Why the Big Ten Will Not Cheapen Core Values for Expansion

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst IMay 13, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 22:  Navorro Bowman #18 and Derrick Williams #2 of the Penn State Nittany Lions raise a Rose Bowl banner after clinching the Big Ten title and advancing to the Rose Bowl after the game against the Michigan State Spartans on November 22, 2008 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State won the game 49-18.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

I am playing catch-up after a few days of heavy work. I did notice that Joe Paterno seemed pretty pissed that the Big Ten is the home of only 11 teams, however.

I am not a Big Ten expansion supporter, and it does not appear that the university presidents are, either. The retort of many fans: "Why?" Here is my best guess on the reasoning of the presidents' collective decision.


What It's Not About

1. Money

The Big Ten Network and multiple BCS appearances mean the conference is making plenty of money. Sure, it can always use more, but if the Big Ten wanted to add another team simply to gain more revenue, they would have done so already.

As we are told all the time, the individual presidents run this show, and when you have schools like Ohio State signing $128 million media deals on their own, the incentive for a president like Gordon Gee to rock the boat is low.

If Gee sticks with this current system, his university makes about $70 million in revenue a year and gets to play in the greatest rivalry in sports. Why would he, or Ohio State, give that up for another $500,000 generated from a championship game?

2. Increasing Big Ten competitiveness

In my mind, this is the worst argument for increasing the league to 12 teams. First, only two teams benefit from playing in a conference title game. (Those teams would most likely play in BCS games against major competitors.)

That means the Big Ten would shave a total of 14 days off a cumulative 319 days of layoff. That is a four percent reduction.

Raise your hand if you think that four percent is going to put the Big Ten team over the top in those games. That is what I thought.

3. Resistance to change

This is a common refrain of those with a dominant short-term memory. Remember when the Big Ten added an 11th team before conference expansion took off? Do you recall how the Big Ten created its own network when most major conferences were still struggling to get bowl affiliations and television deals (half of the ACC's league games are on Jefferson Pilot!)?

Oh yeah, and then they pioneered instant replay in college football. You can say a lot of things about the Big Ten, but being averse to change, even radical change, is not one of them.

Jim Delany knows that:

"I don't think we've shied away from change, whether it's expansion or the Big Ten Network or instant replay or exploring Notre Dame," he said. "We could be accused of a lot of things, but being fearful of change is probably not one of them."

What It's About

1. Tradition

Tradition is often confused with "resistance to change." An appreciation, even affinity, for the historical foundations of the league should not be considered a negative.

The Big Ten is major Midwestern football, and adding a school like Rutgers, while easy, is totally contrary to the ideals of the conference. I cannot think of one fan that would be happy with that addition—outside of New Jersey.

Tradition means not adding a team whose closest conference counterpart is 385 miles away, a la Boston College and Maryland. Also, while we do not talk about them much around here, there are other major, non-football programs in the Big Ten that need to benefit from any addition less than Notre Dame.

2. Integrity and growth patterns

I may be in the minority, but I think the Big Ten really cares about the integrity of the league. If the Big Ten wanted a 12th team for the dollars, it would have done so a long time ago.

I think most Big Ten fans, and conference administrators, do not want just any team. They want Notre Dame, and the second choice is nowhere in sight.

The best possible, geographical choice is Pittsburgh. I bet the idea of adding the Panthers to the conference makes most Big Ten presidents throw up in their mouths.

3. Bird in the hand

The Big Ten currently makes more money than any conference (I think) and has the most celebrated game in sports (I am biased). Why would they mess with that formula? The situation is not perfect, but adding a 12th team and potentially diminishing everything in the conference does not justify a few more dollars.

Far-Fetched Solution

Play 10 league games. I know that is really far-fetched, but if the league was serious about preparing their teams for postseason play, they would replace the Youngstown States and Western Michigans with two Big Ten teams.

While it may mean fewer wins for some of the lesser teams, the revenues will be as great or greater than the current setup.