Now that the entire College Football world is in a tizzy over the proclamation that the Big Ten is indeed interested in the subject of expansion, rumor and speculation have abounded about which schools are being considered and/or interested in a switch. While I have no more inside information or relationships that privy me to any insights than any of you, I have been blessed with a considerable amount of logic (you know the kind where you have the ability to point out the obvious, that's me). I'm sure if your reading this article that you share this brand of logic so let's begin with what I am sure are some eye-openers.
The four basic criteria of Big Ten expansion are: Academics, Athletics, Proximity, Media Markets
First, the Big Ten is an elite consortium of academic institutions and are frankly a wee bit snobby about it. As bad as the Ivy League, probably not but probably no different than a lot of other large research institutions such as North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, or Cal Berkley. So an important ingredient in the "ideal school" mixture is that the new institution or institutions have at least a solid if not damn good research reputation.
Second, with the BTN I believe athletic prowess is a minimal factor. So long as the school fields relatively competitive squads I think that tradition is probably ranked last of the criteria. Look at what has happened at Louisville, Cincinnati, Boise State, TCU, or Houston none of these schools have tremendous tradition but look at what they are doing. My point is that with the right coach and an influx of cash that would come with admission to the Big Ten, traditions can change.
Third, Proximity will not be the determining factor. Even if a school is not in an adjacent state I think that the Big Ten would go for it if everything else was a fit. The prime example is Texas, granted I'm not sure if Texas has any interest at all but if they did the Big Ten would jump at the opportunity.
Last and probably most important in this discussion is NEW markets that the league would be exposed in as having the primary team for that market. In my opinion this is actually to the detriment of Notre Dame since the Big Ten already has max penetration in the market Notre Dame would offer (Indiana, Southwestern Michigan, & Chicago). I know that Notre Dame would say they are a national school but the fact of the matter is that the Big Ten gets a premium for markets the school are "directly" in, and unless Notre Dame can get....oh say the state of California at the same rate as the 8 Big Ten states rates on Basic cable, their value has diminished as far as the Big Ten is concerned. Furthermore, after the Big Ten was left at the alter in '99 they are not likely to ask Notre Dame this time around. You see egos run big up in Big Ten country, so (in my opinion) the only way the Irish are included in any discussion is if they call Delaney and Friends first, which is unlikely so I think we can take Notre Dame out of contention. But I digress, the Big Ten is after large markets. The Big Ten Network has changed the game as far as how the conference can make money. Even if the conference picks up a traditionally weak football school, but they can get the BTN on basic cable in that entire state... the money rolls in regardless, so tradition is truly not a factor.
Given these factors I think that the Big Ten goes to at least 15 possibly 16. Here is a newsflash, even with migration out of the northeast it is still the most densely populated area in the country and home to some of the most prestigious institutions this nation has to offer. I believe that with the acquisition of 4 instituions the Conference could almost double the number of households the BTN reachs. Those four institutions are: Syracuse, UConn, Rutgers, & Maryland. Those four in conjuction with Penn State would basically put the Big Ten in a dominant position from Boston to Northern Virginia.
Consider this, according to census.gov the population of the Big Ten states are:
Illinois 12.90M, Pennsylvania 12.45M, Ohio 11.49, Michigan 10.00M, Indiana 6.38M, Wisconsin 5.63M, Minnesota 5.22M, & Iowa 3.00M for a total of 67.07M.
UConn could bring in all of New England (Massachusetts 6.50M, Connecticut 3.50M Maine 1.32M, New Hampshire 1.32M, Rhode Island 1.05M, & Vermont .62M) for a total of 14.31M
Syracuse (for the sake of simplicity) could bring in New York at 19.50M
Rutgers could bring in New Jersey 8.68M & Delaware .87M totaling 9.55M
Maryland could bring in Maryland 5.63, DC, .59M & Northern Virginia approx 2.43M totaling 8.65M
the cumulative effect of getting those four schools into the conference could be 14.31+19.50+9.55+8.65 = 52.01 which is a 77.54% increase in televisions that the BTN could reach. So with the people already in "Big Ten Country" (67.07M) plus the additional Eastern Expansion of 52.01M you would have a total of 119.08M out of 304.06 people in the country. That's 39.16% of the country's population that could be exposed to the BTN.
Of course Texas could expose the conference to an additional 24.33M people but the likely hood of that happening are slim. Although a compromise such as Houston may be a viable option if UH has interest.
I still dont think that the Big Ten is necessarily interested in a Conference championship game so I see 3 divisions broken down like this with only 15.
Things would change up if a Championship game was desired. In such a case I see the only viable options that would add television sets as Texas, Houston, or maybe Notre Dame. In that case the divisions would probably look like this.
Purdue--------Texas or Houston or whoever.
Let me know what you think. Does this make sense?