12 to lose a team to the Big 10 would also require the Big 12 to look for a replacement to fill that slot. They don’t want to have to change their name again to the Big 11. See, the Big 10 will always be the Big 10 solely based on history and tradition. And trust me, if the Big 12 has started looking for potential replacement options, it is doing a tremendous job of keeping it quiet.

Coming up in the next installment …

Which teams have an outside shot at being considered for the 12th Big 10 spot, but will not make the first cut?

Mr Pressbox Out!!

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