Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Jul 2010

Big Ten Might Pick Big Apple

Take this for precisely what it is worth (it is a random weekend link from the New York Post, after all, albeit one that uses real quotes from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany), but when Big Ten media days kick up next week, there is a very good chance that Big Ten expansion will once again be the topic at hand. Jim Delany is still apparently yearning for entry into the northeastern corridor of the country.

Coincidence or not, the Big East -- which has come to absorb expansion tremors the way Californians shrug off earthquakes that register at the low end of the Richter scale -- will host its media days at the same time as the Big Ten. The ACC's media days are Monday and Tuesday.

Those leagues contain programs of most appeal in addition to Notre Dame, an independent, and Missouri of the Big 12 because of their markets. ... [T]he Big Ten's clock still is ticking, and FBS schools in the Boston (Boston College), New York (Rutgers and Syracuse) and Washington, D.C. (Maryland) markets prime properties. Should the Big East lose two members and/or the ACC lose Maryland, a charter member that is cash-strapped, it could reshape the Eastern seaboard.

And just like that, Delany and the New York Post have reminded us that the topic that carried us through most of this offseason (until player arrests and illegal agent activities took over in July) might be about to re-enter the conversation. Try to contain your excitement.

So here's a quick brainstorming activity, at least for those who aren't too sick of the subject to even fathom another round of rumors: what does happen if the Big Ten decides to attack the northeast in another four to eight months? You have to figure Rutgers is the first team on the list because of its metropolitan attractiveness. Assuming Notre Dame and Missouri are not in the cards, the second addition (because it's hard to run a 13-team conference) would also be from the same area. If it is a Big East team (Syracuse, for instance ... that would get the Big Ten officially into the New York footprint, even if Syracuse is further away from New York City than College Park, Maryland), then that conference is suddenly down to six football-playing members. What happens next?

A. The Big East adds Central Florida and another team (possibly East Carolina) and calls it a day.

B. The ACC comes after 2-4 Big East teams (say, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and maybe a couple more) to solidify their own standing.

C. The ACC comes calling, and the Big 12 starts to look at somebody like Louisville, Cincinnati, or both.


The Big 12 will only expand if it can bring in schools capable of generating the TV revenue necessary to keep up their projected TV revenue of $15-20 million per team. That means schools like TCU and Houston are out because they bring nothing to table in terms of TV revenue. They could only even possibly expand with schools like Louisville, Cincinnati, the Conference USA's Memphis, or (more of a reach) West Virginia or Pittsburgh. It is at least slightly possible that, after Big Ten expansion almost caused the death of the Big 12, further Big Ten expansion could further bolster the Big 12's general health.

In any case, the return of the 'E' word would represent a step in the right direction for college football conversation after more arrests this past weekend. Whatever kills time until games actually start in less than six weeks.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 27 Jul 2010

17 comments, Last at 28 Feb 2011, 9:55am by web hosting


by D :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 2:50pm

This sounds dumb. If the Big 10 really believed that adding Rutgers and/or Syracuse could get the league control of the New York media market is there really any question that they would have already done so? I mean it's not like either of those schools would turn down an invitation. It might happen down the line, but unless their hand is forced (say another league goes super conference) I can't imagine this will happen anytime soon.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 3:13pm

"If the Big 10 really believed that adding Rutgers and/or Syracuse could get the league control of the New York media market is there really any question that they would have already done so?"

Yeah, I think there is. Nebraska was Big Ten ready - they're a top-25 level program, they're crazy committed to football, they have a stadium that holds 80K people (making it the fourth-largest stadium in the Big Ten, after Michigan, PSU, OSU), and they travel for bowls well. The Big Ten always is well represented in the BCS because the fans travel so well, and this just improves that.

Rutgers and Syracuse add the NY/NYC-area market (although Penn State already has a lot of it) but it makes perfect sense that the Big Ten might be wary of them; they're mid-level programs, with small stadia, that don't really travel well. So the Big Ten's being cautious because they're not sure if these lesser teams are really willing to commit to growing their program. I mean, Indiana might be a low-level program, but they've recently been willing to give up home games and play at NFL stadia, which is I think what Rutgers/Syracuse would have to be willing to do.

"I mean it's not like either of those schools would turn down an invitation."

It's not just "Hey, want to be in the Big Ten?" I'm sure there would be lots of strings attached, just like there was with Nebraska, detailing the amount of money they'd receive.

by UTchamps (not verified) :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 3:26pm

I hate to break it to the Big Ten but people on the Eastern seaboard generally do not care about college football. They certainly don't care about teams in the area. People in NYC come from all over so they all have their hometown/college teams that they root for. East Coast cares MUCH MUCH more about pro football than the South or the Midwest. Maybe the Big East should look to annex the Bills?

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/29/2010 - 12:32pm

But how much of the lack of interest of college FB in the NY area is due to the lack of decent teams in the area and the lack of big name teams coming in? Until the last few years, Rutgers has flat out sucked for decades and Army stinks. Add in that the Big East doesn't have any big name schools in it - it's hard to get excited about Louisville or West Virginia coming to town.

But if Rutgers can continue to have a decent team and schools like Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan come to play, there will be plenty of interest.

by Conor :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 3:49pm

As a Syracuse fan, all of this talk kind of distresses me. The Big East is first and foremost a basketball conference, and it would really suck is Syracuse had to move to the B10 for basketball. I live in NYC and usually get to see SU play around 5 games a year in person, and that doesn't include any trips I take to their home games. The Big East tournament at MSG is really special, and not having my school be a part of that would be a bummer.

That being said, I understand that football pays the bills most of the time, and I'm pretty sure they would stand to make substantially more money by moving to the B10, and I know if they are asked, they will likely go.

One last thing. I really don't think Jim Boeheim wants to coach in the Big 10.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 6:07pm

Why would the Big 10 want the NYC market? Easy. It's the biggest market in the country; 6.7% of the entire US market. 10% of the NYC market is bigger than the total TV market for New Orleans, Memphis, or football-mad Oklahoma City. Even Boston is only one-third the size of NYC. Just being in the Big Apple's market will get the Big 10 enough local coverage to make it worth the effort. Maryland is an interesting idea. It's adjacent to Pennsylvania so it makes sense geographically, and if you combine DC and Baltimore's markets you have about 3% of the US TV market.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 8:59pm

Despite it's proximity to DC, a large chunk of the DC market is held by Virginia Tech, and Virginia to a lesser extent. So would a Maryland Big 10 team make inroads there? Hard to say, but I'd guess it would remain primarily ACC territory, TV ratings and merchandise-wise.

by bcube1789 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 6:58pm

Notre Dame, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Maryland (or Pitt is Notre Dame wants to keep being a shit) should do the trick of getting the Big Ten Network off the sports tier an on to the basic tier in NYC and DC.

Is that enough money to offset having to share all that income with four more schools? Probably.

by TimTheEnchanter (not verified) :: Wed, 07/28/2010 - 9:14am

I really think this is the desired end-game. Whether the 3rd team is Mizzou or Maryland isn't clear (I don't think Pitt is really in the mix unless they completely botch this), but I'm still convinced the ultimate desire is to blow up the Big East so that Notre Dame will no longer have a "conference-for-everything-but-football".

If they take Rutgers, Syracuse and Maryland, the ACC will pilfer someone else from the Big East (WV?) and The Big East may be unable to recover as a football conference if it needs to add 3 members. The other Big East football teams will then scatter and the Big East will crumble. ND will face huge additional costs to run their non-revenue sports as an independent again. They would then have to come crawling to a conference - and if they join a conference it's most likely to be the Big Ten.

The two biggest money makers for the Big T12en is to get their network on basic cable in New York, and adding Notre Dame which, despite it's recent competetive irrelevance, will still get their network closer to a nationwide audience.

I think the plan this summer was for the Nebraska raid to trigger the Texodus to the Pac-10 which would have forced the other conferences to move toward 14 or 16 team superconferences as well. The SEC would have raided the ACC (FSU, maybe Clemson?) and thus increased the pressure on the Big East when the ACC looked for replacements/additions.

I honestly think Texas played the Big Ten big-time when they got the other Big 12 teams to subsidize them instead of blowing up their conference. But I think that only bought some time. Missouri remains in the picture (vs. Maryland) because the Big 10 may think they now need to take Mizzou to break up both the Big 12 and the Big East and start all the dominos again in order to force ND's hand. I'm guessing the hope was to only take 1 midwest team so they could add 3 eastern teams with ND, but with Texas' power play they may have to reconsider this.

The Big Ten needs to rethink how and when they will be able to make their ultimate move, but I think they will still try something.

by Overrated (not verified) :: Tue, 07/27/2010 - 11:15pm

From a personal standpoint and as a DC resident, I really hope Maryland doesn't move to the Big Ten. I remember living in Pennsylvania and being forced to watch Big Ten games and the wish for quiet death that they bring.

On a more serious note, though, the reality is that neither Rutgers or Syracuse will bring a significant amount of the NYC market, so talking about the impact of the NYC market is misplaced. The post earlier about people in NYC being from lots of different places and following their regional schools is well taken. NYC : CFB :: LA : NFL. It's great on paper, but will never work in reality.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 07/28/2010 - 8:54am

You're missing the point on the NYC market. You don't have to get a significant part of the market. The NYC market is HUGE. So huge, that if you combined the DC and Baltimore markets - which would give you the 4th largest in the country - it would still be less than half the size of the NYC market. If the Big Ten becomes the biggest college football market in the NYC area - and adding Rutgers and/or Syracuse might do that - you will get covered to some degree on the local sportscasts. Even if it's only 30-45 seconds on Saturday nights. Let's say you only get 2% of the market. That's still a bigger audience than getting 50% of many markets. Plus, you then get mentioned more often by the national press. Proximity to NYC means everything. Not many people cared when Missouri, Cincinnati, Boise State, or Utah cracked the Top 10. It was national news when Rutgers did it. The press went bananas. While the Big 10 would like it if NYC became a college football-watching hotbed, they'll be happy if they get a share of the market and the national press attention that comes with being in the NYC market.

by TimTheEnchanter (not verified) :: Wed, 07/28/2010 - 9:25am

The key is to get just enough interest in the NY market (and to a much lesser extent DC & Baltimore) to get onto basic cable packages. Once they get that, they get per-household revenue for the huge markets and get *much* higher advertising revenue for their programming with the higher viewership because lots of people will watch for "free" who otherwise wouldn't pay for the sports tiers.

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