Looking at the Two Big Ten Expansion "Leak" Reports

Tobi WritesAnalyst IMay 13, 2010

There have been two news reports recently claiming to possess leaked information which reveals the expansion plans of the Big Ten.  Both reports could be untrue or based on reporting information that has not been granted final approval.

Denials have been issued to both leaks, stating that that no new schools have been offered Big Ten membership.  CollegeSportsInfo's Matt Peloquinn has an insightful take on how these discussions could be happening and these schools could still be making these claims .

Lets take a second and view the reports as if they are accurate.

Chronology of the reports.

1> April 30th

TV station WNDU in South Bend Indiana reported on their website that The Big Ten will be adding 5 teams Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh.

The report cited a single leak in St. Louis.




2> May 10th

Kevin Kitetzman of WHB Sports radio 810 in Kansas City reported that the Big Ten has offerred membership to Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Notre Dame.

If Notre Dame accepts, the Big Ten probably adds another school for 16.

If Notre Dame declines, possibly the Big Ten sits at 14.  Possibly they expand to 16.

The station claims confirmation by multiple sources, but also notes nothing official will be approved until the Big Ten Presidents meeet in June.


Supplimental information

WHB had Big Ten commissioner Dan Beebe on to discuss the issue after they broke their story, and the commisioner did seem to make comments that suggested there was contact between the Big Ten and Big 12 schools.


Building a logical progression

Attempt #1

Sometime prior to the 30th, a loudmouthed cousin or child of someone with a connection to Missou gets wind of the fact that the Big 10 has plans to invite Missou. Thrilled to death with the news, they ask who else is coming.  They are told the Big Ten's plan B.  They are told the five teams that the Big Ten plans to invite, because they have no confidence that Notre Dame will join:

Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh

Our loudmouth immediately calls the local TV station and reports it on the condition of anonymity.

The Big Ten reads the report and screams bloody murder. All of their insistances that all conferences would see their moves coming far, far in advance are out the window.  The commisioner has to field multiple calls from the Big 12 and Big East.

Everyone involved denies everything offically in the media.

The Big Ten decides to get out ahead of the story and use it to try to lure in Notre Dame.  They instruct several people to leak to the press that the Big Ten is intending to invite Notre Dame and 3 other schools - Nebraska, Missouri, and Rutgers.

Why is Notre Dame in this time?  Because they are the big Ten's preferred expansion candidate, of course.

Why leak it?  Because it discredits the prior report.

Why those schools? Because it is a take it or leave it deal for Notre Dame.

The Big Ten is telling Notre Dame that they really want them in the conference, but that if Notre Dame doesn't want to join, the Big Ten has an alternate New York City Designated Market Area plan and will add Rutgers and use that as a platform in NYC to sell their 4 national brands: Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, and Nebraska.

Further, the end result of a 15 team Big Ten could imply another bit of leverage on Notre Dame.

The Big Ten could be telling Notre Dame 'we only have certain votes for 4 schools.  It you turn us down, then we may very well stop at 14 teams.  If you accept joining we will probably have the leverage to add a 16th team - probably Pittsburgh - that we can put in your division to ease your scheduling adjustment.'

The implied bit is that if Notre Dame doesn't accept, Pitt - a big Notre Dame ally - could potentially lose out on Big Ten membership.

Now, it is entirely possible that Syracuse (making New York a state with a Big 10 team and subject to potential renegotiations with cable providers to a much higher rate per subscriber and increasing the chance of putting on a successful annual Big Ten basketball tourney in New York's Madison Square Garden) and Pitt (a research powerhouse with over $500M in their annual research budgets) would still find their way in as teams 15 & 16 if Notre Dame says no, but this strategy (if that is what they are doing) would make the issue of Pitt's admission a potential lever to push ND into the Big Ten.

Attempt #2

The Big Ten knowingly leaked the first list with the five schools to send a message to Notre Dame that they are moving on without them if Notre Dame again rejects them.

Attempt #3

These are theoretical plans that the Big Ten had no intent of releasing to the public. 

When the first plan came out (the Big Ten's likely fallback plan if Notre Dame said no) the Big Ten was pissed.  They moved up the schedule on plan A with Notre Dame only to find officials at Missouri leaking information on that as well.

Could this end with Missouri being left out?

Attempt #4

The Big Ten has no interest in Notre Dame.  Well...of course they have interest in them, but they may no longer have the required number of votes for Notre Dame in conference due to all the past failed courting.

They had decided not to invite Notre Dame and go to 16 with the idea of adding the New York City and Kansas City DMAs and selling their national brands in New York.

Then Missouri spilled the beans ahead of schedule.

That put the Big Ten in an awkward situation with some of their alumni who either have Notre Dame ties or are very devout Christians who favor the idea of Notre Dame joining the conference.

So the Big Ten loudly leaked the rumor that they would offer a slot to Notre Dame.

They may not be making a single concession to Notre Dame in hope the Golden Domers will turn the offer down and the Big Ten can get back to looking at expansion that works for a research consortium.

In other words, this second batch of leaks may be strictly for public relations so the Big Ten can tell these fans, "See?  We bent over backwards for Notre Dame.  They were just totally unreasonable." 

The ship may have already sailed for Notre Dame.

Attempt #5

All of these rumors are BS.  The reporters at both of these stations are so hungry for information that they have not properly vetted these reports.

While possible, the likelyhood of them all being fabricated by someone pulling the media's leg to prop up Missouri is a lot lower than many would like to speculate.

It is far more likely that the first was a leak that may have been believed true at the time and the second a controlled PR move by the Big Ten.  Afterall, how realisitic is it really that 10 days after someone likely connected to Missouri pantses the Big Ten in a very embarrassing way that the Big Ten would have multiple sources doing the same thing?

Isn't it far more likely that the big business Big Ten would go into "damage control mode" and request Missouri have their people stop talking about this?  

The facts are these reported leaks are at about the right window when you would expect something like this and they are from where you would expect them - not from Rutgers who has been a favorite from a while and wouldn't want to screw things up or from Nebraska or Notre Dame who are used to big media attention.

Ultimately, we will see what happens next. 

Will Notre Dame buy in or will Syracuse be team 15?
Will Pitt be team 16, or will the Big 10 stay at 14?

Will the loose lips at Missouri cause them to be passed over?

Stay tuned.


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