The A-Line It is what it is, unless it is not
Currently at 354 posts / 50 categories / 530 comments / feed / comments feed

The Big Teen?

It is certainly an interesting Conference Expansion Season. With the annual BCS meetings preparing to start, exactly who will be in that august grouping under which conference label is a hot topic. There hasn’t been this much conference expansion action since the last time, seven years ago.

What seems assured is that the Big 11 plans on doing something. What that ‘something’ will be remains a bit up in the air, at least as of this writing. Does the league that still calls itself the Big Ten become the Big Teen with a massive expansion that transfers New York cable households to the Midwest and effectively destroys the Li’l E as a football-playing quasi-Big Boy? Or, do they pluck the most cable-friendly Li’l E schools and simultaneously shave off some Big XII viewership? Or, is all of the posturing merely a feint to snatch who they really want, Notre Dame? Who knows? Well, Jim Delaney does, but I don’t seem to be listed among his confidants.

There some constants from which to start. The biggest is $22 million, the amount per year that is distributed to each and every school in the Big 11, even Northwestern. Any expansion is going to have to increase that share; they aren’t going to shake up the landscape just to watch the boulders roll around.

Another is that Notre Dame remains the biggest player in the deal. That is really the only school the Big 11/14/16 wants, much as the entire ACC expansion fiasco was dictated by that league’s dedication to Canes Backness. If the Irish would simply say ‘Yes’ to joining their regional conference, expansion would be a neat and tidy affair, leaving the Li’l E to stumble along for another few years.

But, getting ND to say ‘Yes’ has proven a bit tricky for the Big 11 over the years. Even now, new Irish AD Jack Swarbrick says Notre Dame is ‘devoted’ to football independence unless they are not. A payout of $22 extra-large per year can cover a lot of devotionals. That is more than ND currently rakes in from its various deals with NBC, the BCS and the Biggie E. But, what does the future hold for those sources of income? NBC is about to be submerged into the Comcast empire and who knows how the cash paid the Irish figures into all of the viewing platforms being accumulated by the cable giant? A Notre Dame suddenly finding itself sharing space with the NBA and NHL teams that mostly make up programming for the various Comcast Sport Networks is a Notre Dame that will find the Big Ten Network very appealing.

And what about the gorilla in the room, the BTN? Are there really enough cable households in New York and New Jersey to justify cutting in the Li’l E schools left behind following the last raid on that conference? If so, why are the football television payouts to the Li’l E the lowest in the BCS? If the Dorks are indeed the most valuable sports property in the collegiate universe, wouldn’t somebody have noticed before now?

What will the Big Ten turning into the Big Teen do to other conferences? Well, other than the elimination of everybody’s favorite expansion starting point, the woebegone Li’l E. Does the Big Teen trigger a mad scramble to determine who will be left standing after the eventual creation of four conferences totaling sixty-four teams causes them to put an end to this Butler nonsense and demand the basketball tournament revenues, too? While finally dismembering the Li’l E once and for all, do the powers-that-are go ahead and rip apart the league with the next-lowest payouts, the Big XII? Texas, A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would look fairly tempting to the SEC. But, that league has just changed the name of ESPN to SEC$PN. In these recessionary times, can the Total Southeastern Sports Leader pony up even more cash, enough to justify equal shares to the Big XII South?

And what of the ACC? Needless to say, expansion didn’t exactly succeed as planned the last time around. Scooping up the last of the dregs left behind after the Big Teen is through hardly seems the way to enhance a football contract that Little Johnny can’t sell now. The ACC still has a powerful basketball franchise and cutting those shares by another third does not seem  prudent management.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the impact the rumored Big Teen will have on college sports. We shouldn’t have to wait much longer for the answers.


  1. hokieg — April 20, 2010 #

    Interesting take from a penn state fan on pitt as a rival.


  2. Atlee — April 20, 2010 #

    Say it isn’t so.  You’re not on Delaney’s speed dial?  Who would’ve thunk it.

    On another note, hoping to see you Saturday.


  3. Jim Schillinger — April 21, 2010 #

    Thanks for the article – entertaining and informing as always!
    I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but if/when the Big Ten goes to 16 teams, I fear the SEC will want to keep up, and add Texas and Texas A&M to the West, and Florida State and Clemson to the East.  Then the ACC is left with the Big East leftovers from the Big Ten expansion.
    However, I’m still ecstatic over  like Virginia Tech’s position now compared to 7 years ago, so “fear” may be too strong of an emotion, but I prefer a stable ACC.


  4. Greg — April 22, 2010 #

    I remain amazed that the SEC would be interested in Clemson.  SEC already has a SC school, Clemson is really in the middle of nowhere (even worse than Blacksburg) and VT has a ton and I mean a real ton of alum in the DC and Balto metro areas, which would encourage a large TV interest in the SEC were VT to be in that conference.  Not that i’m an advocate of the move, but still an interesting thought of Clemson over VT.


    Jim Reply:

    The SEC has already taken the ACC’s ESPN money. Why turn back around and give an ACC school a seat on the money train? Clemson certainly does not add $20 mil’s worth of value, meaning it would be a net loss for the SEC. If they look, it will be at Texas and Texas A&M.


  5. Greg — April 23, 2010 #

    I agree Jim.  I think the SEC has cast its eye to the west.  Texas teams and/or Oklahoma teams are the prizes the SEC would be courting, not eastward to the ACC.  In the end, its the Big 12 that will be left a smoldering ruins after the mighty SEC blows through it.


  6. David — April 25, 2010 #

    Didn’t we learn from the last expansion saga that media markets don’t get you anything if nobody is watching?  Nobody in the NY media markets cares about BE football and if the B10+1 adds RUTSgers or Syracuse and then demands more money for the Big 10 Network, I don’t see the NY cable companies going for it.  I can’t imagine expansion beyond 12 being worthwhile for them.  I also think it dilutes the product – other than ND or WVU, they aren’t going to get a team who equals the fan interest that their current schools have.  Why add a team that’s not going to travel and might have 20K fans at home if the weather is nice?


Leave a comment

captcha-block *