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

recognition.

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

of December.

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

world?

— 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

championship appearances.

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

national profile.

— Michael Bradley