How Should the Big Ten Divide It’s Divisions?

June 16, 2010

Now that Utah has moved to the Pac 10, giving the conference 12 teams and a title game, it appears the conference realignment is done for now. It was kind of a dud.  Just a week ago it looked like the Big XII would be no more and we’d see the Big 10, Pac 10, and SEC all be superconferences of 16 teams.  Then, somehow, the Big XII was able to muster up the cash to keep Texas and the remaining ten teams (Nebraska and Colorado had already left) stayed together. Ultimately only four teams moved. Colorado and Utah moved to the Pac 10. Nebraska went to the Big 10 and Boise Stated left for the Mountain West Conference.

It appears the Pac 10 will break off into a North/South division alignment once they officially reach 12 teams.  Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, and Stanford will make up the North.  Newcomers Utah and Colorado would join USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State in the South.  There is some concern that the North schools would lose a bit of recruiting presence in Southern California with this alignment.  However, if the conference continues playing 9 conference games (5 within division, 4 out of division rotating yearly), the North schools should still be able to play one game a year in South California.

Still unknown is how the Big Ten plans on dividing up its 12 teams into two divisions.  There is no easy logical way to do so.  Michigan and Ohio State would still like to play every year and have their game be meaningful.  This would also be beneficial for the conference as it is its “Super Bowl” of sorts for the year.  To make this happen, Michigan and Ohio State would likely have to be in the same division.

A East/West alignment would be difficult because it would put the three of the four most prestigious programs in the conference in the same division (Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan).  However, if the top four programs are to be split up (Nebraska being the 4th), it would mean an annual game between Penn State and Nebraska, the conference’s westernmost and easternmost schools. Ultimately, an annual Penn State-Nebraska game may have to occur because there seems to be no other way to divide the conference.  Here would be my proposal:

Division 1 – Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois

Division 2 – Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern

The problem currently is that the 1st division is considerably weaker than the second one . Outside of Ohio State, none of those teams is any good.  However, Michigan should improve and Michigan State and Purdue have had their successes.  In the second division, Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin would all be regular contenders to take the division and Minnesota and Northwestern have become decent bowl-eligible teams recently.  It would be loaded.  The advantage is that it would instantly give Nebraska three natural rivals.  Penn State fans are still angry at Nebraska’s 1994 “title” (and Penn State still needs a true Big 10 rival as well.)  Nebraska used to have an annual game with Iowa and could start that once again, and Wisconsin is already hoping to begin an annual end of year rivalry game with Nebraska (apparently Brett Bielema is sick of beating Minnesota every year).  The biggest advantage of this set up is that outside of the Illinois-Northwestern rivalry, almost rivalry is kept intact.  In a conference built upon tradition, this is important.


Big XII Pushes Re-Alignment Up

June 6, 2010

We’ve known for some time that the current landscape of college sports would be changing at some point.  The Big Ten started it by agreeing to look at expansion.  The Pac 10 then made it obvious that were interested in expansion and the SEC has made it known that they will look at expansion once the Big Ten and Pac 10 make their moves.  The Big 10 though had been hoping to make this a slower, more drawn out process.  However, that may have changed.

This past week the Pac 10’s plans to add 6 teams from the Big XII (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado) to become the Pac 16 were leaked.  It appears those six schools are seriously considering that offer as they have put an ultimatum on Nebraska to commit to the Big XII by Friday (Missouri may have received the ultimatum as well.)  Nebraska (and Missouri) are, of course, being courted by the Big Ten for their expansion.  The problem is though that Big Ten still has not formally giving out an invitation to anyone.  So, Nebraska is now stuck in a unenviable position.  Do they commit to a conference that may not exist much longer or do they depend on the Big Ten to come invite them and risk potentially being left out to dry?

The good news for Nebraska though is that their does seem to be some mutual interest between the Big Ten and Nebraska.  Reportedly, Nebraska AD Tom Osborne and Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met recently to talk about expansion.  While this is still informal talks, its obvious that Tressel was talking on behalf of the Big Ten to Osborne.  For the Big Ten, adding Nebraska does add another strong traditional football program, although it does not add a great television network for the Big Ten Network.  Assuming Missouri comes over as well, the Big Ten would probably have to add Rutgers and Syracuse (plus another school – Iowa State?) to attempt to gain the New York market for the Big Ten Network.

Regardless, it appears the new landscape for major collegiate sports is about to become set.  With the Big XII’s ultimatum we’ll see Nebraska have to decide its future.  After that, we’ll see whether the other six Big XII schools are ready to move over to the Pac 10 or not.  From there, the remaining 4 Big XII schools will have to find new homes and the ACC and Big East will hope to keep their schools from joining a potentially expanding SEC.  One thing we know for sure, college football and basketball will look vastly different soon than it does today.

Nebraska emails: Osborne, Tressel met [ESPN]

Nebraska, possibly Missouri reportedly told to make decisions soon [CBS Sports]

Everyone Wants Texas

June 4, 2010

Yesterday, the Pac 10’s plans to become a super-conference were leaked.  The Pac 10 reportedly hopes to add six teams from the Big XII including Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.  Obviously, this would be a major shakeup and would kill off the Big XII.  However, it seems Texas may have more than one suitor.

An e-mail found by The Columbus Dispatch shows the Ohio State president Gordon Gee has talked to Texas president Bill Powers about joining the Big Ten.  The Big Ten’s plans to expand have been known for some time.  Right now, the Big Ten is money-making machine due to its huge schools’s alumni base and its own successful television network.  Each Big Ten school makes about $10 million more in revenue than Texas does per year.  With Texas being the most profitable college football team in the nation (even over Notre Dame), it seems like Texas would be a natural fit for the Big Ten.

Texas, beyond being a cash cow itself, brings a ton to the Big Ten.  It would add millions of new subscribers to the Big Ten network.  Houston, the Dallas-Forth Worth area, and San Antonio are among the largest markets in the nation.  The addition of Texas alone also allows for the expansion of a Big Ten title game.  There are rumors that the Big Ten wants to expand to 16 teams, which would certainly bring Nebraska and Missouri who were already rumored to be coming to the Big Ten.  One has to wonder if Notre Dame may even consider joining a conference that includes Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Texas?

The Pac 10 on the other hand just does not offer as much to Texas as it stands.  The Big Ten is the most successful conference when it comes to revenue.  While the new proposed 16 team Pac 10 (16?) would certainly bring in higher revenues, it seems a bit unlikely that it would be greater than the Big Ten’s revenues.

Ultimately, Texas is going to have many options to choose from.  The Big XII is clearly unstable and is going to be raided for the expansion of some conference(s), so staying put is not much of an option.  The Pac 10 and Big Ten are clearly already positioning themselves for you.  The SEC will certainly offer a spot in their conference eventually as well.  I think when it comes down to it, Texas will choose between the SEC and Big Ten and go with the lower travel costs of the SEC (plus, you know, the automatic birth to the BCS “title” game every single year.)

E-mail hints at Texas in Big Ten addition talks [Yahoo!]