On June 9, 2010, the day after Stephen Strasburg’s stellar Major League debut, the day after the Lakers got a great fourth quarter, game-winning performance from its 1996 first round draft pick (that’s Derek Fisher, not Kobe Bryant for you folks at home), on the day that the Chicago Blackhawks ended their 49 year draught of hoisting the Lord Stanley’s Cup, and in the midst of the “Summer of LeBron,” the biggest sports news of the day came from the college football world. This source’s simple news: Nebraska was leaving the Big XII for the Big Ten.
The reason for Nebraska’s decision is as simple as the news of their departure: money.
The Big Ten Network has been a huge financial success for the schools involved and what better way to make more money than expand their markets.
Nebraska fit the Big Ten mold perfectly; it is a big state school from the Midwest with a storied football program and very, very loyal fans.
The Big Ten network would now own the entire state of Nebraska on Saturdays.
Adding a 12th team to the Big Ten could also create a championship game, bringing in more revenue with TV contracts and sponsorship rights.
This in itself is big news, but what is bigger news is that the Pac-10 then will add six additional teams from the Big XII, rendering the conference lifeless.
These six teams, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech (all but Texas A&m are official), would create a Pac-16 Super Conference.
This conference would own nearly every major television market west of the Mississippi River. With its own TV network or with a massive television contract, the revenue for these teams would be staggering.
When all of the dust settles from these moves, there will be five major conferences, with the Pac-16 possibly lobbying for two automatic BCS bids, according to ESPN.com. From financial and football standpoints, the ACC, Big East, and SEC would be left behind. That then leaves the remaining conferences, especially the proud SEC, to make some choices.
The SEC, if they were to expand, would potentially have a larger TV revenue stream than either the Big Ten or the Pac-16. This leaves questions as to where to expand. Some easy choices would be Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, or Virginia Tech.
This would both decimate the ACC and probably force an ACC-Big East merger of sorts (creating a THE College Basketball conference, a conversation for another day).
However, according to sources from ESPN.com, the University of Florida does not want to add either Florida State or Miami because they fear they would lose recruits to the other two Florida schools (by losing the edge of telling recruits they can play in the SEC).
With the vastly increased money that the teams in the Big Ten and Pac-16 will garner, the change may be made more out of necessity than want.
The creation of another super conference and a 16-team SEC would give the SEC the entire Southeastern United States television market. The addition of the Atlanta, Miami, and possibly the Virginia television markets to the SEC would have regional and national implications.
For Miami, this could mean a return to national prominence, a renewed annual rivalry with UF, and a boatload of cash to boot. Coach Randy Shannon’s team would be able to take the best recruits from the “State of Miami” once more.
And who would Miami be able to thank for all of this? The team that has already given them three of their five national championships.
Photo taken by Billy Fuchsman.