Big Ten Expansion Hush, Hush For Now, But a Super Conference Is Brewing
All reports that several teams have been contacted by the Big Ten with interest of expanding the conference, are quickly being hushed. When you don't want something to get out, you deny it's existence, but The Big Ten will expand, because they can't afford not to.
On Monday May 10, 2010, Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City reported that Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Rutgers University were all offered an opportunity to join the new expansion, (Pitt and Syracuse have also been mentioned). The Chicago Tribune reported that a Big Ten spokesman denied that any such offers had been made; and when Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman was asked about the Sports Radio 810 report he insisted it had no validity.
We have all seen this before; when Nick Saban was not ready to provide the details of his interactions with Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, he simply denied that he had even been contacted by the university. When it was first leaked that Johnny Damon had signed with the New York Yankees, he professed there was no truth to the matter. The Big Ten is simply trying to keep this under control until things are finalized. The question is, why? What is the importance of keeping something such as an expansion, out of the ears of the media? To answer this, we have to look at why they want to expand.
The Big Ten does not play a conference championship game, and it's hurting their national impact each year. While other power conferences are playing the best of the best to determine a true champion, the Big Ten schools are taking time off.
To make this work the conference would most likely need to expand to 16 teams in all. When you expand from 11 to 16 teams, you become a super conference over night. By expanding, the Big Ten would become more marketable to major networks, and therefore bring in more money, as well as attract a new young fan base. This is not something you want your competitors to know about; the more they know, the more they can do to counteract your progress.
In 1991 the Southeastern Conference expanded from 10 teams, to 12. Since then, the SEC has produced eight national championships and consistently leads all other conferences in revenue distribution to it's members, including a record $132.5 million for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
Two years ago the SEC signed a 15 year contract with ESPN to televise sporting events, that was reportedly worth more than $2 billion. In conjunction with another 15 year deal with CBS earlier that same year, the Southeastern Conference is now "the most widely distributed conference in the country", according to SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
Based on this alone the Big Ten conference cannot afford to wait any longer. If they want to be a contender on the national stage, they need to add at least five teams. This will provide them with a conduit to a conference championship game. Once they are playing championship games to determine a conference winner, they will gain the attention and respect of the BCS, and once again be a major entity of NCAA football.
Signing off and Roll Tide,
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