An expansion manifesto after midnight

  • 06/07/2010 2:07 am in

PARK RIDGE, Ill. — Noted political scientist Thomas Hobbes once wrote that man, in his basest state of nature, lives a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” As a distant observer-turned-one-time insider, this is the best way I can describe the current climate of conference expansion.

To refresh thine memories: Last December, our friends at the Big Ten decided on the idea of exploring the possibility of expansion, or at least doing so publicly. (Commissioner Jim Delany has said since then that the conference had explored the possibility before, but not so seriously as they are now.)

Since then, college sports — and in particular, college football — has spontaneously combusted several times over from Syracuse all the way to Seattle. And this weekend was no different.

Sunday marked the June meeting of the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents/Chancellors, which might have been the only major piece of expansion news spawned in the last 96 hours that was in any way expected. It was hardly the only show in town.

(SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT)

I point you to an article written by yours truly for our friends at the Herald-Times, since it was far more convenient for me to make the Big Ten meetings Sunday. No seriously, it pretty well lists out most of what’s been reported since sundown Thursday. To summarize:

  • The Pac-10 is exploring expansion.
  • The Pac-10 wants every Big 12 team that can tell the difference between a football and a hole in the ground.
  • The Big Ten is quite tight-lipped, but willingly admitted that the actions of other major players might accelerate a process it had once hoped would last between 12 and 18 months. The “criteria” for expansion, which includes academic reputation, fiscal responsibility, competitiveness and an institutional fit (would they play well with the rest of the Big Ten), remain unchanged.
  • According to what we were told today, no institutions have, as yet, formally applied for membership, a requirement for admission per Big Ten bylaws.
  • The Big 12, once considered a stalwart on the landscape, particularly in football, is in serious danger of extinction. According to (more) reports today, Missouri and Nebraska, rumored to be among the Big Ten’s favorites as candidates, have been given an ultimatum by their conference to make a decision. And suddenly, a state university famous for its journalism school and another known best for Tom Osborne’s lack of willingness to discipline star football players appear to be the lynchpin.

There might not be a college sports reporter in America I respect more than Pete Thamel (except you, Duton) at the New York Times. He’s thorough, well-sourced and good at reporting things in a concise, simple way. Thus, I give you his latest piece on expansion, which essentially says that the combined decisions of Missouri and Nebraska will be the difference. Should they stay, the Texas teams — which apparently would prefer to stay together — will hang in the Big 12. Leave, and it might well send a rather more alarming signal to that same contingent. Thamel also cited a common theory that, if the Big Ten can get Notre Dame, then it might just stop at 12 teams, and a lot of these dominoes might stay upright.

Anyway, it’s a big cluster of ridiculous. And because council chairwoman and Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon and Delany were the only people available to us media types today, I couldn’t get anything in with Michael McRobbie, or any other president or chancellor for that matter.

There are, obviously, plenty of potential consequences for IU.

Where does a basketball institution fit in what has seemingly been, since its inception, a football-driven expansion process?

How would a conference championship game help or hinder Indiana, considering Indianapolis is far and away the most logical location, given access to an indoor facility that no other major Big Ten-area city offers?

How much does the presumed added revenue aid IU’s athletics department against the potential difficulties of facing a much stronger football conference, considering football is where money is made?

And probably the most important question from Indiana’s standpoint specifically: Does expansion in any way marginalize basketball in the Big Ten, where the Hoosiers have obviously hung their hats since time immemorial.

They’re questions I can’t readily answer right now, at least not with anything that isn’t 98 percent straight guessing. They’re questions we’ll do our best to answer over the coming weeks and months. But they’re also questions that, frankly, will in large part take months or even years, following any potential expansion, to truly make sense of.

So I leave you with that. I know it’s anti-climactic, and I apologize. But I got up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, and it is now 1:46 a.m. on Monday. I went to school for journalism, so while I’m not good at the mathematics and the adding, but that makes me tired. So until tomorrow folks …

Filed to:

  • Bryan

    Zach, I think not being good at football hinders Indiana's football prospects more than the prospect of additional teams, conference championship games, and the like.

    Seriously though, my thoughts on this would be
    1. You do wonder if the Big 12's pressure on Missouri and Nebraska will cause that conference to fold when it doesn't have to. There's bad blood, going back to when the Big 8 brought the Texas teams in the fold, turning the league from a corn-belt conference to a Texas conference. An ultimatum might be the last straw.
    2. Good for Indy if the Big Ten finally gets a conference championship. Another big game has to help the overall profitability of the city's investment in Lucas Oil statium.
    3. Every Big Ten member is gonna water down their pre-conference slate even more, with conference wins being at a higher premium. Not very good news for the MAC, since they've been our longtime pre-conference partner, and are just too competitive week-to-week to warrant future risk.
    4. I can't see basketball being too marginalized in the Big Ten. Most of the potential new member schools have decent basketball pedigrees (Missouri, Pitt, ND). And hey, watching Missouri play a full court press might convince our coach to run it a little more.
    5. Elsewhere though, that may not be the case. It is interesting that Kansas, with all their basketball history, is basically being ignored in this whole process. They could conceivably have to join a mid-major conference depending on how things shake out.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    If the Pac-10 aimed lower, they could snag some nearby schools that are playing good football (Boise State, Utah, BYU, San Diego St., Fresno St.) and some decent basketball schools (Gonzaga, New Mexico), but I understand that their expansion is about more than a playoff game, it's about getting into big markets (Texas). I want the Big10 to grab Notre Dame and call it a day… but I realize that's up to the old-line Notre Dame alums far more than it is Jim Delany.

  • BFowler

    I think that if Arizona and UCLA have a place in the Pac-10, the NBA minor league in Lexington and Vandy have a place in the SEC, Duke and North Carolina have a place in the ACC, and Colorado has a place anywhere, then Indiana has a place in the Big 10(11, 16, whatever). I mean, Northwestern is still in the Big 10.

    I think economically, this will only help Indiana (school and state). With revenue sharing for the school from the enormous TV conract that will come with a B10 championship, the city of Indianapolis (are you going to play the championship game at Soldier Field, Ford Field, the Rams' stadium or Lucas Oil?) should benefit from at least an occasional championship game. I don't think you want to play the Championship game outside, in Chicago, in December. Ford and the Rams' stadium may be an option, but Indy is more centrally located, especially if you add a school from the Big 12.

    Clearly this is a football move. Long held ideals of being done by Thanksgiving are moot now with high profile championships from the Big 12, ACC, and SEC. This is clearly about football revenue. However, this does not change a thing about Indiana's value to the conference when they are GOOD in basketball. If they had value before, they will have value in the future as a traditional power in basketball. (See earlier examples from ACC, SEC, etc.)

  • Osterman, I expect you not to sleep until this whole thing is resolved. Do you think you could make the Kelvin Sampson All-Stars with such a lazy attitude?

  • jpniles

    So I have a couple of comments and then a question or two.

    As a Hoosier who has residence 70 miles from Columbia, MO, I have not been shy about my support of bringing MO into the B10. It means I could see my Hoosiers at least once a year. And most MO fans are supportive of this as well. It's a money thing which = it's a football thing.

    Call me crazy, ignorant, or what have you, but I am not sold on bringing ND into the Big Ten. I just don't see the upside compared to bringing in some of the competitive B12 schools. I think we could have some GREAT basketball over the next few years.

    Question: If the B12 disbands, why not bring KU and K-State into the Big 10 also and once and for all banish all those who say that the Big East or ACC is a more powerful conference? I know it's a football decision, but this is a basketball person speaking. And if we had to bring in a straggler like Iowa State to make it and even number of teams, oh well.

    Is anyone aware that any Big 12 team that comes over will DOMINATE in football? I see Ohio St. being competitve every 4 years. Michigan St. competitive every five. Penn St. every three or four years with a smattering of competitiveness from WI, Iowa, and Purdue. I think that Nebraska and MO just have stronger football programs. I might be off here, because I live in B12 country, but it's how I see it.

  • GFDave

    Although football is the reason for the expansion talks, I don't think basketball is in danger. March Madness is still the greatest annual athletic contest on the planet and conference expansions aren't going to change that.

    You have to think that expansion is going to be bigger rather than smaller. The whole landscape of college athletics is about to change and I think they've got to do the biggest deal possible or risk not achieving the goal of expansion: making more money. There will be a 5 team B10 expansion.

    Nebraska and Missouri virtual locks in the west. Those two schools just can't be happy right now. Their initial displeasure of the Texas dominance of the money and influence in the B12 is being compounded by this nonsensical deadline for declaring their intentions. Its almost as if the B12 is showing them the door. Good. I'd rather have them than Texas Tech and Oklahoma State for sure.

    The east is more fluid, but Notre Dame is not out of the possibility along with Rutgers (to me a lock if asked to join) Syracuse, and Pitt.

    What of Kansas? They seem to be getting left out in the cold. The Pac-10 doesn't seem to want them. Do we? Kansas State and Iowa State are hard to make case for, at least from the glamour standpoint.

    The B10 conference championship PLAYOFF in a 16 team B10 will be a huge plus for Indiana. The conference will be organized into 2 divisions with 2 pods each, and pod winners will meet each other in semifinal games. IU will have to beat 3 teams to qualify for this playoff arrangement, not 8, 6 or 7 teams in a traditional single championship game playoff format. Rivalries will be protected by designating the first/second Saturday in November as Rivalry Weekend.

    Possible Pod Alignments:

    Far East: Penn State, Rutgers, Pitt, Ohio State
    East Central: Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Notre Dame
    West Central: Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Wisconsin
    Far West: Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa

    This Divisional/Pod arrangement would greatly ease travel cost impacts for olympic sports. Most, if not all, regular season game play could be within each school's assigned division and pod, leaving inter-divisional play to traditional rivals and championship playoffs.

  • Bryan

    Ohio State has had a better recent track record against Texas in recent years than Missouri can claim (which has been hammer vs nail, if I recall). Nebraska is getting better, but had been on the mat for a number of years, and before that had a similar problem in national title games that OSU has suffered in recent years.

    Both schools will be competitive, and if I were a middle-of-the-road Big Ten football team, like Illinois, Purdue, or Michigan State, I would be worried about Missouri and Nebraska pushing me out of a bowl game (but I'm not, I'm a fan of a football doormat, so it's moot point). But I doubt either will become the de-facto class of the conference.

    I'm more interested in Missouri's impact in basketball. Love their frenetic, pressing style of play. Really want to see what it does to teams like Wisconsin, that play at a snails pace. Rather worried about what it would do to us with our shaky ballhandling.

  • Outoftheloop

    A little harsh on the Doomers, but I like it!

  • marcusgresham

    I believe I heard the Pac-10 would take all 3 Texas schools (Texas, A & M, Tech,) and Colorado. If that were to be the case, I think Missouri and Nebraska are headed for the Big 10 for sure, and a couple more would follow suit. I can't imagine Oklahoma wanting to be left out of a major conference, and Kansas is in the same boat. Kansas has improved in football recently, but I think the Big 10/15/16/howevermanyyouhave becomes the preeminent basketball conference in the country (bite us, Big East.)
    As for Notre Dame, I kind of hope they don't join this conference or any other that matter, NBC drops that ridiculous football deal, and we all get to watch those pompous SOBs wither and die on the vine.

  • GFDave

    The Pac-10 would take Ok State and Ok too, according to reports.

  • marcusgresham

    If that's the case I would think K-State would become an option. I'd think keeping Kansas and Kansas State together would be logical from a rivalry standpoint. K-State's had some recent success in both major sports (cupcake football scheduling notwithstanding.)

  • Guest

    Wow. Pods? I think it is more probable that the East div champ will play the west div champ rather than have 3 games played for the championship.

  • Outoftheloop

    I want Colorado; Texas; Univ of Miami, FL; Maryland; and either U Conn or Rutgers. This will make the FIRST truly National Conference in the US. Travel is not a major issue as each school is close to major airports. I hope that the Big-10 does not wait too long.

  • Outoftheloop

    A little harsh on the Doomers, but I like it!

  • The academics at Miami would eliminate them from Big Ten consideration.

  • Bryan

    I could see that for the revenue sports, but the non revenue ones would crush your athletic budget. I can't imagine the air mileage the athletic department would rack up if swimming, soccer, wrestling, etc started to have to travel to all of these locations regularly.

  • Outoftheloop

    Alex you need better fact checkers: the University of Miami, FL, is tied for the #50 ranking for “Best National Universities” in the most recent , 2010 edition, of US News and World Reports; that is AHEAD of all Big-10 schools except #12 Northwestern, #27 Mich, #39 IL, #39 WI, and # 47 PN St; Miami's Faculty rank is #35; selectivity rank is #41; their financial resources rank is #26; just for comparison purposes IU's rank is #71! You are probably confused because Miami is a PRIVATE University, like Northwestern, Duke, Vanderbilt, etc and can not be a member of the association of universities frequently mentioned as the standard for academic strength, which is for public universities only. OH St #53, Purdue #61, MN #61, IU #71, MI St #71, and Iowa #71 all rank BEHIND Miami academically!

  • Outoftheloop

    Your point seems good until you really look at it. Soccer already travels to NE, RI and MA for 2010. Swimming and wrestling and other similar sports do not have “home-and-away” type of schedules. They frequently have bigger meets with 3-way and 4-way dual meets. So, as an example, IU could host PN St, U Conn, and Maryland in a 4-way dual swimming meet with only one weekend of travel. The hosting would rotate every 4 years. So each team would have 12 meets over 4 years with only 3 road trips total. As an old swimmer, I can tell you that those were the best meets! I still remember flying into Columbus, OH and trouncing mighty OH St (and Cincinnati) in their own pool at a 3-way meet. Those type of meets also make for good TV viewing on the Big-10 Network! Do you have any idea how many young swimmers, including high school age, and their parents, would tune in to watch or tape the meet in the states of IN, PN, MD, and CT? Can you imagine the recruiting advantage to the Big-10 from these events? It is huge for the non-revenue sports!

  • WhatdoIknow

    Here’s a way to still keep are Big Ten name. Have a 20 team league, then break them into the Big Ten East and the Big Ten West. The East division would be: Syracuse, Penn St., Pittsburgh, West Virgina, Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St., Louisville, Purdue, and Indiana. The West would be Northwestern, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Iowa St., Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. But would welcome getting rid of Northwestern.

  • marcusgresham

    If the conference adds Notre Dame, to appease them does it also have to add Army & Navy?

  • marcusgresham

    I've seen some of the ladies in Bloomington—-I vote to make women's mud wrestling a sport and air it EVERY night (especially if Miami is added to the conference.)

  • Outoftheloop

    The ladies of Texas and Colorado are also fine!

  • I stand corrected.

  • Outoftheloop

    Thanks Alex. I just finished getting my 4th child into college since 2004, so I am pretty much a college academic ranking expert! Keep up the great work.

  • GFDave

    Just 2 games, the pod champions play for the divisional title and then the divisional champs in the final.

  • aceman07

    I like the adding Mizzu, Syracuse, Pitt, ND, and Rutgers (although I'd like a more traditional football and basketball school to be the 5th than Rutgers – Like Nebraska!!!) and I like two 8 team divisions then in football. I don't know that you would have to do that in basketball because each team could play the other once and have a 15 game conference schedule or you could have two divisions and play the guys in your division twice and the guys from the other once (rotating home and away). That would give you a 21 game conference schedule though which would be a ton.

    I like the conferences being set up like this:

    East – PSU, Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers, ND, IU, PUke, OSU
    West – MICH, MSU, Iowa, Mizzu, Minn, Wisc, NW, IL

    I realize that the Mich schools could complain that they are farther east than the Indiana schools so you could go:

    East – PSU, PItt, Syracuse, Rutgers, OSU, NW, MSU, Mich
    West – IU, PUke, ND, Minn, Wisc, Mizzu, IL, Iowa

    If you had Nebraska instead of Rutgers you could just put Nebraska in the west and use scenario number 1 with NW in the east instead so it would be:

    East – PSU, Pitt, Syracuse, ND, IU, PUke, OSU, NW
    West – MSU, Mich, Iowa, IL, Neb, Mizzu, Minn, Wisc

    It's not exactly perfect based on geography but it keeps rivalries like IU-PUke and MSU-Mich together as well as ND-Pitt and Neb.-Mizzu.

    This is fun to talk about but again, I have no idea what the Big 10 even wants nor what this would even be feasible as far as conference divisions and schedules!

  • marcusgresham

    Louisville, I'm pretty sure is not on an academic par with the other schools.

  • aceman07

    I would love to see the Big Ten grab at least two schools and would be thrilled if it were ND and Pitt. That would allow that football rivalry to continue every year and would bring to good basketball programs into the conference. If the conference needed to even things out then they could bring in Missouri still and have two 7 team divisions in football. This is purely my opinion because I no nothing about the process or even what the Big 10 wants to do!

  • DJ5

    I think B10 expansion is a positive for IU football and the overall athletic budget no matter which way you slice it. Assuming that the B10 takes either ND, Nebraska, or both, I think you have to consider the following:

    Revenue: while transporting non-revenue sports to further locations will add expenses, it will be far outweighed by the increased revenue pool of the new conference. As a football cellar dweller, IU probably benefits more than anyone else considering the equal split of revenue. Plus, selling out the ND/Nebraska game in Bloomington every other year should help too.

    Recruting: Expansion could have multiple positive effects on IU football recruting. Television exposure would be greatly increased by expansion, both via ESPN and BTN. Telling a recruit they would play at least 2 games at Nebraska or ND or both. Also, if conference armageddon happens and the B12 and Big East are virtually eliminated, the college football bowl subdivision will virtually split in two, and players will want to play in the major conferences, of which IU will be a member.

    History: After the ACC expanded, the 3 ACC newcomers rank 7, 11, and 12 in total titles won. I am not sure what this means, but the common thought was that VT, BC, & Miami would come in and dominate in football and win a couple of titles in other sports.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Good thing Miami doesn't depend on the academics of its football team … I'm guessing it's in UK-like standing.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Also, the B10 needs to take Notre Dame and Miami so “Catholics vs. Convicts” can be played every stinking year.

  • aceman07

    Kansas and K-State could go to the C-USA and make it a decent basketball school without affecting the football setup because they're usually weak too. That would give Memphis a little competition in the conference in basketball and KU/KSU are both pretty weak in other sports generally so they wouldn't drag down another conference in football or anything else.

    A move to C-USA for those schools could also help teams like UAB to recruit a little more and maybe get a little better.

  • aceman07

    It would affect baseball for IU because they hardly travel anywhere decent because they would rather schedule D2, D3, and NAIA schools around the area to pad their record because the program has been horrible for so long!!! See – Taylor, St. Francis (IN), UMBC, Valpo, & Akron – real baseball powerhouses. Replacing those games with games against Texas, Miami, and Colorado wouldn't help their record at all, although they do already play UCONN occasionally.

  • aceman07

    Dump Louisville and keep NW or keep NW because OK will probably go to the Pac-10 because of football!

  • GFDave

    You are right about nothing lining up perfectly, and I agree that the divisions don't have to be geographically perfect. Other considerations, like rivalries and competitive balance can be used to help place schools.

    I do think that whatever structure comes to be will be used for all sports. That will be good for developing new rivalries and reducing travel costs and time for the olympic sports.

  • Outoftheloop

    The goal is to get better, not to win more games against weak competition. With coach Smith the Hoosiers are getting much better! Look at all the players drafted by MLB in the last 3-4 years! You don't get much respect from the NCAA Selection Committee with wins over Taylor or St Francis. You do get respect with wins over Miami and Texas. Baseball travel is an issue, you can only play so many games over one weekend. But with divisions of 8 schools, that is 7 weekends, plus 1 out-of-division (like IU v Purdue), that makes 4 road trips in the conference, plus the Conference Championship each year. It should work.

  • aceman07

    No, I totally agree man. I was being sarcastic. For years I encouraged my players to go elsewhere because I thought it was a joke that IU was playing the teams they were playing. I truly wish they would start dropping those games and picking up some good competition instead. The problem with baseball in the Big 10 is, outside of Michigan (and that is recent progress), no big ten school can get a power baseball conference school from the Pac10, Big12, SEC, or ACC to come to a big ten school to play. You have to go to there place which makes travel even harder so teams have to be selective since they'd be on the road all the time if they wanted to play tough competition and get better, but they are getting better and they do need to push the schedule more and pick up some teams like LSU, Texas, Miami, etc.

  • Outoftheloop

    I get it and agree. Thanks.