When I wrote my open letter on conference expansion last week, I had no idea how widespread of a response I would receive. There were both positive and negative views on my assessment. My favorite comment in particular was, “It looks like a five-year-old wrote this.”
But let’s pick up where we left off last week. Iowa State made me look smart with an upset over Iowa. I received a large number of suggestions on what schools the conference should look at adding.
So step on up, Big Ten, and meet your list of eligible schools!
Let’s see who’s behind door number one!
It’s NOTRE DAME!
Here are the positives about Notre Dame. It is an outstanding academic school (the No. 19th university in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report) and has the treasured history of athletic success in college football. The basketball isn’t too shabby, either
So why did I snub Notre Dame a mention on my expansion list of schools? Simple. Notre Dame is a GDI in football — a Gosh Darn Independent. Notre Dame needs no conference to ensure its revenue falls in line with athletics in the contemporary college athletics landscape.
With its current deal with the BCS, Notre Dame basically needs to finish in the top eight of the rankings to be ensured a BCS berth. Notre Dame also receives a handsome sum of money if it qualifies for BCS games, and even in the years it does not qualify for the BCS bowls. Add that to a TV contract extension with NBC through 2015, and the Irish have it made.
But there are some reasons for hoping the Irish will fall into the arms of the Big Ten. With Notre Dame falling further in recent years from the football success it was so accustomed to, the television ratings have been falling and so, most likely, is its revenue. With the Big Ten Network helping to distribute millions of dollars to even the lowliest conference programs, Notre Dame could eventually see the light that a conference offers constant monetary stability in television markets. How many more losing seasons of Irish football will NBC tolerate before the contract is cut short?
The system as it remains with the BCS is too lucrative for Notre Dame to drop its independent status for a run at conference placement. The only way I see Notre Dame entering the Big Ten or another conference is if the BCS format is changed after the conference realignment cools off.
With more teams in fewer divisions, the BCS will have to change its automatic bid format to remain relevant. What some have advocated is the possibility that the new superconferences will receive two automatic bids to the BCS games. I could see Notre Dame in the Big Ten, but it’s a remote possibility with the way its deals with the BCS and NBC are set up.
Who’s behind door number two?
It’s the Pittsburgh Panthers!
Positives: Pitt has great athletic programs and a great academic record — ranked no. 58 of national universities. Already geographically close enough to existing Big Ten school Penn State, the Panthers would most likely make a seamless addition to the conference.
Negatives: They already lie in a state that is tapped out for the most part by the Big Ten — and Penn State. If Big Ten expansion is truly motivated by the search for new markets, Pittsburgh and other in-state schools (like Iowa State) that lie in the same area as an existing school would most likely be excluded. If the conference wants a new market, Pittsburgh is not the place to go.
Who’s behind door number three?
The Maryland Terrapins!
Crab cakes and football! That’s what Maryland does! This is an entirely new market for the Big Ten. The Eastern Seaboard is obviously a lucrative pull for conference infiltration in the television market, considering the conference’s major hold lies exclusively in the Midwest. If the conference wants to expand its recruiting power nationally, the addition of Maryland or some other team in the east would make sense.
It may be hard to pull away Maryland from the ACC when the current conference situation seems to be relatively solid. However, if Florida State leaves for the SEC, the conference may begin to dissolve in a ripple effect, much like we’ve seen in the Big 12.
People have discussed a new market team like Texas as an expansion team, as well. Longhorn Network, anyone? I doubt that the Big Ten can lure Texas from a venture into independent status. Texas to the Big Ten would potentially make the conference better then the SEC, but the big lure of a lucrative deal with the BCS like Notre Dame currently has will most likely be too alluring for Texas to even investigate a membership in the Big Ten.
That just leaves us with one last team to investigate, a team whose football team has remained undefeated since 1960. Who’s the last school behind … door number four?!
Yes, everyone’s wildest dreams in the state of Wisconsin would come true if the Golden Eagles would stumble their way into a helmet and shoulder pads. An in-state rivalry is something we have lacked for decades. While Marquette had to terminate the program after years of budget deficits, the popularity and the money football generates today should make Marquette seriously look at reviving football once again.