Much has been said about potential Big Ten expansion and Pac 10 expansion with the recent announcements by the Big Ten (December 2009) and the Pac 10 (February 2010) that they will be giving serious consideration to conference expansion in the next 12 to 18 months.
College football fans should not kid themselves. This is not about improving competition or making things better for the fans or the players. This is about good, old fashioned American greed.
The thing that many fail to realize is that the money from the bowls, even the BCS bowls, is becoming less and less significant as time goes on. For example, the Big Ten Network had revenue of about $242 million last year (per ESPN) and each school received somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million just from the Big Ten Network! This is three times as much as the Big 12 made last year.
Those who truly understand the landscape of college football also know that the pool of potential expansion candidates is limited. Outside of Boise State (football only), BYU, TCU, and Utah, there are NO teams that any BCS conference would want to truly consider adding from the mid-major conferences unless they were forced to do so due to having been raided by another conference (a la Texas or Missouri to the Big 10).
What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means a dash of new blood (Boise, BYU, TCU, and Utah), a pound of consolidation of the major conferences, and the death of the mid-major BCS bid. In the end, it's all about TV money and being relevant.
In the end, this isn’t likely to be simply the Big Ten and Pac 10 adding a team here and a couple of teams there to get to twelve members each. Look for the Big 10 and the PAC 10 to grow to 14 or 16 teams each.
The Big 10 is the only conference that can do this without going all the way to Texas to do so. The ACC, Big 12, Big East, and SEC can't. So, if there is major consolidation, who wins and who loses? Here’s one potential view of expansion…
Big 10 (16)
This enlarges the Big Ten footprint from St. Louis east to New York.
This gives the Pac 10 control of every major market between Seattle and Dallas and Los Angeles and Omaha.
This gives the SEC access to control of every major market in the Southeast.
This gives the ACC greater access to the Northeast and brings the conference on par with the other three major conferences in terms of number of teams.
Big East – Loses all its football schools and becomes a basketball only conference.
The New Big XII – Air Force, Baylor, Boise State, Colorado State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming,
Mountain West – Disappears as its remaining teams are absorbed by the WAC.
WAC – Loses its premier team football team, Boise State, and its premier basketball team, Utah State, to the New Big XII.