You can all stop with your speculation now. The newest member of the Big Ten Conference is none other than the infamous "Red-Headed Stepchild."
For all the guessing and proclaiming we have done since the Big Ten announced it was considering the possibility of expanding, nothing has been more telling than Barry Alvarez's recent comments.
"You just don't jump into a league and get a full share of what everyone else in this league has established over time." Those comments made according to CBS Sports. "I think someone has to buy their way into the league."
Do not be mistaken. Barry Alvarez is certainly not the only one that feels this way, although he may be the only one bold enough to admit it publicly.
The truth is, the team (or teams) chosen for Big Ten membership—if any are chosen—will be welcomed with open arms.
There will be limitations.
GIVE AND TAKE
Ask the Penn State Administration how much they have been made to feel as equals within the conference. They have been members of the Big Ten for going on two decades now. Do you think they (Penn State) will treat any new members as equals after the lack of equal footing they have been standing on within the conference after all these years?
Alvarez's comments made one thing very clear: The new kid on the block will be treated as such. No question about that, if there ever were any questions.
So go ahead Missouri, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Texas, Rutgers, or anyone else that might be feeling good about your chances of hitting the Big Ten Sweepstakes.
Go ahead and join. You will most likely have to pay an entrance fee. I am willing to bet the bidding starts at $5 million, minimum, and my guess is assuredly conservative. Ten million is probably more realistic.
Still, you say to yourself, "Five, 10... what does it matter? We just won the lottery! $22 million a year baby!"
Not so fast.
Look at Alvarez's comments again. "You just don't jump into a league and get a full share of what everyone else in this league has established over time."
That says one thing, and one thing only...You ain't gettin' a full share for several years to come, Pal!
So on top of paying several millions of dollars in the form of an entrance fee, you are going to get shafted by the conference in terms of revenue payout. And I won't bother going into details about what a competitive disadvantage you will be operating under by working with far less revenue than the rest of your new conference mates have to work with.
And if you should happen to beat one of the original members right off the bat on national television?
Okay, so you are willing to accept the lack of an equal voice at the table. You are willing to pay the crazy-dollar entrance fee. You are even willing to take a lesser amount of the revenue pie. So what?
Well, once more, let's look at Alvarez's comments. "You just don't jump into a league and get a full share of what everyone else in this league has established over time."
Okay, Barry, we get what you are saying.
The key thing though, and this seems to be the concept lost on Mr. Alvarez, is the conference isn't bringing in a school for charity reasons.
The Big Ten is bringing in a school (or schools) because of the market share they provide. Again, not because they are looking to give to charity. They are looking to grab part of the television market that whatever school they choose to admit has spent years developing.
You don't just jump into the Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Missouri, Syracuse, or Texas markets and get a full share of what these schools have established over time.
The whole reason you—the Big Ten—are in a position to even move into that market, whichever one it will be, is because the school in question has developed a fan following within that market over time. They fostered the demand for televised college football with their presence and success within their market.
And you, Mr. Alvarez, think you are entitled to what they built up in their own back yard market because you show up on their doorstep with a box of chocolates and a dozen roses?
How about the Big Ten, after they accept their newest member, agrees to forgo any profits generated from the move into the new market, thus paying all that additional market revenue to the new team in question?
Doesn't that sound fair? At least according to Barry Alvarez logic?
Maybe the new team should say to the Big Ten, "I think the conference has to buy their way into this market."
I mean really, without Rutgers (for example, as a binding tie) is there that much of a demand for Wisconsin athletics in New York or New Jersey? There is a lot of money to be made in the New York market, but I haven't exactly heard Derek Jeter say on Sportscenter, "You know what this town is missing? Some Wisconsin football, baby!"
Barry doesn't seem to have a problem taking money from a new market that he didn't raise a finger to develop or "establish," as he says. Yet, he wants someone else to pay him to be a part of what Ohio State and Michigan created.
And let's be honest, the Buckeyes and Wolverines ARE the Big Ten. Wisconsin could leave the conference tomorrow and the Big Ten wouldn't miss a beat. If Ohio State or Michigan leave, the entire dynamics of the conference change.
And that is not intended as a knock against a great school in Wisconsin. That is just comprehending your place in the food chain, and Barry Alvarez doesn't sit at the top in the Big Ten. He may be higher up than any new members brought in to his world, but he still has to look up to see where the real power lies.
The bottom line is, the current members of the Big Ten don't feel they are bringing in a peer, they feel they are bringing in a charity case, only their charity comes with a hefty price-tag.
So go ahead Panthers. Go ahead Scarlett Knights. You too Orange, Tigers, or Longhorns. Bow down to the Big Ten. Help fill their coffers at your expense. Let them come into your neighborhood with all their conference paraphernalia to sell alongside yours.
Give them the lion's share of what you used to bring home from your own television market, the market you cultivated and developed on your own dime over decades.
Compete against them for several years to come with a financial disadvantage staring you in the face. Let them bring in $22 million annually while you take a paycut, yet still have to compete as if you were given an equal share.
Forego your seat as a player in your current conference.
Take your seat at the far end of the table, and forget about speaking up, because you will always be speaking out of turn. You will be out of turn now, and you will be out of turn 20 years from now. Just ask Penn State.
Be Barry Alvarez's "Yes-man." Make no mistake, though, you will not just be Barry's Yes-man.
Go ahead and invite Michigan into your recruiting grounds and see how you stack up once they are permanent fixtures in your own backyard.
Go ahead and sell your soul to Jim Delaney. Tell yourselves, "If you didn't, someone else would have." Say whatever it is you need to sleep at night.
You will eventually get a full share of the Big Ten pie... eventually.
And, your seat at the table will be assured with the security that comes from Big Ten membership.
You might get to add your school's name to a research study...at the very bottom.
You may even play in the Rose Bowl someday. Wouldn't that be great?
But, you will never be Ohio State. You will never be Michigan. You will never even be Wisconsin, and you will fall below Penn State. There is a reason the Big Ten is called the Big Ten, and not the Big Eleven.
In the new 12-team Big Ten Conference, you will be number 12. Last place.
Congratulations, Red-Headed Stepchild. You've earned it.
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