Is expansion good idea for Big Ten?
The crew at CFN weigh in on whether the Big Ten should expand
and who it should add if it decides to.
What are you thinking?
Here’s my issue when it comes to the
idea of the Big Ten expanding … why? So it can have some dopey,
gimmicky conference title game?
The Big Ten has a perfect setup right now; why would it want
to mess with it? It gets two teams into the BCS every year, it gets
to play in national championships when one of the teams goes
unbeaten, it gets more exposure than any other league because of
the geographic location, the Big Ten Network, the early games on
ESPN and the prime Saturday slots on ABC, and it already brings in
gobs and gobs of money. Instead of adding a 12th team it should
play a 10-game conference slate and determine a true champion, like
the Big East and Pac-10.
What did expansion do for the ACC? Everything and nothing. It
made the league a player because the teams it brought in, from
Florida State in the 1990s to Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston
College from the Big East, were all the stars of the show. But it’s
not like the conference has attained superpower status because of
it. The Big Ten’s problem is that the one team it needs to bring in
to make this worthwhile, Notre Dame, isn’t a realistic possibility
and the other teams on the table would be simply an extra live
program to round out the number. It’s not like there’s a Penn State
that can be added to the mix.
Forget about raiding the Big 12. Nebraska would be the
biggest coup, Iowa State would make the most geographic sense, and
Missouri and Colorado would be interesting options, but the Big 12
isn’t the Big East; the teams can’t be had for a hearty handshake
and a sandwich. Does bringing in Syracuse, Rutgers, or Pitt do
anything to make the Big Ten better? TV market-wise, absolutely,
but it’s just not that necessary.
The Big Ten needs to go big or go home. Make one last pitch
to Notre Dame behind the scenes, and don’t give away the farm. The
Irish will demand extra considerations because of the money it
currently makes as an independent, but it’s not going to happen and
neither side wants to lose face. Give some thought to Nebraska and
see what it would do to add the superpower name to the mix. And
give some thought to going for the supersize and go after Pitt,
Syracuse AND Rutgers. Expand to 14 teams, own some major TV markets
with New York City being a bigger part of the equation, to go along
with all of Ohio, all of Pennsylvania, all of Michigan, Chicago,
and Minneapolis, and finally change the name.
— Pete Fiutak
You can’t argue against more money
Does the silly logo and
inaccurate conference name finally change?
At this stage, why wouldn’t the Big Ten add an
additional member? At 11 schools, it’s sort of in conference
purgatory, sitting just shy of a league title game. Now, I’ve
never been in favor of divisions and unbalanced schedules in
conferences — the Pac-10 has the best alignment in the country —
but especially during tough economic times, how do you argue with
the revenue stream? Plus, the Big Ten has long suffered from a lack
of relevancy and exposure at the end of November and early
December. Out of sight, out of mind and all. Of course, the poor
Big East ought to watch its back. Just when it thought it had found
solid footing, anyone from Cincinnati and Pitt to Rutgers or
Syracuse could be packing up the Mayflower trucks and heading to
the Midwest in a couple of years.
Of course, Notre Dame is the ultimate no-brainer in the
discussion, a perfect fit for the Big Ten and the Irish, which
would benefit in all non-financial ways by having an affiliation
and the trappings that go with it. Don’t hold your breath.
Common sense has no business in a debate involving millions of
dollars and the prospect of having to share some of it.
By the way, what would the beefed-up league be called anyway?
Big 12 is obviously taken and Big Ten would become increasingly
nonsensical. A Really Big Ten?
— Richard Cirminiello
Pitt … or Missouri?
1. From this vantage point, there are
two fundamental ways the Big, uhhh, errr . . . Ten? Twelve? Eleven
Plus One? Ten Plus Two? . . . can play this game in terms of
attracting its newest member:
— Culturally, Pittsburgh is the most classic fit for the
league. The Panthers would preserve the league’s old-school
heritage, expanding the league in the Ohio-Pennsylvania cradle
where football’s roots run very deep and are celebrated more
than anywhere else, save the SEC. The Big Ten traditionalist would
welcome the return of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry to a place of
national prominence, and the boys from Ohio State would have a new
and feisty rival to deal with on a fairly regular basis.
— Geographically (and with an eye on expanding their
national reach) Missouri makes a lot of sense. The Tigers already
enjoy a rousing rivalry with Illinois, but more importantly, Mizzou
would give the conference an added bit of reach into the South and
change the calculus of national recruiting for both football and
basketball. In many ways, the Pitt and Missouri models represent
two distinct approaches to a very intriguing and emergent issue.
2. The second big topic to consider, relative to potential
Big Ten expansion, is the installation of a conference championship
game. This is the issue a lot of people are (somewhat justifiably,
but still alarmingly) overlooking in the understandable rush to
identify the best new member of the conference.
When conference championship games began in 1992 with the SEC
extravaganza, they seemed like a godsend for the college football
world. Just imagine — two teams meeting in a neutral-site
spotlight for ownership of league hardware after two solid months
of beating up regional brothers. The playoff-starved college
football world seemed to be enhanced by the idea, and the first
several SEC title tilts between Gene Stallings’ Alabama
outfits and Steve Spurrier’s Florida forces lent ballast to
the notion that these games were good for college football. They
did settle arguments — albeit within a conference, not across the
nation — and they did away with split or shared conference
championships, a subject that does indeed merit a substantial
revision in terms of official recordkeeping and historical
However, with the passage of time, it’s become
impossible to deny the hypocrisy that’s so manifestly evident
in big-time college football. There weren’t as many as 34
bowls in 1992, when the SEC title game started. Want to know how
many? Try 18, or roughly half the number of current bowl games. The
SEC’s championship challenge has been accompanied by the Big
12 (1996) and the ACC (2005) in addition to smaller FBS conferences
such as Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference. Army-Navy
has just been moved to the middle of December to accommodate
television, and the BCS bowls have been drawn out over a full week
in January to accommodate television as well. It’s obvious
that The Powers That Be in college football have absolutely no
problem extending the calendar or playing added games to make extra
money and take advantage of television.
Oh, and did we mention that full weeks of football — such as
the first few weeks of November, when ESPN and ESPN2 manage to put
a college game on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
nights — weren’t around in 1992? And by the way, did we
forget to add that the regular season (for teams that don’t
play conference title games, of course) now consists of 12 games,
and not 11?
Yes, the 17 years since the creation of the SEC Championship
Game have witnessed an era in which college football’s power
brokers have added games and weeks to the college football season,
even when you account for the lost week attached to the elimination
of the “Kickoff Classic”-type games in late August. The
fact that the sport is so willing to create certain football games
in the service of TV revenues and bowl payouts makes the added
conference championship games a bastion of hypocrisy and a source
of regression for the sport.
There isn’t enough time or space here for a fully
unrolled plan, so let’s just get the bare-bones proposal on
the table and in the media bloodstream: Fewer conference title
games, more non-conference made-for-TV games on the first weekend
If college football adopted my Western Football Classic
(Pac-10, WAC and Mountain West champions plus the best at-large
team from those three leagues in two TV games), the sport could
surely use Big Ten expansion to create the Great East Football
Feast, in which the champions of the Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, ACC
and SEC, plus the best at-large team from the five conferences,
play three TV games on the first weekend of December. If you had
the Western Football Classic and the Great East Football Feast on
the same day, you’d have the top eight conferences putting
their best teams on the field in spotlight games that would help
clear up the national title race . . . WITHOUT A PLAYOFF IN THE
TRADITIONAL SENSE OF THE TERM! Then, the bowls could be retained
and a bracketed playoff tournament would not be necessary, only an
elastic and provisional plus-one.
So, Big Ten, are you going to act like lemmings and dive off
the conference title game cliff, or will you use this period of
extended deliberation to create real reform in the college football
— Matt Zemek
Looking to remain relevant
There is no guarantee the Big
Ten will improve itself by adding Pittsburgh, Syracuse or Rutgers,
because none of those schools is a powerhouse on the gridiron,
although Pitt and the ‘Cuse are perennial basketball
standouts. What adding a 12th team to the league does is give the
conference a chance at remaining relevant beyond Thanksgiving.
It’s a good move for the league to push its season-ending
games past Turkey Day, and creating a conference playoff keeps the
action going another week. Because, let’s face it, the people
who vote for the two polls in the BCS have short attention spans,
so the need to make a “final argument” is huge. The Big
12, SEC and ACC have that opportunity, while the Big Ten right now
doesn’t. A 12th team and a playoff bring in $5 million a year
in revenues and give the league’s champ another week of game
action, the better to keep it sharp for big bowl games or BCS
The funny thing in all of this is that the Big Ten is talking
about expansion like it’s going to the grocery store and
picking up a gallon of milk. If the league adds a 12th team, it
will do so at the expense of the Big East, which has already been
pillaged by the ACC. It’s sort of like in
“Cheers,” when Henri kept saying, “Woody,
I’m going to steal your girlfriend” and then went out
and tried to do it. The Big East will no doubt raise a stink, but
let’s face it, in the football hierarchy, what power does
that conference have? It can barely keep its BCS bid.
So, get after it, Big Ten. Add a 12th member. Just
don’t try for Notre Dame again. That might lower your
— Michael Bradley