Many fans are speculating what conferences like the ACC and SEC should be looking at with the unbridled expansion of the Big Ten and Pac-10. These expansions have not become a reality at this point. This means an analysis of the situation is not a forgone conclusion.
Let us take a look at the makeup of what could be these two new power conferences and see what, if any, advantage they would have over other BCS conferences. To do this we should consider college football alone. This is the driving factor behind this move and the only real factor involved.
A quality product is always paramount in any successful business model. If there is no quality product to sell there will be no revenue. Now let us take a look at the football quality of each conference and see if the new super conferences are actually a better product to sell.
To do this we need some way to analyze a team’s quality. Most fans like to watch a winner. The more a team wins, the higher their ratings are on TV. With this in mind let us look at the top 25 programs in terms of winning percentage over the last decades.
One good decade is no measure of value when considering a team’s contribution to a conference. Consistent, long term quality is what builds a fan base and puts viewers in front of TV sets. The other factor is quality of competition.
The following teams made all three lists and play a major conference schedule.
Texas: Proposed Pac-10
Oklahoma: Proposed Pac-10
Southern California.: Pac-10
Nebraska: Proposed Big Ten
Ohio State: Big Ten
Michigan: Big Ten
Virginia Tech: ACC
West Virginia: Big East
These are obviously premium teams that have tradition and the modern record to back it up. They would be considered anchor teams for any conference. When these are considered the new conference hierarchy would be as follows.
SEC: with five premium teams they remain easily the strongest conference.
Pac-10 and Big Ten: are tied in a distant second place with three premium teams each after the proposed expansion.
ACC: falls to fourth with two premium teams.
Big East: falls to fifth with only one premium team.
There are other teams with tradition that made two of the lists. These teams would certainly add value to a TV package.
Notre Dame: Independent
Penn State: Big Ten
Texas A&M: Pac-10
Florida State: ACC
Even after considering the value added teams we see the hierarchy remains the same.
Here is how the final tally shapes up for each major conference.
SEC: five premium teams out of the top 25 in all time winning percentage. One would have to add some extra added value here for Alabama. While they have had a rough two decades, it appears they are back on track now.
Big Ten: they have three premium programs, one added value program, they could add another added value program if Notre Dame accepts.
Pac-10: they would have three premium programs, one added value program and would certainly fall to a distant third place if Notre Dame joins the Big 10.
ACC: they are forth with two premium programs and one added value program, they could also have some extra value for Georgia Tech which has not been consistent lately but seems to be on the comeback trail.
Big East: does anyone but me feel West Virginia is very lonesome in the Big East? They are the only premium football program in a basketball conference. Sure Pittsburgh and Louisville have a team occasionally, but there is no long term recipe for football success in the Big East.
If the ACC is to survive they will need to expand and add one premium program and a couple of added value programs. They will simply become irrelevant if they do not find a way to make a move.
The SEC is in great shape in both revenue and quality at this point. They really do not have to make any move to remain on top. I suspect they will use all of this turmoil as a reason to expand their lead even more. They still have a great hand they are holding close to the vest.
The Big Ten did improve their overall quality marginally and will get their conference championship game. This will certainly improve their revenue and expand their fan base.
The Pac-10 will double its football quality and then some, if they can land the Texas teams and Oklahoma. The group they will bring in is collectively of higher quality than the entire original Pac-10. If it works, it will be a master stroke.
The Big East should just stick to basketball. There is no feasible way they can keep up with this expansion in football. This is likely as deadly for them in football as it is to the Big 12.