The offseason is a wonderful time for rampant speculation.
Whether it is speculation about which coach is lying about what job they are going to take, or who will be on the hot seat next year, or which blue chip athletes will be going to which school, speculation helps to fill up those cold, lonely months without football.
Additionally, it helps to cover that gap between bowl games.
In addition to the regular offseason speculation, the Big Ten Conference has decided to add a fun little twist to the game.
In case you missed it, the Big Ten has announced that they will look into possibly expanding to twelve teams.
Ostensibly, the conference is tired of being considered irrelevant because the conference regular season ends before Thanksgiving, although teams can play non-conference games after Turkey Day.
Really though, as with most things college football these days, it’s about the money. Adding a twelfth team will allow for the lovely two division alignment and then the cash rich, neutral site championship game.
And there are multiple Midwestern cities that have NFL facilities that could be used to host a title game. There are domes in Detroit, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis, plus outdoor venues in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Surely an open date on the first Saturday of December could be found in these locales.
But you see, the Big Ten needs to take some time to determine if they want to add a new member. The league last expanded in the early 1990s with the inclusion of Penn State, and before that, Michigan State was the last team to join the league—back in 1949.
So clearly they don’t rush into decisions about who gets to be a new member. This is something like an academic country club; you have to prove that you belong on some level.
The candidates for inclusion in the club include what many folks consider to be the actual prize for the Big Ten—the University of Notre Dame.
Of course, Notre Dame has quickly come out and defended their independence in football.
Other rumored candidates have included Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt, Cincinnati, Texas, and Nebraska.
However, there is one other candidate that has jumped to the top of the list in the minds of lots of folks:
My alma mater, the University of Missouri.
Yes, Mizzou was a founding member of the Big Six Conference, which later became the Big Eight and then was a founding member of the Big 12 Conference. And we have a lot of athletic history. Not all of it is positive, but we do have some memorable moments.
We are a large research institution, which fits with most of the conference.
We have the oldest and one of the best schools of journalism in the country, are strong in agriculture, and improving in business administration. Law, veterinary, and medicine are also strong professional programs.
Academically, a move to the Big Ten makes perfect sense in furthering the research aims by aligning with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.
As someone who works in higher education, and as an alumnus, I would support this move wholeheartedly. It would be a great thing for the institution.
Athletically, however, it is at best a lateral move.
For football in particular, we would be trading a conference that is perceived to be (at least in football) run by Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska for one run by Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State.
In one proposed divisional alignment based off of geography, Missouri would be placed in the West Division, with the balance of power being viewed as being in the East Division if Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan were all assigned there.
In addition, in football, we would probably lose some of the prospects from Texas that have helped to build the program to its current level; regional ABC broadcasts will choose Big 12 games to be shown in Texas, and I am unsure exactly what kind of a footprint the Big Ten Network has in Texas at this time.
In men’s basketball, right now, Missouri would probably be in line behind Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Illinois, and Wisconsin. In the Big 12, we are currently behind Texas and Kansas for certain, with challenges coming from Kansas State, Oklahoma, and even Texas Tech this season.
So I don’t see much improvement there, either.
Sure, in the Olympic sports we could hold our own. But in the two biggest revenue generating sports, I don’t see much changing per our place in the pecking order.
In short, I am torn. As a sports fan, for better or worse, I love the Big 12. Sure, the bowl selection process could be better. But as an athletic department, Missouri is in the middle of a golden age of sorts, with most of our sports excelling at or near a top level. A move to the Big Ten would not necessarily be in our best interests athletically.
But the academic in me sees the boon to our national reputation as an institution by joining one of the two best academic BCS automatic qualifying conferences. Joining the CIC would also help to further enhance the research that our faculty are conducting and would raise the Missouri brand in other ways.
Of course, this is all a mental exercise unless the bid actually comes our way.
Nevertheless, it’s a good thing to think about now.