Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Jun 2010

Nebraska On Its Way To Big Ten

The great Conference Crisis of 2010 is really hitting its stride now. Nebraska's Board of Regents confirms that the Cornhuskers are officially severing ties with the Big 12 and will apply for Big Ten membership. That application is expected to be a mere formality and does not require a personal essay or standardized test scores. Nebraska does expect to receive the big envelope -- a projected $10 million boost in annual revenue for athletics. Nebraska hopes to accelerate the transition and begin conference play in 2011.

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 11 Jun 2010

41 comments, Last at 14 Jun 2010, 2:54pm by JoeHova


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 4:14pm

I just wrote this on the Boise State thread...

"I just heard the CNBC reporter who works the sports beat, and he was expressing the same doubts I have had about some of thess expansion proposals, except that he has actually done some research. His take was that the underlying assumption in a lot of these proposals, that there is a direct, proportional, relationship between teams added to form mega-conferences, and an increase in television revenues, is false. Throw in possibly significantly greater travel costs, not just in money, but also time, and many schools would end up being significantly worse off in some of these mega-conference proposals.

I get the feeling that, yet once again, the university presidents who run college football don't know what the hell they are doing."

In this case, however, I think the move is a no-brainer for both parties. Nebraska generates enough revenue from their own sales, still has enough of a national profile, and is right next door to the Big Ten anyways, so everybody wins. I can't figure out, however, why Texas would be so hell bent on joining the Pac 11, to say nothing of the other Texas and Oklahoma schools. Is having other warm weather schools in the conference really so important? Is Washington State really going to be better off if they are forced to accept a bunch of other Big 12 South schools, in order to get Texas? I don't get it, but it isn't the first time, I guess.

by Dean :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 4:27pm

I actually suspect you're right on this.

When the WAC went to 16 a while back, it didn't work. Too many teams, not enough money, and no real rivalries. If I remember right, the implosion of the WAC lead to the creation of the Mountain West.

There's a lot more money to be had now, but I can still see the mega conferences imploding. Not a guarantee by any means, but a distinct possibility.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 4:39pm

I think some of these schools may get jammed up by trying to keep up with the Big 10, which has some geographical advantages to exploit that other conferences can't match. Perhaps Texas is simply trying to use the Pac 10 as a stalking horse, all the while trying to maximize it's negotiating position with the Big 10. I presume Delaney has a calculator too, however, and more importantly, don't they know how to add, subtract, and divide in Spokane, Corvallis, and some other places?

I still have to think Delaney, in full Sauron mode, is sending out his servants, upon their winged beasts, to destroy the Big East, and thus make the Irish his slaves. I can't figure out who Frodo is, however.

by tuluse :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 5:57pm

No this is the earlier age when Sauron built Mordor. We need someone to cut off his ring of power.

by Anonymous Jones :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 8:41pm

I don't really buy the stalking horse idea. It doesn't seem Texas fits in the Big 10 geographically at all. On the other hand, having a Pac-16 in which one division is the original Pac-8 and the other division is the Interior West-8 (with the six former Big-12 schools and the Az schools) seems to make a lot of sense. The only thing that doesn't fit is Texas Tech. Otherwise, you have a lot of well respected "Western" state universities joining a bunch of well respected "Western" state universities (plus the well respected private universities of USC and Stanford). Anyway, if this *isn't* happening, Texas has really run a huge bluff on all of us. Further, the reporting on the Nebraska move and the Colorado move has been spot on; so I'd be surprised the Tx-Ok schools to the Pac-16 is rubbish. Also, a move this size and with this much coordination is hard to conceal or disguise because so many people know. We'll see. Anything can happen at the last minute, but this seems to be well on track for closing early next week.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 9:50pm

Yeah, I'm just speculating, because from a income statement perspective, it really doesn't seem like much of a windfall, especially for some of the less prominent Pac 10 schools.

by Independent George :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 4:55pm

Except I'm not actually sure there's a lot more money to be had right now - and to the extent that there is, it's not going to last. University budgets are about to get very, very tight nationwide, and alumni money is falling with the rest of the economy.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 5:02pm

I agree, which is why some of these proposals have me puzzled. I think eight 12 team conferences makes a lot more sense economically than six 16 team conferences, or four 16 team conferences, and then a mishmash. I also think four megaconferences who try to get all the major post season cash will likely provoke a response by the federal government.

by zlionsfan :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:50pm

I agree with JoeB: the WAC is not really the model these conferences are emulating. The Big Ten and Pac-10 are much more stable conferences and are looking to add similar (or somewhat similar schools) that match athletically, academically, and geographically (except where money trumps geography).

The ACC is probably a better model. Just as I don't believe Virginia or Maryland would be particularly interested in leaving, I don't really see a Big 16 or Pac-16 splitting in half in ten years ... certainly the new schools might be inclined to leave if things don't work out the way they want, but existing schools aren't exactly looking for anything else. These approaches are more like "come share what we have so we can have more" rather than "let's get big and then figure something out."

by Will :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 5:48pm

Let's stop and assume there is only Nebraska being added to the Big Ten (with 12 teams), and nothing else changes with the Big 12 (with 10 teams). That's confusing enough for a non-fan, although I'd hate to see the Big Ten change it's name.

If we were to stop, the Big Ten Divisions would be? I'm assuming you play each team in your division once, and then a few interdivisional games, including one "interdivisional rival" that you play every year (mostly for the Little Brown Jug, although the Illibuck would probably fall under this category as well).

Penn State
Ohio State
Michigan State


The EAST has more traditional powers, although I would argue the WEST would be more powerful right now, top to bottom. All in all, that divids itself pretty cleanly.


by tuluse :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 5:59pm

I would be sad to see Illinois separated from OSU and Michigan.

by Will :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 9:09pm

Yeah, but that's what happens when you have that big of a conference I guess. The only three real historical trophy games that would be lost (unless they are made annual interdivisional games) are:

Michigan - Minnesota (Little Brown Jug)
Ohio State - Illinois (Illibuck)
Purdue - Illinois (Purdue Cannon)

I guess it's best to let the schedule makers figure it out :)


by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 06/12/2010 - 8:55am

Iowa vs nebrasks goinh to be goof rivalry. Dedintely more intense and beter than ioea state vs mebradks rivalrt

by zlionsfan :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 4:00pm

Yes, that's pretty much a no-brainer. In-state schools stay together, Michigan and Ohio State stay together, Penn State has to go in the East and everyone else in the West.

I don't think there would be any scheduling protection. The Little Brown Jug has already been skipped here and there from the current system; I can't say I necessarily agree with playing it twice every four years instead of eight times every ten years, but there is a danger of MLB-style games. Michigan could keep Minnesota, Purdue could keep Illinois ... who does Northwestern play every year? Or Wisconsin? Or Nebraska? (Maybe they could play Penn State in the "New to the Conference" rivalry.)

Even with 14 or 16 teams, I think it would still have to be East and West. (The conference doesn't split well North vs. South.) With two more teams, Big 12 refugees would go to the West (with Northwestern probably moving East if needed - they have the least pull) and Big East refugees to the East.

The only real problem would be adding two Big East schools if one is Notre Dame. (Because, you know, they are pretty much a Big East school.) If it's, say, Syracuse and Rutgers, drop them in the East, switch Purdue and Indiana to the West, and move Northwestern East, and then you've got 7 and 7 ... but if it's Rutgers and Notre Dame, then Purdue is caught in the middle: Notre Dame obviously goes East (with UM and MSU), IU goes West as above, but then Purdue's rivals are split between West and East. (The Old Oaken Bucket and the Purdue-ND rivalries are nice, but Purdue doesn't have the same pull within the conference, and if push came to shove, they'd probably be dumped in the West anyway.)

by bmatt (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 7:04pm

Nebraska fits better in the Big 10. We no longer had a rival and the conference had become all about Texas. It appears things are more fair in the Big 10.

by JoeB (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 10:02pm

I don't see how the WAC's experience with 16 teams is a good comparison to the Pac 10 or Big Ten not being able to succeeed with 16 schools. The WAC is/was a minor conference and didn't have nearly the revenue that the big conferences have. Plus they have Hawaii, which significantly adds travel costs.

The schools are really going to be hurting the non-revenue sports, where the athletes really are student-athletes. It's hard to see the Nebraska tennis team going to Michigan and Penn State on a regular basis.

by zlionsfan :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:45pm

The idea is that the significant increase in revenue (both from the BTN and the conference's full revenue sharing) will offset any additional travel costs. (Of course there's no guarantee that the athletic departments will spend the money that way.)

Besides, Nebraska's already in that situation, aren't they? They certainly aren't driving to Austin or College Station or Waco ... their destinations are changing but the travel plans will be similar.

by dbt :: Sat, 06/12/2010 - 1:41am

This doesn't make a lot of sense for the Pac 10 unless they think they need texas to launch their own cable network.

by G_Man1 (not verified) :: Sat, 06/12/2010 - 2:33am

#14: Which is very likely.

by capt. Anonymous (not verified) :: Sat, 06/12/2010 - 2:09pm

The federal government loans alot of money to students so that they can attend college so that colleges can increase tuition astronomically in short periods of time and yet schools still don't have enough money. Does anyone else out there see this is a doomed scheme?

Secondly, will someone please explain to me how the MWC has a chance of earning automatic qualifier status for the BCS. I can't find anything via google.

by Alternator :: Sat, 06/12/2010 - 3:21pm

The shortest version is:

There are six automatic qualifiers, and shortly there will be only five current 'BSC Conferences.' The MWC has been threatening to steal AQ status from one of the others already (by out-performing them over a set period); if a spot opens up, they are more or less the only choice available.

by TomKelso :: Sat, 06/12/2010 - 7:26pm

And if the MWC adds former BCS schools Kansas and Kansas State (according to reports, TCU is dead-set against adding Baylor -- payback for the Bears' role in ending the SWC, maybe?), their legal position becomes a lot stronger in the threatened anti-trust lawsuit -- the only thing that would have changed about the Kansas schools is their conference affiliation, yet they would now be denied a title shot unless the MWC is given AQ status.

Missouri appears to have been outrun by Nebraska, but you would have to think they will still find their way into the Big 10 -- Iowa State and Baylor are really getting the rotated inclined plane after this week.

by JoeHova :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:13pm

Why would you have to think Missouri will get into the Big Ten? What do they bring to the table? They are garbage academically and athletically. I don't see why they would appeal to the Big Ten at all. The only argument they have are the cable households in Missouri and if cable households are the criterion, Rutgers, Syracuse, Maryland, Virginia, etc. are all much more attractive (plus, they all bring something academically or athletically, unlike Missouri). I will be totally disgusted if Missouri ends up in the Big Ten. Letting them in would cheapen the Big Ten beyond belief. Kansas would be a much better choice if they have to take one of the dregs of the Big 12 for some reason.

by zlionsfan :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:40pm

I'm not sure where you are getting your ideas about Missouri, but I am guessing not from the same place the Big Ten is.

Missouri is an AAU member and has, to my knowledge, a respectable academic reputation, particularly with respect to its journalism school. (The school's APR numbers were quite good this year as well, something not all Big Ten schools can say.) If you're relying on the U.S. News and World Report rankings, well, I can't help you there.

I assume by "garbage athletically" you mean "they don't have good football and basketball." What they do have is a well-rounded athletics program that compares favorably to the lower half of the Big Ten, which would be their peer group if they were invited. We do take pride in the revenue sports, but the Big Ten does pretty well in other sports as well.

Admitting Missouri would hardly cheapen the Big Ten at all ... there are schools with much worse academic reputations who could have been under discussion and are not, and schools with weaker athletics (or perhaps more unsavory reputations) who also are not under discussion. I'm not trying to suggest they are the best fit of the remaining schools, but I don't agree at all that they're "garbage".

by TomKelso :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:24pm

Missouri is actually well-regarded academically -- much more so than Kansas -- specifically the journalism school . The original stories about Big 10 expansion all noted that Missouri was a good academic fit for the Big 10 -- which does take that into account. You wouldn't be a Illinois or Kansas alum or fan, by any chance?

I'm from Maryland, and even I don't pretend that UM is a great academic institution. Continguity does seem to be a factor for the Big 10, which would preclude UVa, and Rutgers, Pitt and Syracuse have all also been mentioned as on the Big 10's radar.

As far as markets, St. Louis and Kansas City (at worst split between UM and KU) compare favorably with Pittsburgh, Baltimore/Washington (like NYC, pro sports towns) and upstate New York.

by tuluse :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:37pm

I think you're forgetting that Penn State is in the Big 10.

by TomKelso :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:42pm

Yes, Penn State is in the Big Ten -- which is why UMd, Rutgers and Syracuse are in contiguous states, and UVa is not.

Of course, that's not the only reason -- which is why WVU has not been mentioned at all - -although adjacent to Big 10 states, it's a very poor academic fit.

by tuluse :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 3:58pm

Oh, I miss read your sentence. Carry on.

by John (not verified) :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 4:21pm

I also misread it. English is too often ambiguous even when grammatically correct.

by TomKelso :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 4:27pm

Sorry if it came across as confusing.

by JoeHova :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 4:35pm

Yeah, if there's anything that is an obvious growth industry, it's journalism. Real smart to let in a school solely on that.

I'm not sure where anybody heard Missouri is good academically. As far as I can see, no one makes that claim except possibly a few Missourians. Missouri would be 13th out of 13 academically if they were let in.

Athletically they offer nothing to offset their weak academic credentials. They would have the fewest national titles (in all sports) of any Big Ten team (tied with Northwestern). All the state schools in the Big Ten have at least 5 times more national titles than Missouri. So again, probably the weakest of all Big Ten teams athletically overall.

Attendance wise, Missouri would rank in the lower half of the Big Ten in football and basketball.

I just don't get why the Big Ten should let in a school that would be at the bottom of the league in everything. What does that add to the Big Ten? It just adds another mouth to feed. The Big Ten is in a strong position, they don't need to let just anybody in. The SEC, Big 12 and Pac 10 all don't care about Missouri, why should the Big Ten be any different when they make more money than those leagues and have higher academic standards? Missouri can't offer the Big Ten anything it can't get from a more desirable school.

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 5:45pm

The reason why the Big 10 should let Missouri in is because the Big 10 Network charges 5 times more in its member schools' home states than it does in states that have no member schools. Adding Missouri would quintuple revenue from Kansas City and St. Louis even if it didn't bring in a single new subscriber.

by JoeHova :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 3:24am

So you agree that Missouri, the institution, adds nothing at all of value to the Big Ten? Cable households is an extremely weak argument because other schools can add just as many if not more. If cable households was a deciding factor, why is the Pac 10 showing no interest in Missouri despite plans to start their own Big Ten Network analogue?

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 4:10am

There are few schools in states contiguous to the current Big 10 that would both meet the minimum academic requirements and provide access to more cable households.

As for why the Pac 10 is showing no interest... simple geography. Adding schools increases both revenues and travel costs. The addition makes sense as long as the revenues outweigh the travel costs. Adding Missouri can make sense for a neighboring conference and not make sense for a conference based halfway across the country. Especially when said distant conference is already full to the brim with all the flotsam they had to accept to get Texas to join (allegedly, of course- nothing has been finalized to this point).

Besides, planning on starting an analogue is not the same thing as already having a wildly successful network.

by JoeHova :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 6:18am

**As for why the Pac 10 is showing no interest... simple geography.**

But the Pac 10 is supposedly interested in Kansas if A&M declines their invite. Columbia is only about 150 miles further east than Lawrence. That adds what, 15-20 minutes per flight?

And people keep talking about "minimum standards". What is in it for the Big Ten to add a university that is just barely acceptable? (Of course, I dispute that a university that would be the worst academically, one of the worst athletically, and one of the least supported in the conference would be acceptable in any sense.)

by TomKelso :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 6:57pm

Well, one of us heard it from the AAU -- which the other Big 10 schools belong to -- and another of us heard it from the Chicago Tribune's original reporting. Where do you get your information that they are substandard? This is the second time that question has been posed.

If the Big 10 stays at 12, they are in a very weak position if everything else shakes out as expected, having added only Nebraska, a formerly dominant program from a market even smaller than Iowa. They are not done expanding, and Missouri would be a geographic balance to any raids on the Big East, while providing access to a market as big as any they can expect outside of New Jersey.

by JoeHova :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 3:50am

I'm not saying that Missouri is one of the worst academic colleges in the country or anything, just that they would be easily the worst in the Big Ten. The AAU is the minimum standard for the Big Ten so Missouri belonging is not that relevant except in the sense that they are not automatically disqualified. Every other college mentioned as an expansion candidate (except Notre Dame) is also a member of the AAU, so just like the households argument, this one does little to make Missouri's case.

It seems to me that even Missouri's defenders are tacitly conceding that the university itself has little going for it vis-à-vis any other possible candidate. Every argument seems to rely on things that are external to the school, not on any inherent quality of the university.

If you read anything written by Missouri fans about their current conference, it's all "the Big 12 doesn't care about us". If a much weaker conference like the Big 12 doesn't care about Missouri, why should the Big Ten? Why should the Big Ten bail out a (relatively) weak sister like Missouri? If Missouri is weak, powerless and irrelevant to the Big 12, why should their fans expect to get to move to a better conference? The Big Ten doesn't need a school that gets bumped down to lesser bowl games because of lackluster fans, that hurts their brand. They don't need a school that does nothing but complain about the conference they're in, that also hurts their brand. When was the last time you heard a Big Ten school complain publicly about their conference?

The last 2 schools the Big Ten added were Penn State and Nebraska. Those are 2 of the top 10 nationwide brands in football. What does Missouri bring that is comparable? Especially when you consider that both of those schools are also better than Missouri academically?

by TomKelso :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 12:54pm

When you say they're "garbage", you are saying that, although you still cite nothing to back up the repeated assertion that they are inferior, whereas others have mentioned how some of their programs are highly regarded.

The Big 12 is in the position that it's in pretty much because there is and has been a distinct bias towards Texas and its followers. Similar statements can and have been made by Colorado fans and Nebraska fans. Colorado adds as little to the Pac 10 as you claim Missouri would add -- except as a conduit for getting a bigger prize. Adding Colorado has opened the door for the Pac 10 to pull in Texas, OU and their whipping boys of choice, er, sister schools, Texas Tech and OK State. Adding Missouri and a pair of Big East schools is the Big 10's gambit to get Notre Dame -- and how do you feel about THEIR academics, since apparently they don't even meet what you claim is the "minimum" standard?

Nebraska USED to be one of the big nationwide brands -- now, they're no better than fourth in their new conference, behind Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Texas, OU, Florida, Alabama, USC, LSU, Florida State and maybe even Miami or Tennessee would have a higher profile than the Huskers these days. So, yes, if the Big 10 stops with a fading program from a state with no significant media presence, they've screwed up royally. Missouri would be a step towards a bigger goal, just like Nebraska was. Just because you seem to be a fan of a rival school doesn't change that.

by JoeHova :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 2:17pm

I'm not a fan of a rival school, I wasn't even aware that any school cared enough about Missouri to consider them rivals. (Their own fans don't even care enough to go to bowl games, how could you expect fans of other teams to care about them at all?) I just don't think they bring anything to the table. I think letting them in would devalue the Big Ten significantly.

And again, you still haven't mentioned one reason why Missouri, the institution, is a good fit for the Big Ten. It's clear why Missouri would want to join the Big Ten, they've certainly whined publicly enough about all their grievances with the Big 12. What's not clear is what Missouri (the university, not the state (although the benefits of the state are also dubious considering that Kansas is more popular in KC and Illinois is a close 2nd in St. Louis)) could bring to enhance the Big Ten brand.

by Dean :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 2:33pm

As a St. Louis local, I'll dispute your notion that Illinois is relevent here.

I'm not a native, and couldn't care less about Missou. I don't have a dog in this fight. But the idea that Illinois is a close second to Missou in this town is absurd. A distant second in football? Sure. They're the only other team around. But the various non-football playing schools (Wash U, SLU) are more popular for their basketball than the Illini are here, by far.

What is your school, JoeHova?

by JoeHova :: Mon, 06/14/2010 - 2:54pm

Fine, close may have been overstating it. However, STL media covers the Illini which is extremely odd if they are truly a distant 2nd to 4th in popularity. I guarantee that Chicago media does not cover Missouri, Milwaukee media does not cover Northwestern, Minneapolis media does not cover Wisconsin, etc.