College Football Expansion: Early Winners and Losers

Robert HoffmanCorrespondent IJune 12, 2010

In the last 48 hours the landscape of college football has changed dramatically.  Colorado is officially a member of the PAC-10 and Nebraska is signed, sealed, and delivered to the Big Ten. 


As conferences prepare to pick at the bones of the remnants of the Big 12, let's look at the early winners and losers in the process.




This move is a plus for the Cornhuskers on many levels.

Big Red gets an impressive boost in television money from the Big Ten Network.

It is, to this point, the only school to join the Big Ten and will be like the new car that everyone shows off.  Matchups with Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan promise huge television ratings.  Travel is not an issue—there are plenty of close and geographically logical rivals in Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, etc.

Nebraska has traditionally favored the smash-mouth brand of football that is the Big Ten's trademark.  



Big 12

Okay, this is obvious.

But you just can't lose two marquee schools, and in all likelihood, soon to be six marquee schools, and survive as a conference.  Despite some media reports to the contrary, the tombstone of the Big 12 is already embedded into the ground.

There were several problems with this league for years—the absurdly weak North division comes immediately to mind—but the bottom line is that the league's audience is dramatically smaller in size.

The Big Ten owns or shares seven of the nation’s top 25 television markets.  The Big 12 only owns or shares four of these markets, and the overall population density of the region is much lower.



Pac-10 and Big Ten

The Pac-10 is a winner based on the likely scenario of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State joining Colorado as members.  Oklahoma and Texas give the conference two powerhouses, which is especially important in light of USC's recent punishment. 

Top to bottom, the new PAC-10 (Beach and Barbecue Conference?) arguably would surpass the SEC for superiority, especially after a few years of recruiting.  Imagine for a second a conference that "ropes in" the high school talent hotbeds of Texas and California. 

Some analysts believe that the Big Ten actually emerges as a loser in this equation because they only get one team in Nebraska.

That's ridiculous for a number of reasons. 

According to Forbes' list of the most valuable football teams, Nebraska is ranked No. 4 with a team value of $93 million.  Granted, Texas is ranked No. 1, but Nebraska is a much more logical geographic fit.   


The Big Ten has four traditional powerhouse teams in Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and now, Nebraska.  Expect a league championship game at some point and an annual representative for national title contention.

More important, the Big Ten has willingly made the statement that the conference is only going to accept the elite programs at this point.  This leaves the door firmly open for Notre Dame, the second-ranked team on the Forbes' list.



Big East and ACC

Remember, this article is strictly evaluating the football impact.  These two conferences were already the weakest among the "majors."

Now, it’s almost laughable to assign a BCS bid to either conference.

Consider the following example: Let's say that Nebraska finishes only fifth (but bowl eligible) in the Big Ten, while the University of South Florida finishes second in the Big East.  Which team is far more appealing to bowl selection committees?  The answer is obvious.

Expect the bowl tie-ins to be totally reworked because of the shift in college football's landscape.

About the only shot that the Big East has to stay relevant is to bring Notre Dame aboard, which brings us to...



The Fighting Irish

Notre Dame is only a small winner, but has the potential to become a big loser.

After Texas and Oklahoma move to the PAC-10, Notre Dame becomes the de facto best remaining choice to join a powerful conference.

Normally, this would put the Irish in a great bargaining position.  However, Notre Dame has only two logical options: Join the Big Ten or the Big East.

Staying independent isn't an alternative, because the golden-domers aren't consistently good enough, and their strength of schedule is too weak to compete for national titles year-in and year-out.

The Big Ten might not be in a hurry to steal Nebraska's thunder with another marquee addition either.  Notre Dame can't wait much longer to make a decision, or it risks getting stuck with an inferior conference.  The Irish will always have national appeal, but college football has done just fine without the school being a major player in the national championship picture for years.




This last loser might seem like a head-scratcher, but Colorado hasn't been a marquee football team since Kordell Stewart and Rashaan Salaam in 1994.

Most of the country will forget they joined the PAC-10 after Oklahoma and Texas join the fold.  It’s to be determined how the PAC-10 will align the divisions, but Colorado could get "buffaloed" into being a perennial doormat.

They don't match up favorable with their old rivals that are coming along from the Big 12 or athletic teams like USC, Oregon, and California.


Final Analysis

In the ever-changing landscape of college football, the winners and losers of today could switch positions by tomorrow, but regardless, there is plenty of action for fans well before the season starts this fall.  


With Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M reportedly announcing that they will stay in the Big 12, some of the winners and losers have already shifted.  The PAC-10 emerges as perhaps the biggest loser at this point by only adding Colorado and without having a good alternative to the schools that have apparently spurned their advances.  Who is left for the PAC-10 to add at this point from a geographical and logistical perspective?

The temporary halt on creating a 'super conference' turns the Big East and ACC into slight winners as their competitive disadvantage will remain about the same.  In terms of depth, both conferences might rank above the depleted Big 12.

Texas will be a big winner if the projections of the school's future televison revenue based on staying in the Big 12 are accurate.  One has to be curious how the Big 12 plans to dramatically increase television revenue when they are down to 10 teams and likely without the need for a championship game.





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