The word has been on the minds of college football fans all off-season: expansion. The Big Ten made it known at the beginning of the year that they were looking to expand their conference ranks and add teams. Yesterday, it was reported that the Big Ten has extended early offers to four schools: Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers and Notre Dame.
Of course, immediately after the report came out, the Big Ten and the two Big XII schools rushed to deny everything, but you know in this day and age, that doesn't mean much. How this all plays out will change the face of college football.
In terms of the almighty dollar in TV deals, the SEC and Big Ten are on top by a large margin. Average annual income from TV revenue shapes up like this:
Big Ten - $242 Million
SEC - $205 Million
Big XII - $78 Million
ACC - $67 Million
Pac-10 - $58 Million
Big East - $33 Million
In the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC, the TV revenue is divided evenly among all schools, while in the Big XII, ACC, and Big East, only a portion is divided equally and another portion is based on which schools appear the most on television. Expansion is a way for the Big Ten, and schools wishing to join the Big Ten, to make even more money.
Here is a look at all four schools and a break down of what they can bring to the Big Ten and if they are likely to jump:
The Irish have been the apple of the Big Ten's eye for decades, and they would love to have them join the conference. However, the Irish are obsessed with sticking to their tradition of remaining an independent in football (they are a member of the Big East in all other sports).
If this conference expansion really gets going and the dominoes begin to fall all over college football, Notre Dame might just be forced to join a conference or be left out in the cold. They also have a huge TV deal with NBC for their home football games, but since the Big Ten has its own network and TV deal, as well as all the BCS dollars out there, Notre Dame could stand to make even more money as a member of the Big Ten.
Notre Dame already has rivalries with a number of Big Ten schools in Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State. Notre Dame might not like it, but they may have to finally put their independent tradition to bed.
The Cornhuskers have long been a strong program in college football. Yes, they have had a few lean years recently, but starting with their success last year, they are on their way back up to national prominence.
Nebraska was an original member of the Big 8 conference with Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. When the Southwest Conference dissolved in 1996, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor joined the Big 8 to form the Big XII conference.
While Nebraska was the bell cow for the conference in football through 2001, the power has shifted to the southern division, namely Texas and Oklahoma, recently.
Since the Big XII does not have the revenue sharing system the SEC has, and without a major TV deal, Nebraska has begun to feel disenfranchised with the conference and have realized that they can make more money in the Big Ten. However, Nebraska does not have rivalries with any Big Ten schools so they would be like the new kid on the block, which is probably not what a traditional football power like Nebraska would want.
Like Nebraska, the Missouri Tigers were a member of the Big 8 and then merged with the Texas schools to become the Big XII. Missouri has also become very disenfranchised with the Big XII and have been looking to bring their school into another conference.
Both geographically and football wise, the Big Ten would be the best fit if they were to jump. Mizzou only has strong rivalries with Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois. Their game with Illinois would become a conference game, and so would the game with Nebraska, while Kansas would become a non-conference affair.
Rutgers, as a school, brings the least to the table when it comes to athletics. Yes, in 1869 the original Rutgers football team defeated Princeton University 6 to 4 in the first intercollegiate game ever played, but Rutgers football had been the pits for decades until current head coach Greg Schiano made them consistent winners.
They had the dramatic win over Louisville on a Thursday night in 2006, but have not been on the national scene since then. What Rutgers brings is the New York city market and the New Jersey recruiting pipeline.
When I look at these four schools, I think that Rutgers would definitely jump. I don't think they weigh too heavily on the New York market as a college football base, but with eight million people, someone is bound to watch.
As for the New Jersey recruiting pipeline, schools have been getting huge recruits from the Garden State for years, including former Vols: Rashad Baker, Turk McBride, Greg Amsler, Bill Duff, Darrin Miller, Carl Zander and Sterling Henton.
As for the other three schools, I think Missouri is the most likely to go. They look like a Big Ten school in terms of geography and academics. Notre Dame probably should go. I think of them as a Big Ten school more than a Big East school, but they have that tradition they whine about all the time, so they probably will not make the move unless they are forced to.
Meanwhile, I think Nebraska has too much tied into the Big XII when it comes to football so I think they are the least likely of these four to jump.
No matter who makes the jump, look for the landscape of college football to change in a big way.