Big Ten Expansion (part 3): The Contenders

12 04 2010

After discussing some of the  outside contenders for the 12th spot in the Big Ten, lots of noise has been made to cut to the chase and get to the real teams (already). This installment will cover the teams with good chances, but not the front-runners. The top two teams for expansion will follow soon.

Some bloggers and so-called experts have been casting doubt on the “East Coast Media Theory” for Big 10 expansion. The problem is, it is too logical not to apply. The conference wants to send a serious statement to the college football community that it is THE top conference in football by adding a conference championship game as well as gain exposure in the ESPN (Eastern Sports Publicity Network) dominated media market on the East Coast.

Two major teams accomplish this feat; the Syracuse Orange and Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Syracuse has an established football program that has had very strong times, and very weak times – a perfect fit for the Big 10. Other than Ohio State, the Big 10 standings can be highly volatile on a yearly basis. And the basketball team has also had established success. Plus Syracuse is about as close to New York itself as the Big 10 can get.

About the only university closer is Rutgers, another likely option. The Scarlet Knights have had a solid football program over the last decade joined with an increase in credibility as a quality opponent. Joining the Big 10 offers Rutgers a larger stage than the Big East and gives the Big 10 a 12th team that will not be a threat to upset the apple cart immediately in the conference.

Again, major prospects like Texas,  Nebraska and Notre Dame would not consider a move t the Big 10 because they want to be conference championship contenders from the start. The truth is, the conference would not want a drastic shake-up immediately – the individual athletic directors within the conference would not allow it. The team needs to ease itself into conference contention.

Two other very unlikely names to also consider at this point would be the University of Connecticut and the Naval Academy. With recent success for both programs, their presence on the East Coast at least puts them on the Big 10 radar.

Coming up next: The Semi-finalist. Who will take second place in the chase for the 12th spot in the Big 10?

Mr Pressbox Out!!

Big Ten expansion (part 2): Outside looking in

23 02 2010

Nebraska or Notre Dame to the Big 10?Since the last installment, Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney repeated the conference has not yet begun to contact other schools and conferences about potential additions to the Big 10 lineup. While I am sure that is true, especially due to a roll of legal red tape, I am also sure conversations have been had over golf games at Torrey Pines, beers at Hooters on West Higgins Road in Chicago and other back-slapping events for college big-wigs gauging the interest of potential teams.

But before we get to the A-list teams the Big 10 is most likely looking at, lets look at the fringe teams that have a shot at joining the next super conference. In no particular order …


Notre Dame is like the hot chick at the dance. Everybody wants her on their arm, but once you’re dating her, you realize her breath stinks, she farts and calls you every time she gets confused about which way to put the CD in the player. Yes, the national fan base of the Golden Domers and its storied history (Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!) is very attractive. But working around its NBC contract and the special treatment the Irish will expect as incentive for joining the Big 10 will make them unattractive. Sure they are located in the center of Big 10 country, but there aren’t really any rivalries to latch on to. Notre Dame’s rivals are more like USC, Navy, Florida State, Miami, and maybe Michigan. There is definitely an up-side to bringing Notre Dame into the fold, but the Fathers declined the invite several times before, and will undoubtedly pass again.


Imagine the 1980s with classic match-ups pitting Tom Osborne and Hayden Fry. The border rivalry between Nebraska and Iowa is as strong as any other in the nation. However, the Bugeaters and Hawkeyes rarely face each other on the gridiron. This only fuels the buffalo chip tossing over barbed-wire fences. Adding Nebraska would not only give resolution to generational battles of Iowa versus Nebraska, but would also land another historic program to the Big 10. The conference would increase its overall strength of schedule significantly with an addition like Nebraska. The Cornhuskers play traditional Big 10 football with superior defenses and conventional offensive attacks. They would fit in nicely, however it is up to the Cornhuskers to accept the challenge. History would suggest they prefer to take the easy Big 12 North schedule  as they prepare for their post-season bowl. Plus the Big 12 will fight kicking and screaming about letting go of their only threat out of the North. Like Notre Dame, it would be a great addition, but the school and conference are standing in their own way.


Surprise! Didn’t see that coming, did ya? They are a rising star in the BCS division, despite getting whacked by (that guy with the initials T.T. and) Florida in the Sugar Bowl. They would definitely shake things up in the Big 10, as well as create an in-state conference rival with Ohio State. To date, the OSU and Cincy hasn’t been much of a rival, but throwing them both in the Big 10 East would make an instant rivalry. They also contribute something Notre Dame and Nebraska can’t; a basketball improvement for the conference as well. Sure the Cornhuskers and Irish have had good teams occasionally, but between the three, the Bearcats program would improve the basketball conference more than the others. Look for their stock to rise in the Big 10 Sweepstakes especially if they have another BCS-level season in 2010.

As much as either of these schools would improve the Big 10 conference, Notre Dame have any real incentive to join the Big 10, Nebraska doesn’t have the leather to join the conference, and Cincinnati might be too green to be considered a quality addition to the Big 10.

Next time, we will break down the finalists.

Mr Pressbox Out!!

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.


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!!