Choose Your Own Adventure For Big East Expansion: It’s Not Easy Being Green (or Purple)

I attended Illinois for undergrad, so my heart will always be with the Fighting Illini first and foremost, but as a DePaul Law graduate, I also keep close tabs on the state of the Big East.  The fan base of the Big East is by far the most skittish of any conference regarding expansion issues because it was obviously the main victim of the last major conference realignment in 2003 (when the ACC poached Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College).  This resulted in the Big East scrambling to protect its automatic bid to the BCS by inviting Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida for all sports (including football) along with DePaul and Marquette as non-football members.  In that round of expansion, Louisville was already an obvious BCS-ready school that was within striking distance of the Big Ten footprint, which made it a logical choice for a replacement member, while Cincinnati and USF were in the midst of building up their own programs.  USF ended up putting together some great seasons in the all-important Florida market while Cincinnati came within a couple of seconds massaged by a Jerry World time clock operator of making it to the national championship game this past season.  The problem today for the Big East is that if it loses any member to the Big Ten (which, if you’ve read my previous blog posts regarding the Big Ten Expansion Index, isn’t necessarily as likely as the general public believes since I believe that the Big Ten is looking toward Texas and the Big XII), there isn’t any Louisville-type school located east of the Mississippi River that’s a logical “no-brainer” replacement.  There are some schools comparable to USF and Cincinnati circa 2003, but the conference enters dangerous territory by adding more “project” schools in terms of keeping the top-to-bottom strength of schools high enough to justify inclusion in the BCS.

Before anyone can even get to talking about additional Big East schools, though, the overarching question is “WTF does the Big East want to be?”  Should the football members (hereinafter defined as “Big East Football”) split off to form a separate all-sports conference?  Are the Catholic basketball members (hereinafter defined as the “Big East Catholics”) too valuable for the football members to leave?  Is it worth it to risk breaking up arguably the nation’s best basketball conference under the current hybrid structure in order to have a maybe good/maybe not that good football conference?  The purpose of this post is to provide a more high-level examination of the choices between Big East Football splitting off or keeping the Big East Catholics in the fold.  I’ll name some expansion candidates in hypothetical scenarios that I’d personally favor if I were in charge of the Big East, but it’s not worth it as of now to provide an in-depth examination of each of those candidates in the same manner of the Big Ten Expansion Index since it’s largely pointless without knowing out what the Big East wants to do structurally.  In fact, I’ll state upfront that I’m sincerely 50/50 about whether the Big East ought to split whether or not it even loses anyone from Big East Football (with the caveat that the way that my split proposal is far more aggressive than what I see typically proposed).  Thus, I’m giving everyone two options that I would examine if I were Big East Commissioner along with the pluses and minuses of each.  Then, you can decide which one you like better – think of it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for Big East expansion.

I’m using the following assumptions:

(1) The Big Ten does NOT take a Big East member – I’m going to examine this from the perspective of the Big East as presently constituted because I don’t believe the high-level analysis really changes that much even if a school like Syracuse or Rutgers leaves.  The issue of whether the Big East should split exists as of today and will be applicable regardless of the actions of the Big Ten.

(2) The Big East won’t kick out Notre Dame – About every 3 or 4 hours on any Big East message board, you’ll see a brand new thread stating, “WE MUST GIVE ND AN ULTIMATUM!!!!!! JOIN US 4 FB OR GTFO!!!!!”  It’s about as predictable as Amy Winehouse ignoring all 12 steps of all of her rehab programs on a random Friday night.  Let’s put aside the fact that such a suggestion usually entails “threatening” probably the most famous and powerful athletic department in the nation in order to invite a school like Memphis or East Carolina.  First off, if Notre Dame refuses to join the Big Ten for football where the school would maintain its rivalries against Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue and actually make more money in the process, then I can’t really see the Irish taking a pay cut to play USF and Cincinnati annually.  I’ll let Domers like Sully comment further on this, but that’s just my gut feeling.  Then, as a practical matter, let’s simply count the votes in the Big East to gauge the interest of kicking out ND.  The other Big East Catholics absolutely fall all over themselves to be associated with the nation’s preeminent Catholic sports program, so that’s 7 votes against kicking out ND right there.  Pitt has a longstanding relationship with Notre Dame for football which it isn’t going to mess with – I would imagine that ND would easily go back to playing Penn State annually and drop its games with Pitt if the Panthers ever supported kicking ND out.  Syracuse and Rutgers are also holding out hope for Big Ten invites.  Since any kicking out of Notre Dame could possibly nudge the Irish into the Big Ten and close off that 12th conference spot forever, SU and RU aren’t going to want to do anything to ND, either.  Those are 10 schools right there that will automatically support Notre Dame, which means that ND will be in the BE as long as there is the current hybrid structure.

(3) The Mountain West Conference will NOT receive an auto-bid to the BCS – There’s a dangerous assumption percolating out there that the Mountain West becoming an automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference with respect to the BCS is a foregone conclusion.  This is based on the MWC reaching certain numerical criteria that the BCS previously set out to evaluate conferences.  There’s kind of big hitch that too many people are forgetting, though: the current BCS conferences have the final say and they don’t really have any incentive to let the MWC into their club at all.  It’s the equivalent of me trying to obtain membership into Augusta National Golf Club.  If I’m a scratch golfer that can afford to pay the initiation fee (not that either one of those things are true, but bear with me here), that’s still not enough to get an invitation – the people at Augusta have to REALLY REALLY REALLY like me on top of all of that.  In another real life example, think of it as achieving a really high SAT score.  Even though that score might indicate that you could get into Harvard on paper, the fact of the matter is that Harvard’s admissions committee evaluates bunch of other byzantine factors, such as whether you’re a native female Alaskan who moved to Kenya that can play the oboe at a professional orchestral level.  In the case of the MWC, the BCS conferences might have set the criteria, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to follow it.

Here’s the bottom line for the MWC: the Pac-10 and Big XII aren’t going to approve AQ-status for the MWC because they don’t want to empower direct competition in their home markets and that conference is a prime target for their own expansion and/or replacement plans.  The Big Ten and the SEC are virtually guaranteed 2 BCS bids every year under the current system, so they don’t have an incentive to potentially give up one of those spots to the MWC.  The Big East is the most vulnerable of the current BCS conferences, so it doesn’t want to give any opportunity to let the other BCS members remove AQ-status for the Big East while bringing the MWC in as a 7th member.  I guess the ACC doesn’t have quite as much of a dog in this fight, but as you can, the other 5 BCS conferences have direct incentives to say “No” to the MWC regardless of how well the conference performs.  That’s not really fair (and my feeling is that they’re more bothered by letting the likes of Wyoming and San Diego State into the fold than harboring any grudges against Utah and BYU), yet it goes back to the cynical version of the Golden Rule (“He who has the gold makes the rules”) as applied to the chasm between the AQ and non-AQ conferences.  You’ll see pretty clearly in a moment why the MWC’s continued non-AQ status is very important to the Big East’s options.

So, let’s review the two divergent roads that the Big East can take Robert Frost-style.


Here’s the reality for the Big East:  Penn State isn’t walking through that door.  Boston College isn’t walking through that door.  Maryland isn’t walking through that door.  While the presumption is that college conference choices revolve almost entirely around football (as indicated by how I gave Football Brand Value three times the weight of Basketball Brand Value in the Big Ten Expansion Index), if there aren’t major pigskin programs that are willing to join the Big East, it may very well be in the best interest of the conference to continue to focus on what it’s exceptional at: basketball.  If the Big East were to split, the usual suspects of candidates from Conference USA wouldn’t really add that much financial value to the football side of the ledger while it could destroy much of the greatness of the basketball side.

At the same time, the value of the Big East Catholics is as a collective instead of individual schools.  You’ll see plenty of comments from bloggers and message board posters out there that they don’t understand what schools like newer member DePaul and original member Providence bring to the Big East.  The point is not what DePaul and Providence bring as individual programs, but rather the 8 Big East Catholics happen to deliver the New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Boston/Providence markets, which are all top 10 TV markets.  For all of the ragging that Big East Football schools might have on the Big East Catholics, you can be guaranteed that the number of top 10 markets that are in the conference as a result of the Big East Catholics are on PowerPoint slide #1 in any Big East presentation to ESPN or other TV networks.  That staggering large market PowerPoint slide goes away if Big East Football separates themselves from the Big East Catholics.

In fact, it could be argued that if Big East Football loses a member to the Big Ten or another conference (i.e. collateral damage if the Big Ten takes a school from the ACC, who in turn will look to the Big East for a replacement), the Big East Catholics would be more valuable than ever.  Any reasonable replacement that could be out there may not bring as much as value on the football side as keeping the basketball side as elite as possible.  While football is going to rule the day for the other BCS conferences in terms of revenue and expansion, the Big East simply “is what it is” – a great (if not the nation’s best) basketball conference that happens to play some football.  As long as the Big East maintains its BCS AQ status, maintain the current hybrid structure could be making the best of a situation where the perfect scenario isn’t a viable option.


The Big East split advocates often argue that as long as the Big East stays in its current hybrid form, it can never hope to achieve the stability of the Big Ten or SEC.  Of course, the Big XII, an all-sports conference which has Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma in the fold, is unstable, too, with members openly talking about moving to the Big Ten or Pac-10.  So, a split for the sake of “stability” is an unreasonable goal – other than the Big Ten and SEC, no conference will be completely safe in this next round of realignment discussions.  However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t split scenarios that could add value to the Big East immediately.

The problem with most of the Big East split advocates is that they are making the classic sports fan mistake of thinking in purely geographic terms.  This leads them to only considering some “meh” schools from C-USA located east of the Mississippi River such as Memphis, East Carolina and Central Florida or maybe even MAC schools like Buffalo and former Big East football member Temple.  Those are all schools that bring in various positives to the table, but none of them are anywhere close to slam dunks where it would be worth it to split away from the Big East Catholics for those “usual suspects” alone.  So, if the Big East is finding only ho-hum choices of schools east of the Mississippi, why isn’t the conference looking west?  Specifically, the Big East needs to be taking a hard look at Texas Christian University.

I know what a lot of you are thinking – here’s a d-bag Chicago lawyer that has argued that the Big Ten ought to invite Texas for several weeks and now is saying that the Big East should add TCU.  WTF is going through that crack-induced head of his with him adding Texas-based schools to Eastern/Midwestern conferences?!  Doesn’t he know that the schools, politicians and fans in the Lone Star State just want to beat up on each other (because the old SWC worked so well) instead of dealing with a bunch of Yankees?!  Well, as you can tell from my blog posts, I’m not hung up on geography when it comes to conferences.  I know that will simply be a fundamental issue for a lot of people, but we live in a world where Penn State is in the Big Ten, Boston College is in the ACC, DePaul, Marquette and South Florida are in the Big East, Louisiana Tech is in the WAC… and TCU is aligned with a bunch of Rocky Mountain schools in the Mountain West.  It appears to me that the long distance conference cherry was popped long ago.

Regardless, TCU going to the Big East isn’t a novel idea.  Jake, a regular commenter on this blog who has a fear that TCU could get screwed in this realignment process (and I’ll explain why that’s a legitimate fear in a moment), has mentioned the possibility.  ESPN’s Big East blogger Brian Bennett addressed his thoughts on the prospect of TCU in the Big East (who, as you’ll see, I disagree with).  Finally, the very knowledgeable denizens of BigEastBBS have discussed TCU a number of times.

There are a couple of items that impress me about TCU.  First, its revenue in 2007-08, which was a “normal” season where it didn’t receive a jackpot of funds from participation in a BCS bowl like this past season, was $43.4 million, which was by far the highest figure of any non-BCS school.  This was greater than in-state Big XII competitor Texas Tech, in the same range as schools like Syracuse and Miami, more than 3 Big East schools (Pitt, USF and Cincinnati) and greater than the next highest non-BCS school (BYU) by nearly $7 million.  Second, guess which school has had the most NFL draft picks in history out of any non-BCS program?  TCU, who is ahead of an entire slew of BCS programs on that measurement.  Those two factors show that TCU isn’t just a fly-by-night program that got hot this past season.  Its long-term revenue levels and history of churning out quality players mean that TCU is a legitimate BCS-level program as of today that also happens to be in the major market of Dallas-Fort Worth (even if it doesn’t deliver that market in the manner of Texas or Texas A&M).

The opportunity for the the Big East is that TCU probably can’t get into the Big XII (whereas too many people assume the opposite, including Mr. Bennett from  As I explained in point #4 in this post, TCU’s chances to get into the Big XII are almost a carbon copy of Pitt’s chances of getting into the Big Ten: they’re too much of a geographic fit (where they’re already within the conference footprint) in a world where expanding the conference footprint into new markets is more important for TV purposes.  If you’ve followed my posts examining the prospect of Texas joining the Big Ten, you know that the #1 reason why the Big XII has issues is that it has TV revenues due to the lack of markets outside of the state of Texas.  Thus, if the Big XII were to lose one or more members, adding TCU as a replacement doesn’t address that conference’s main problem that has caused such instability in the first place.  As I’ve stated before, the only legitimate shot that TCU has to get into the Big XII is if both Texas and Texas A&M leave that conference.

Thus, TCU looks a lot like Louisville circa-2003: a BCS-ready program whose immediately geographically-close BCS conferences (in Louisville’s case at the time, the SEC and ACC) will probably never invite it.  Even worse, the thoughts of the MWC becoming an AQ conference diminish dramatically if the Big XII and/or Pac-10 start picking off schools like Utah and BYU.  Meanwhile, an expanded Big East that includes TCU looks a whole lot better than being limited solely to its standard C-USA options.  Take a look at this hypothetical 12-school conference with North and South divisions:

West Virginia


In my opinion, that’s a pretty solid football AND basketball conference from top-to-bottom that covers a multitude of major markets.  For the people that still care about geography, this league actually bears little difference to the old C-USA when Army was still a football member, where the league stretched from Texas to New York.  Still, please don’t get hung up on the non-TCU schools that I inserted since they are really gut-level choices.  I chose Temple (despite its horrid experience as a football-only member of the Big East where it was kicked out even when the conference was in search of warm bodies in the wake of the 2003 ACC raid) simply because if the Big East is going to split, I feel that the conference is going to need a presence in the Philadelphia market (even if it’s more for the basketball side of the equation).  Memphis is sort of a natural extension for the Big East after having added Louisville and Cincinnati.  The Tigers from Memphis with respect to the Big East feel a lot like the Tigers from Missouri with respect to the Big Ten – the geography works and there are some pre-existing rivalries, but it’s not exactly an exciting game-changing move.  Houston provides a large market and travel partner for TCU.  Regardless, you can exchange ECU and/or UCF for any of those choices I’ve mentioned above if you’re so inclined.  The overarching point is that a Big East split looks a whole lot better with TCU involved than without.  If the Big East were to lose a member to the Big Ten or another conference, then including TCU is even more vital for the conference in terms of maintaining its BCS AQ status.  Maybe it would behoove the Big East to make the first move here by inviting TCU immediately so that it doesn’t even give an opening to the Big XII to potentially grab them in the event that both Texas and Texas A&M go to the Big Ten or Pac-10.

What would happen to the Big East Catholics?  I’d envision a 10-school all-Catholic league league that would consist of the legacy Big East members plus Xavier and St. Louis University.  That would be a legitimate major basketball conference in great TV markets with a side benefit of DePaul possibly winning multiple conference games in a season.  (Actually, the Blue Demons still wouldn’t with that lineup.)  If Notre Dame were to take a Big Ten invite, you could plug in Dayton (who might very well have the best college basketball fan base in the nation that no one seems to know about) and continue to have a fantastic 10-school conference.  That’s not a bad ending for the Big East Catholics in a split situation.

I don’t know if the Big East Football schools are bold enough to go forward with Option B, but it’s at least a colorable argument for a split if TCU is included.  If TCU can’t be brought in, though, then I don’t think a split would be wise.

With all of that in mind, which scenario would you choose if you were running the Big East?

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from Wikipedia)


106 thoughts on “Choose Your Own Adventure For Big East Expansion: It’s Not Easy Being Green (or Purple)

  1. Kyle

    The problem with expansion is our image and fanbase for bowl contracts. Notre Dame is liable to take the invitation of a ‘regular’ Big East team with a better record; consequently a lot of Big East fans try to downplay the benefits to our bowl tie-ins with Notre Dame. The truth is, our bowl-tie-in would be much worse than they currently are if the Bowl committees were not factoring the potential of getting the Irish (and their tv attention and traveling fanbase). Would the Football Big East retain that relationship and bowl game leverage if there was a catholic/football split? If not, how much are any replacements going to help?

    The identity of the conference beyond the catholic members is a league of City-schools, with apologies to Storrs and Morgantown. I like the idea of Temple, Houston, and TCU to fit that identity, but I think it’s a bit too bold to happen on its own. I don’t foresee any pro-active move to split the conference; Marinatto may surprise me yet, but he’s a Providence man through and through.


  2. Enjoyed all your articles on this subject so far and have been waiting for the BEast suggestions. I like the idea of getting TCU to join the football league right away or as soon as possible. This provides nine teams for football so there would be four home and four away games. I don’t like the idea of splitting into two 6 team divisions just yet. Also don’t care for two teams you added (Temple, Memphis). I live in Houston and they are picking up fans but they have a ways to go. If in the future the BEast football does have to split into 2 divisions maybe Villanova could replace Temple in the North and SMU could replace Memphis in the South. I went to and root for the UC Bearcats and I like the football teams that are in the league now although some of the Pitt fans can get obnoxious at times. I also went to SMU where they are starting to awaken after years of being a non factor and might bare watching for future consideration.

    As you might expect the only other thing I did not like was the idea of Xavier getting anywhere near the BEast.

    From a money stand point I don’t know whether any of this makes any sense. I was surprised about how much revenue TCU generates. Both TCU and SMU have very small enrollements but I know there are a lot of wealthy people in Dallas. There is a long time existing rivalry between TCU and SMU. Rice is also down here but they are another tiny school. If all this happens what has been done is to combine part of the old SW conference teams with part of the C-USA teams into a South division.

    One question I have that maybe you can touch on is this. What about Navy? Woud they be a worth while team to go after for the BEast? They are not a bad football team.


    1. Boyee

      TCU is going to the Big 12. Temple already is in the FBS in the MAC, with UMass joining them next season. Both schools have great basketball programs, are in the Northeast and will have FBS football teams next year. They should both go to the Big East for all sport to get them back to 16 teams and add 4 more teams (Air Force, Navy, Army and SMU or ECU or UCF for football only to get to 12.


  3. TCU does seem like a good option but I don’t think the league will be proactive. (They haven’t shown an inclination in the past.) They will wait to see who if any get poached by the Big 10 first. Their thought process might be, if a Big 12 member gets picked, we don’t need to do anything and if a Big East member gets picked then and only then do we need to pick up somebody. I think the bigger worry for the Big East is from the ACC where if they decide to expand to 16 (I think they could make the best case since they are the weakest conference not named Big East), they could decimate Big East football AND basketball by taking Pitt, Syracuse, UConn and Rutgers. This has many advantages for the ACC that I put on my blog but it boils down to improving football, becoming the clear leader in basketball again, expanding markets, and locking down the entire atlantic coast from any other conference.


    1. Boyee

      TCU is going to the Big 12, Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC. They need 2 more basketball and 6 more football members. The Big East should add Temple and UMass for all sports and Army, Air Force, Navy and SMU or ECU or UCF for football only to get to 12 teams.


  4. Mike B.

    Assuming a Big XII crackup, there ought to be some good Big East Candidates from the old Big 8. Maybe Missouri or Kansas can slip in there.

    As far as a Catholic only Basketball conference goes, that’s been bantered about for sometime. I could easily see it getting to 16 teams (or more) combining parts of the A10, the Big East, and maybe Creighton.

    They’d probably be better off forming two conferences and getting two NCAA bids that way.


  5. Great analysis Frank. I enjoyed reading your Big Ten toughts, and had been waiting to read your thoughts on the Big East.

    My only question to you is how would you factor Navy into the equation? From an admittedly sports-fan based perspective, at least on the football side, they seem to be a legitimate expansion candidate for the Big East, in that they are already winning football bowl games; bring a “national” presence; and are geographically friendly with their “home” market being in Maryland.

    For me, adding Navy now as a football only member, helps preserve the “hybrid-ity” of the current league set-up; solves the pesky 7 football league games a year issue dogging the BEFootballers; and could lay the groundwork for a future split should that have to happen.

    Going with your 12 team scenario, TCU makes a lot of sense, and Navy replacing Temple is much more palatable too. Memphis, Houston, UCF, or ECU as the 12th member can be debated lots of different ways.

    Am I wrong in thinking this about Navy? Am I suffering from sports-fan-itis?


    1. Kyle

      Pitt and the Naval Academy have long tradition of playing. Since 1950, only Army, Air Force, and Notre Dame have played the midshipmen more often. So, as a Pitt fan, I think they’re a good addition academically, athletically, geographically, and league-image. However, I doubt if the benefits the Big East has to offer are enough to give up their otherwise national schedule (and still keep Army, Air Force, and Notre Dame). If one of those schools would also be joining the conference, I think it’s a possibility, but otherwise no.


      1. Navy would be a fine addition to the Big East, but I think they’re wedded more to independence than even Notre Dame. The Midshipmen control their schedule with a mix of BCS and non-BCS programs that virtually guarantee a bowl game (for which they sign with directly and keep all of revenue). They also get a direct windfall from selling the TV rights to their games with Notre Dame and Army. Finally, they saw Army’s experience in C-USA and largely determined that they’re better off being independent. Anything is certainly possible, yet Navy might be one of the only programs out there that simply doesn’t want/need to be a part of the BCS – it appears to be happy with its place in the college football world.


  6. Jake

    Thanks for the shout-out, Frank. TCU has been left out of the last few conference realignments (SWC break-up, WAC split, C-USA raided by Big East), so there is some well-founded trepidation among the Horned Frog faithful regarding further shake-ups. Getting stranded in the Mountain West without BYU and Utah is pretty much our worst nightmare; even Boise would have to pass on that.

    While the Big 12 remains a pie-in-the-sky dream, and many would love to keep the MWC together (possibly adding Boise State) in a bid to earn AQ status, the Big East does seem to be our most realistic hope. It’s not the most exciting of conferences, but we did have some good rivalries forming with Louisville and Cincy back in the C-USA days, and it might bring some excitement to our lifeless men’s basketball program. There’s actually a rumor going around the TCU message boards that we were offered a football-only invite to the Big East back in ’03 (which we turned down for the MWC), but that remains unsubstantiated.

    Also, I know we’re not even in the running for the Big Ten, but would TCU’s lack of research cred be an obstacle to a Pac-10 invite? I mean, this is a conference that includes Tier 3 Oregon State and invited ASU not so very long ago, so academics can’t be too critical of a factor (not that TCU is bad – just not a major research school), and if UT and A&M aren’t available, could TCU be a viable option for the Weft Coast league? Wherever we end up, you certainly won’t hear any complaints about travel – getting to the major metro areas of the Big East is nothing compared to MWC travel. You ever try to get to Laramie in November? They get snow in August. Crazy.

    One point – you wrote that Cincy would have been in the BCS title game if Texas had lost to Nebraska in the Big 12 championship, which isn’t necessarily true. The Bearcats were already ranked ahead of the Longhorns in the computer polls, so a Texas loss would have benefited TCU more than Cincy in the final BCS rankings, most likely keeping the Frogs ranked ahead of the Bearcats and sending them to the title game. Of course, you can never predict what the human voters would have done in such a situation (would a non-BCS conf. team in the title game have been a bridge too far?), so it all remains speculative.

    You have no idea how nice it is to hear sports fans from around the country saying good things about the Frogs. We get so much derision from the Big 12 folks down here in Texas that we’re often blind to how much positive press we’ve really gotten of late. I promise to keep saying nice things about the Big Ten, which doesn’t get near the respect it deserves down here.


    1. I think TCU is a legit BCS-ready program, so it deserves to be in a BCS conference. (I can’t say that about all of the non-BCS schools.) You’re right that TCU could’ve easily been in the national championship game if that judicious scorekeeper at Jerry’s World was a second behind. It’s hard to say whether Cincy or TCU would’ve gotten the nod there.

      Interesting thought about TCU going to the Pac-10. That’s actually not a bad option for the Pac-10 if it wants to get into the Texas market and can’t get Texas or Texas A&M. The research school status is definitely important to the Pac-10 (which is why Arizona State and Oregon State still “fit” despite lower undergrad rankings). As I’ve stated before, it’s going to be very difficult to get a read on the Pac-10 because of its unanimous vote requirement. Everytime I see 14 or 16-school expansion scenarios for that conference, I shake my head since it’s a massive burden to get a unanimous vote in that conference for just 1 school, much less 4 or 6.


  7. Duke Eagle

    A lot of speculation at this point indicates that no one is going to do anything until after the Big 10 decides what it is doing. I am not sure that is the case. The Big East actually has a huge reason to act, at least get started, by July 1, even if they have no idea what the Big 10 is going to do. The reason is all tied up in the NCAA rules for distributing NCAA tourney shares (which was worth about $16M to the Big East in 2009).

    According to the usual NCAA rules, the entity known as the Big East is entitled to continue to receive the NCAA basketball tourney shares of any school that leaves the conference as long as six institutions remain. This is a fundamental NCAA rule that really affects a lot of the Big East’s potential options – particularly with regard to a split of the football and basketball schools. So let’s go through the possible ways that a split would occur:

    a. The football schools kick out the basketball schools

    This sounds great, the football schools could kick out the basketball schools and since the Big East would still exist (with only the football members) it would be entitled to the NCAA tourney revenue. The big problem is that (if I recall from the Temple expulsion) the Big East requires a unanimous vote (except for the school being expelled) to kick a school out. That is never going to happen.

    b. The basketball schools leave to form a new conference

    This would also be great for the football schools, but why would the basketball schools ever leave the money on the table? They would forfeit all the tourney shares to the football schools (along with the conference name and auto-bid). This one does not make any sense, and will not happen.

    c. The Big East votes to disband

    This would actually be a viable option for the football schools. If a conference disbands, then each individual school keeps its own tourney shares. The question becomes, what are the Big East’s procedures for a disbandment vote? I would be surprised if less than a super majority (or even a majority since presumably the seven or eight football schools would have to push this) can force a disbandment. I don’t know the procedures, but this seems unlikely to me unless some basketball only school(s) could be convinced to vote for it – if they had a lot of shares built up that they would then be able to keep for themselves (for instance if Georgetown and DePaul were coming off three straight Final Four appearances, they may actually have an incentive to vote for a disbandment) or if they were leaving with the football schools. The problem would be that those basketball schools that did vote for the disbandment would be screwing the other basketball schools so bad that they would poison the well and prevent the formation of the basketball only league that everyone presumes would arise. I also don’t think the football schools could ever put together enough votes for this. This one seems more likely than the previous two, but still a longshot.

    d. The football schools leave to form a new conference

    This one could certainly happen and appears at first glance to be the only viable way for a split between the Big East football and basketball schools to occur. But let’s be clear, in such a scenario, UConn, Louisville, Syracuse, Cincy, etc. would forfeit all of their NCAA tourney shares over the last six years to the remaining basketball schools. That is way too much money to just walk away from.

    Under the standard NCAA rules for sharing tournament revenue, those are the options – and none of them provide enough incentive for either the football schools or basketball schools to initiate a split. But in the Big East’s situation there is one difference – the standard NCAA distribution rules do not apply if a split occurs by July 1, 2010. This is the result of some negotiations resulting from the ACC raid on the Big East.

    When the ACC finished round 1 of its raid against the Big East in 2003, the ACC had taken Miami and Virginia Tech and left the Big East the the line-up below (BC did not get its invite until later):

    Basketball: Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame

    Football: WVU, Syracuse, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, UConn, BC

    At the time, the football schools were convinced that the hybrid Big East (with split football and basketball memberships) was not viable and actually voted to leave the Big East in July 2003 (the conference meeting minutes got leaked on the internet a couple of years later). Apparently the plan was to take Notre Dame with them (as a continuing basketball only member who also agreed to participate in bowl alignments and agreed to play some games against the league teams in football). When those schools left, the basketball schools would not have six teams remaining and under the NCAA rules would not keep the basketball tourney shares and would lose their automatic NCAA tourney bid. The basketball schools held no leverage and were in a very bad situation.

    Obviously the split did not occur in 2003, but the football schools did not simply agree to come back – in October 2003, they arranged a couple of concessions from the basketball schools. The Big East football schools could leave the conference by July 1, 2010 and owe no exit fess – and would keep their NCAA tourney shares. In essence, this allowed the basketball schools to add members (Marquette and DePaul) which would put them above six members and not dissolve the conference, should the football schools later leave. And the deal allowed the football schools seven years to get their house in order and figure out the best way to go. In essence, the deal created a seven-year trial period where both sides could get back on their feet. But the football schools still kept their option of leaving without suffering a huge financial penalty.

    So what does this mean? Unless the Big East basketball schools extend this July 1, 2010 deadline, the Big East football schools only have a matter of months before they have to make their first decision: do they split or not? The decision to split is likely not going to be made in a vacuum. The football schools are going to want to know how the money would compare if: (a) they stick with the basketball schools as a 16-team hybrid; (b) they go it alone as an eight team football conference – again possibly taking Notre Dame with them (because of the help in getting bowl deals, in getting three or four games a year against Notre Dame, and Notre Dame does help with both the Chicago and New York markets for basketball) and possibly taking one other basketball school (Georgetown or Villanova) to balance Notre Dame as a basketball member; (c) they split as in scenario (b) but then add one member to get to nine teams and easier scheduling; or (d) they make additions to get to a 12 team football conference (again possibily taking Notre Dame and another school as basketball only members).

    The Big East football schools have to be exploring – with their potential TV partners – what would the money look like in each of these scenarios. Including what do various potential schools add to that pot — I suspect this exploration of potential expansion candidates is why we are hearing rumors.

    Obviously the Big East would like to know if they are going through this process without Syracuse, Pittsburgh or Rutgers (if one of them left for the Big 10), however, the July 1 deadline looms. Unless that deadline gets extended, the split or no split decision will have to be made relatively soon – with at least an idea of where the conference will eventually go (even if they wait out the Big 10 before issuing invitations for expansion).

    The first domino to fall might not be the Big 10 – it could be the Big East.


    1. Jake

      But, if the Big East football schools leave the conference, wouldn’t they be leaving their coveted BCS auto-bid behind? The BCS can’t be too excited about the Big East’s continued auto-bid status (have you seen the ratings for BCS games involving Big East teams?), so this would seem to create a perfect opportunity to revoke it and give out another at-large bid.


  8. OrderRestored

    All this expansion talk is so subjective to so many different factors it is really hard to get a bead on exactly what conference commissioners are thinking; I agree with you on the points of:

    1. Nothing at all will most likely happen to the Big East
    2. If something does then geography will have little to do with who they add.

    Lets entertain the scenario though where the Big East does decide to make a purely football motivated move. With all the talk of 16 team super conferences with no geographic boundaries; and taking into consideration the Big East is the most feeble BCS conference (and the MWC is hot on its heels for AQ status), what if the MWC and Big East merged? They would have to let go of one school to make it an even 16 team conference; but it would clinch AQ status for the MWC teams while expanding the TV market and stability of the Big East. While I know this is a fairy tale type scenario, it makes more sense than it would seem on the surface. Logistics would not allow it to happen however in my opinion because of factors like where you would play the conference title game? With a conference spanning across that much geography there is no such thing as a neutral fan-friendly site. There are so many scenarios that could play out in these conference expansion talks that it really boggles the mind and stirs the off-season imagination of everyone who is fanatic about college athletics. Here are some scenarios that are more likely to play out than the Big East merging with the MWC (first off keep in mind that I am of the opinion that the Big 10 will not expand beyond 12 teams due to the current Big 10 schools not wanting to split the profit pie 14 ways AND Texas will not be able to go anywhere without Texas A&M due to Texas politics, the Texas governor is Aggie-alum and big Aggie supporter) keeping all that in mind here are the scenarios I see as most likely to play out:

    1. Pac 10 adds Texas & Texas A&M; Big 10 adds Nebraska; Big 12 adds TCU, Houston, and BYU; MWC adds Boise St, Fresno St; CUSA adds Troy

    2. Big 10 adds Nebraska; Big 12 adds BYU; MWC adds Boise St
    3. Big 10 adds Maryland; ACC adds South Florida; Big East adds TCU
    4. Pac 10 adds Utah, Colorado; Big 12 adds BYU; MWC adds Boise St

    Reasoning for #1: The Pac 10 has a tough sell on expansion because it has to play to the athletic needs of the conference as well as the academic needs of Stanford, UCLA, and Cal-Berkeley; and unlike most conferences they have to be unanimous to accept an expansion team. It’s for this reason that I think the best scenario for Pac 10 expansion is Texas and Texas A&M. Both schools bring academics to the table (much more so than Arizona St and Arizona at the time of their addition) as well as rich athletic programs and fan base tradition and TV sets. (see Frank’s posts for the many upsides of Texas; he is spot on) I think that this would be the lynch pin pulling move that would push the Big 10 to invite Nebraska. Nebraska wasn’t one of my favorite candidates for the Big 10 initially but the more I’ve looked into it, the more they are the clear cut favorite. Nebraska has many friendly connections within the Big 10 higher ups (mainly the Wisconsin AD and the Penn St chancellor), they have a Top 5 lucrative franchise (#4 according to Forbes) which will offset the small state population. They also bring the ‘big splash’ name the Big 10 seems to be craving. The Big 12 would then most likely counter by adding TCU and Houston to re-stake some claim to the Longhorn State as well as BYU and its large LDS national following (BYU was originally coveted by the Big 12 at its formation; but Texas politics insisted that Baylor come along with A&M, Texas, and Texas Tech; the governor at that time was a Baylor alum and this is the reason I base my thought of A&M being attached to Texas today seeing that the governor is now an Aggie-alum and supporter) The MWC would then seek out the best teams possible to remain competitive and those teams that best fit the MWC would be Fresno St and Boise St (already said to be coveted by the MWC) The CUSA adding Troy is purely a shoot from the hip solution; but I imagine they would attempt to add a team to keep their 12 team conference intact.

    Reasoning for #2: See reasoning #1 for Nebraska to the Big 10 and BYU to the Big 12 and Boise St to the MWC. This is in the case where the Pac 10 AD’s can’t agree on expansion.

    Reasoning for #3: If the Big 10 goes east (and I really really doubt they look east) I have to side with Maryland due to its academics and its footprint within the DC metro area. Athletics at Maryland are average at best (besides maybe basketball) but in this scenario the Big 10 would be after TV sets and academics more than athletics (again I do not see this happening). The ACC adding South Florida would further stake the ACC’s claim to the state of Florida. This would add the St. Pete/Tampa Bay market to the ACC (South Florida’s influence here is gaining very quickly). The Big East adding TCU makes sense because it does add another market to the Big East. TCU will be shunned by the Big 12 as long as Texas and Texas A&M are in the conference because they don’t bring anything new to the table (Frank highlights this very well) and the Big East would be more than willing to add another stable program to the mix.

    Reasoning for #4: This is the least likely scenario for me. The Pac 10 adding Utah would add the Salt Lake market; but it is debatable whether Utah is the team of choice in that market at all (BYU). Colorado joining any conference at this point is also a long shot, not because of their love for the Big 12; but more because of the state of their athletic program. The University of Colorado’s athletic department is hurting majorly financially (this is the major reason Dan Hawkins still has a job, buying him out would have spread the athletic departments cash a little too thin) with this in mind it would cost Colorado about $15 Million to leave the conference; money the school just does not have. See Reasoning #1 for BYU to the Big 12 and Boise St to the MWC.

    That’s my take on all this; how do the rest of you see it?


    1. Jake

      I don’t see UT going to the Pac-10 so long as the Big Ten is an option; the Pac-10 move is only something they would consider if the Big 12 is starting to crumble.

      Also, why would the ACC replace Maryland with South Florida? They’re already pretty strong in Florida, so I see Pitt as a better candidate if they feel like raiding the Big East again.

      And should the Big East lose USF, Central Florida (the largest school in the country by undergraduate enrollment – who knew?) would be a logical replacement. And adding TCU is always an option.

      As for the MWC-Big East merger, maybe. SDSU might get left out, as they are giving serious consideration to dropping their football program altogether. But it would still help to have a Cali school – Fresno might be good. Tell you what – Fresno, BYU, Utah, CSU, AFA, UNLV, Wyoming and NM can make up the West division, and TCU can slide over to the East to join whoever is left from potential Big Ten or ACC grabs. I thought about throwing Boise in there, but you’d have to leave Wyoming behind to do it, and they go way back with that crowd. The Broncos can just sit there and stew in the further depleted WAC.


      1. Stopping By

        I could def see UT and A&M going to the Pac 10 (although it is still a longshot). If, as Frank points out, the Big XII puts UT at financial risk with much lesser sports schools such as Mizzou and Col (no disrespect to those schools) potentially leaving – why not protect themselves and leave? Can the Big Ten offer more immediate dollars? YES. Will the Big Ten take A&M? NOT SURE. Can UT dictate the terms for a move to the Big Ten? NO.

        With a Pac 10 move, they can easily move with A&M and more importantly – dictate the terms. Frank pointed out the Big Ten’s one for all and all for one mentality which UT doesn’t share (at least from a birds eye POV). Pac 10 will be getting a new and presumably better TV deal (especially with UT on board) beginning in ’12 and should move towards creating a conference network (at least thats what the Weiberg hire leads me to believe). With a better TV contract, a conference network that enjoys the population of CA and TX, in addition to a new conference championship game – the Pac 10 should be able to offer much more than what the Bg XII can.

        While that still doesn’t match what the Big Ten can provide with their already established TV deal and network – UT will control the power in a move to the Pac 10. Pac 10 already runs an unbalanced TV distribution that UT can exploit and/or improve upon in addition to any other increased percentages or concessions they can take advantage of in the move. The Pac 10 needs UT more then the other way around IMO so it is worth them bending to UT’s demands. UT’s pot from the Pac 10 would be big but from a much bigger (again presummably) pot so every school would be netting more dollars than currently. So it ends up being a win-win. The Pac 10’s alternative is Colorado and Utah…..and that just doesn’t create the same buzz or revenue thats needed.


    2. You talk about the MWC and Big East merging… this is a pie-in-the-sky, half-baked idea that’s admittedly geographically based… but what about the MWC and Big 12 merging? This assumes the Big 12 takes a loss or two that goes right at the heart of the conference, such as an original Big 8 school or Texas.

      Suppose the conference loses Texas and Texas A&M to the Big 10 or Pac-10, plus Colorado to the Pac-10 or Missouri to the Big 10. That causes the conference to crack up. Meanwhile, the Mountain West’s power schools are threatened by Pac-10 expansion. So the remaining name schools of the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska) join with the remaining name schools of the MWC (Utah, TCU, and BYU; Air Force joins as well if Colorado leaves because it brings the Denver market as well as anybody left and is secretly the fourth best MWC football school that comes very close to the Top 25 every year).

      To fill out the conference, they pick from the following list: Boise State (unlikely because all they bring is football; they’re slightly geographically distant from the core teams, they’re in a small market, and they’re not that great at basketball or academics), SMU (dormant football tradition, rivalry with TCU), Houston (dormant rivalry with SMU and TCU, good market, budding football program), Oklahoma State (good at football and basketball, rivalry with Oklahoma), Kansas State (good at basketball, rivalry with Kansas), Missouri or Colorado (whichever doesn’t bolt; Missou is more likely because their teams are better), New Mexico (good basketball program), Texas Tech (getting good at football, but maybe otherwise a longshot?), Fresno State (more of a longshot than Boise because of small market, not good at basketball, geographic distance, and not all that good at football), Nevada and/or UNLV (good at basketball, Nevada is decent at football, bring decent-sized Las Vegas market), Memphis (borders the Mississippi so not as much of a geographic outlier as you might think, good at basketball, dormant in football, brings a decent-sized market), and other schools I’m not thinking of because this is a half-baked idea in the first place. Such a combined conference could even raid Big East schools like Cincinnati or Louisville.


      1. Screw that. OrderRestored gave the same basic concept more thought below. The point is, if Texas bolts the Big 12 is staring at becoming a mid-major conference (if not dissolution, especially if a Big 8 school bolts), so don’t be surprised if they look at merging with an MWC under attack by the Pac-10 and with dimming hopes of AQ status. They could keep it at 10 or 12 by jettisoning a lot of their weaker schools, enough to raid the WAC and C-USA (though the WAC doesn’t have many real attractive schools; Nevada might be more attractive than Boise). Those two conferences could then pick up the schools left behind. It won’t be as strong as the Big 12 with Texas, but it might be strong enough to keep/gain AQ status and put multiple teams in the basketball tournament every year.


      2. m (Ag)

        After everyone bolts the Big 12, the remaining schools will still (for awhile anyway) have an automatic bid for the BCS, so they have the power. It’s doubtful they’ll kick anyone out.

        Instead they will pick and choose who to invite to fill out their conference. They’ll try and add schools that either bring tv sets or add to their power (to maintain their BCS bid). If a school can do both, they’ll be first asked.


  9. Thanks for the great posts, Frank. Your work is really well-thought out.

    The one question I would have is whether DePaul delivers the Chicago market as well as Syracuse, Villanova, etc deliver their big city markets. If not, perhaps the exclusion of DePaul for an all-sports member with a strong basketball program and football potential (read: Memphis or Temple) would stand the Big East well.

    Obviously I prefer keeping the hybrid structure as I believe the conference will be less vulnerable if the Big Ten looks west. I agree with your previous points that the Big Ten (or ACC) expanding past 12 schools isn’t as realistic due to diminishing financial returns.


    1. I don’t think DePaul delivers the Chicago market by itself anymore (that was true 20 years ago), but the “penumbra effect” combining DePaul, Marquette and Notre Dame being all in the same conference has at least given the Big East inroads in the area that it couldn’t achieve with ND basketball alone. As bad as DePaul looks now, it’s all cyclical. When the Big East added schools back in 2003, DePaul and Providence looked like they were going through resurgences while Georgetown and Villanova were down in the dumps. I just don’t think that the Big East will give up on the Chicago market as long as there is a hybrid format. It won’t ever surpass the Big Ten in popularity here, but being a solid #2 in the nation’s #3 media market counts for a lot. Whether it’s fair or not, DePaul’s location will keep it in some type of major conference (whether it’s the hybrid Big East or a split up league with the major Catholic schools).


  10. Adam

    “we live in a world where Penn State is in the Big Ten, Boston College is in the ACC, DePaul, Marquette and South Florida are in the Big East, Louisiana Tech is in the WAC… and TCU is aligned with a bunch of Rocky Mountain schools in the Mountain West. It appears to me that the long distance conference cherry was popped long ago.”

    The fact that those things happened doesn’t mean that they’re good or made a lot of sense. I’m looking at BC in the ACC and La Tech in the WAC as situations I’d designate a “bad idea.”


  11. OrderRestored


    Good point with Pitt joining instead of USF! I admit, I am much more familiar with Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 10 politics than I am with the Big East and the ACC. That looks though like it would be the better option in that scenario.


  12. If the Big East must strike first, I like the idea of adding TCU and another all basketball school as well. Frank mentioned Xavier, St. Louis, or Dayton. Then you have easy scheduling for football (while strengthening the football competition) plus you keep the basketball revenue and perhaps expand it. If you end up losing Notre Dame for bball, then you can either add another bball only school (from the above list of three) or drop the weakest link to keep an even number.

    I don’t like the idea of a split because no matter what happens the Big East footballs will remain vulnerable. If super-conferences become the wave of the future like some predict, UConn/Rutgers/Syracuse/WVU/Pitt all would be picked off in succession. I think staying like it is still dupes people into thinking “nothing to see here…just the same old Big East…great bball, average football” and maybe the pressure to remain a BCS conference is deflected a bit longer.

    If the Big East waits, then I predict Notre Dame is heading to the Big 10. Then their choice may be easy. Grab TCU. Football has 9. BBall still has 16. Again, the least amount of change is good. You add a valuable asset in TCU…you still are vulnerable for the future but for the time being you’ve kept the conference as strong as possible.


  13. Jeff Daniel

    I have said every year since the BE was reformed that what the Big East SHOULD look to do is expand the conference to 18 teams. Add one more Big East Catholic school, (for example, Xavier), and one more Big East Football school with at least a good TV market, if a big hit, (like PSU, BC or Maryland)), is not an option. For example, adding a Memphis or UCF.

    Then with 18 schools you would have a solid 9 school football conference which eases scheduling issues, and allows a balanced scheduled on the home and away issues that hurt home attendance in football games right now with the 4 home 3 away and then 3 home 4 away conference schedule that occurs now.

    Then in other revenue sports like basketball, the conference could be split into two 9 team “divisions”, each playing a full 16-game round-robin intra-division schedule and that even allow for a couple of inter-divisional games for TV/Rivalry matchups. The BE tourney would take the top 6 schools from each division, for a 12 team tourney with the top two teams from each division getting a first round bye. Or they could take top 8 teams, etc. You get the idea.

    In any case, that would strengthen the conference on both sides of the equation, further solidifying the “greatest basketball conference” moniker, while at the same time adding more value to the football side of the equation by fixing a scheduling problem the schools have now, and maintaining a stronger argument for AQ to the BCS.

    One other thing I would do though as the BE. I would tempt fate a LITTLE bit, but put ND in a more uncomfortable position by telling ND that they will never be required to join as a football BE member and as such gets to keep all of their TV revenue money, but must play 3 BE teams a year in football, on a rotational basis. Meaning that ND does not have say as to “who” they play in any given two years. Meaning that say ND plays a home & away game against say Pitt, WVU, SU, for two years, and then UL, RU, UC for two years, and then USF, UConn, ‘x’-team for two years. And then the rotation starts over. That puts pressure on ND to take more interest in the BE conference that they are a member of, but satisfies the BE discontent for ND’s “privileged” standing.


  14. Playoffs Now!

    “…the only legitimate shot that TCU has to get into the Big XII is if both Texas and Texas A&M leave that conference.”

    Actually there are a few scenarios. Take for example the B11 expansion most likely to happen: Nebraska only to get to 12. BYU is the probably replacement, but if Texas and aTm stay rather then departing for the P10, the P10 might well get to 12 by grabbing Utah and Colo. In that case TCU has a decent shot of being the replacement, there aren’t any better options for a B12 needing only 1 more member. As far as divisions go, either TTech would be kicked up north, or OU and OK St would be with BYU being a far-flung extension of a state of Texas dominated Southwest Division. The latter would only occur if the B12 allowed 1 cross-division rivalry to be protected as an annual game and likely added a 9th conference game (something shot down before.)

    And of course there is my nuclear option scenario: The B11 decides to go for the ultimate possible academic/athletic conferences and convinces the 4 Cal schools to join. The B11’s list for the 16th member would probably be 1-ND, 2-TX, 3-WA. Say 1 and 2 don’t happen and WA accepts (stripping the former P10 of its 5 best academic programs.) In that case the B12 is the more attractive conference compared to the P5, and would likely go to 16 to stay competitive. Oregon would be the most obvious target, along with BYU, ASU, and Zona. But TCU could be in the mix instead of 1 of the AZ schools. TCU might even be a target in a bidding war if the P5 or P6 tried to stay intact and expand while the B12 was going to 16.


    1. Richard

      Of course, if the Big12 loses both Nebraska and Colorado, it’s hard to see Texas staying unless they work out a super-sweetheart TV deal with the Big12 (they get to keep nearly all the TV revenue from all the games featuring Texas for their cable network or something like that).


    2. Jake

      Or the Pac-10 could just expand with CU and TCU. Or Utah and TCU, if CU can’t afford the move. (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?) I mean, if Utah is a serious candidate, why not TCU? We bring in more revenue, we’re in a better market, and you get a Texas recruiting foothold. A Texas team would be a big boost to a potential Pac-10(12) network, and TCU could give Oregon a run for its money in the cheerleader department:

      As for division alignments, you simply split everyone from their traditional rival and steal a page from the ACC (division names and specific alignments are still up for discussion, but this gives you an idea):

      Pacific Division:

      Coastal Division:

      Then you have a “rivalry week” around the middle of the season where USC plays UCLA, Cal plays Stanford, etc. Everyone gets to play a southern California team every year, and with the two remaining non-divisional conference games, you could maintain some traditional rivalries. And then you have the title game in LA every year, hopefully in this new NFL stadium they’re planning.


      1. Richard

        You’d run in to the possible scenario where UCLA and USC are already guaranteed to win their divisions, so they rest their starters because they will be playing next week in the conference championship game again.

        Nobody would want that.


      2. Jake

        That’s why you move rivalry week up to the middle of the season, like Texas-OU. You’d give up the season-ending tradition, but there’s a chance they’d meet again in the title game. And if you do have a title game, meeting the last week of the season isn’t as big of a deal anyway. That’s something the Pac-10 will have to deal with no matter who they add.


      3. Richard

        More likely is that they’ll “deal with it” by not expanding to 12 teams. Even if bringing in the Texas schools means more TV money for the Pac10, the Northwest schools will have to be compensated an awful lot to be willing to give up their pair of annual games against the SoCal teams, because they have a lot of alums there, that’s where they recruit the bulk of their football teams, and playing USC (and to a lesser extent UCLA) at home is how they sell season tickets.


      4. Jake

        Yeah … that unanimous vote rule is looking pretty shortsighted right now. I keep forgetting that WSU wields as much power in the Pac-10 as USC when it comes to expansion. That’s the sort of thing that could really prompt the Cali. schools to leave for a new super-conference. Hopefully the Northwest schools come to understand that the conference needs to expand in order to survive. Maybe title game revenue, plus a conference TV network, plus access to the Texas market and recruiting grounds will do it.


    3. m (Ag)

      If the Big XII has to add schools and Texas and A&M are both still in conference, I think New Mexico probably comes in 2nd after BYU. A small state, but one that adds some new viewers and is a good geographic fit.

      After that, I think they might look even further away for replacements that bring new tv viewers. Rather than add a 2nd tier school in Texas (where they already dominate), maybe they look to Fresno State, a 2nd tier school in California. Or perhaps some Big East members that would be willing to move to a more respectable football conference (remember, we’re talking a scenario where where the Big 12 South is still intact). USF and UCF together might make a nice package to make an impact in Florida.

      I just don’t think the Big 12 will be looking to add a 5th Texas school.


      1. I agree with this line of thinking. I’ve mentioned before that New Mexico is VERY underrated in these expansion discussions. It’s a rapidly growing state and the Lobos have a great fan base. They’d be a great target for the Big XII regardless of where Texas and Texas A&M end up.


      2. Jake

        I was thinking Louisville or Cincy might be good picks. If you’ve lost CU, then all the remaining schools are in Central Time. If you’re going to add a school from a different time zone, might as well go East to the bigger markets. You could add one of those plus BYU if the Big 12 doesn’t mind spanning three time zones.


      3. Richard

        Memphis. Unlike Louisville & Cincy, it’s in the Central timezone, not Eastern, and it’s actually within driving distance of some Big12 states (not unimportant to fans), and those 3 are all about the same quality anyway.

        In any case, this would only be if both Nebraska & Colorado left and the Pac10 took Utah already, since BYU would be the first-choice replacement for the Big12.


  15. OrderRestored

    I agree that TCU is probably 2nd in line to join the Big 12 behind BYU; but the problem with that scenario is that Colorado just simply doesn’t have the cash required to leave the Big 12 at this point in time (I do think they will be gone within the next 7 years or so or whenever the next TV contract ends) at this moment right now though I do not believe they could leave even if they wanted to. Good point though; that is a very real possibility.

    The Doomsday Scenario is interesting as well. Here is my ‘nuclear scenario’ in all these realignment talks:

    Say the Pac 10 swings for the fences and makes the jump from 10 to 14 teams taking Texas, Texas A&M, Utah, and Colorado. I have to believe that would set in motion a domino effect where the Big 10 would also follow suit (seeing the opportunity is now for major change) making the jump to 14 teams and adding Nebraska, Missouri, and Notre Dame (or Maryland if the domers are still resistant, but in my doomsday scenario they comply). The Big 12 would be shattered at this point and I think this is where the SEC makes its move and scoops up Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. (really I think the asset here would be Oklahoma; but I think the two come as a package deal) I think the ACC antes up and goes after Pitt and West Virginia. That makes 4 ‘power’ conferences with 14 teams. But it doesn’t end there; the MWC merges with the remainder of the Big 12 teams + Boise St creating a new 14 team conference that includes:

    East Division
    Texas Tech
    Iowa St
    Kansas St

    West Division
    New Mexico
    San Diego St
    Colorado St
    Air Force
    Boise St

    The Big East does dip into Texas to fill its missing 2 spots; but it goes for Houston. The other remaining spot is given to Navy allowing it to stay with its 8 team format.


    1. Mike B.

      I’ve done my best to remain silent on this, but I can’t anymore. I can’t imagine the Big Ten presidents selling out to add Missouri or Nebraska. Neither school is Big Ten caliber academically, and neither adds a whole lot in terms of new markets. The BTN is already on basic tier cable (Charter) in St. Louis, as well as on UVerse, and of course, satellite. Nebraska is past its prime as a football power, and they stink in everything else.

      The only scenario I could forsee taking one of those pretenders into the greatest conference in the history of college sports is as the 14th team after adding Texas and Texas A&M and if the Big Ten had ehausted all other options, including Pitt.


      1. Mike B.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on the relative academic status of ND, Nebraska, and Mizzou. At least there is little doubt what ND brings to the table from an athletic brand perspective, and from a national footprint perspective.

        I think Frank’s original Expansion index has greatly overrated Nebraska. Other than Omaha, they can’t deliver any market, and as a national brand, they’re fading. They’d also be the worst school in the Big Ten. There’s a reason Osborne is practically begging for membership.


      2. A couple things on Pitt versus Nebraska

        Population of the State of Nebraska : 1,783,432
        Population of the State of Pennsylvania : 12,448,279
        Population of the Pittsburgh Metro Area : 2,431,087

        The Pittsburgh metro area delivers more than the whole state of Nebraska.

        Academics and Size
        Pittsburgh – AAU, US News Rank #56, World Ranking #50, Enrollment 27,562
        Nebraska – AAU, US News Rank #96, Enrollment 23,573

        Nebraska does not have a world ranking.

        Past 5 season Record in Football
        Pitt : 43-30
        Nebraska : 46-30

        Basketball : No Comparison

        One more comment on the Pennsylvania market. I grew up in Pittsburgh and I didn’t watch Penn State football, I watched Pitt. At my fraternity at Pitt, half the guys were from the east side of the state. As much as they might think, Penn State does not own the TV sets in PA. Adding Pitt not only gives the Big Ten PA’s TV market but it gives them something to watch on days other than the 12 saturdays in the fall.


      3. Jake

        Joe – The Big Ten doesn’t have to “own” the sets in Pittsburgh. It just needs enough demand to make the BTN a basic cable station throughout the state that can charge a high subscription fee. Penn State accomplishes that on its own. Pitt’s a good athletic program with a dedicated following, but they don’t bring anything that the Big Ten doesn’t already have. The ACC might be interested, however.

        Also, simply comparing the past five seasons of football isn’t going to convince anyone in a position to make a decision. Nebraska is one of the top dynasties in college football history. They’ll bring in viewers across the country, regardless of the size of their home market.

        Also, how is Pitt’s world ranking higher than it’s national ranking?

        And yes, Nebraska is no good at basketball. No argument there.


      4. Others have reported that the Big 10 network charges one price in states that have a Big 10 school, and a different price for states that do not have a big 10 school. The MSU ‘fact sheet’ I’ve linked to suggests they charge a little under $1 per month to in-state subscribers, and $0.10 for out of state subscribers.

        So even if the Big 10 network is already on every cable network in Missouri, the Big 10 will still get a big financial bump from adding Missouri to the conference. There would be roughly (90 cents) times the number of subscribers in the state to be shared between the Big 10 and their co-owners every month. The fact that there are already fans of other Big 10 schools in the state just means it will be that much harder for Missouri cable companies to balk at the higher price they will charge.

        Presumably, every cable station in Pennsylvania has the Big 10 network at the higher rate. Now, they could charge more for adds if Pitt was added, but the same is true for Missouri.


      5. The US News Ranking is just undergrad while the world ranking includes graduate studies.

        The Big Ten Network is not on Armstrong Cable, Blue Ridge Cable and Service Electric Broadband Cable to name a few and these three alone make up 750,000 households.


      6. Jake

        So, there are cable providers in Pennsylvania that don’t offer the Big Ten Network at all, but it’s on basic down here in Texas? Crazy world.


  16. m (Ag)

    It’s been fun thinking of all these different scenarios over the past few weeks.

    Since Notre Dame is a sometime associate of the Big East, I’ll bring up my ‘Notre Dame finally joins a conference’ scenario. I think the conference they would most likely consider joining isn’t the Big 10 or the Big East, but the Pac 10 after they added the 2 Texas schools.

    I’ve said in other threads that I don’t think Notre Dame would be a great addition for the Big 10 because it would become just another regional school, albeit one with a great history.

    However, if the Pac 10 goes to 14 or 16 schools, consider this possible arrangement (everyone has 1 permanent cross divisional game):
    Division A: USC, Stanford, WSU, ASU, Oregon State, Texas A&M, Notre Dame
    Division B: UCLA, Cal, Washington, Arizona, Oregon, Texas, Colorado or Missouri or Nebraska

    Notre Dame would play games from the West Coast to the interior of the country, it would have rivals USC and Stanford in division, and it would still have 3-4 non-conference games they could schedule against Navy/Purdue/BC/Michigan State. This would maintain Notre Dame’s national brand. Playing games in Arizona, California, and Texas, all with large Latino populations, would be crucial to maintaing its image as the ‘National Catholic University’.

    An even better setup for Notre Dame might be a 16 team Pac 10 with rotating divisions, where Notre Dame would be permitted to choose 3 East Coast pals to join its group. I don’t think this would be as appealing to the Pac 10 or the Texas schools, but I thought I’d mention it:
    Southwest Pod: 4 California Schools
    Northwest Pod: 2 Washington & 2 Oregon Schools
    “Southeast” Pod: 2 Arizona & 2 Texas Schools
    Northeast Pod: Notre Dame, Boston College, + 2 from Pitt/UConn/Syracuse/Rutgers

    Notre Dame would get 3 annual games agains Northeast teams, plus would get a home and away series with every other team in the conference every 4 years.


  17. OrderRestored

    Mike B.,

    You had better check your facts before you start posting opinions as facts. Nebraska had the #4 most lucrative football franchise for the 2008-2009 season; that’s not my opinion, that’s according to Forbes. I’d hardly consider that to be ‘fading’. Nebraska has a huge national following which is why the smaller state population is really offset. Its cool if you want to spout off opinions (thats what forums like this are for) but state them as opinions and don’t try to pass them off as fact. Missouri is not anywhere near the level of candidate that Nebraska or Notre Dame is. Notre Dame ofcourse being the absolute best candidate. Nebraska, however, as Frank so well put it is “Notre Dame-lite”. They have a national following that is unique to only a few elite programs. That is why Nebraska is considered one of the top candidates in this whole discussion.


    1. 84Lion

      Order, thanks very much – you said it better than I could have. I’d also like to point out that as far as UNL being “not Big Ten caliber” academically, well, yeah, they’d probably rank as lowest school academically in the Big Ten, but other than UT, there aren’t many schools better academically than those in the Big Ten. Nebraska is an AAU member and has some history as the first school west of the Mississippi to grant a graduate degree. As far as Nebraska being “past its prime” you might want to ask UT how far “past their prime” Nebraska is. They sure gave UT all they could handle in the Big 12 championship game and I believe Big Red took care of business in their bowl game.
      I’m a bit curious why Mikey believes Pitt is a better option than Nebraska. OK, I’ll grant that Pitt has a good basketball team but I think you have to agree that as far as athletics football drives the bus. Pitt had a good football team last year, but being good in Big East football isn’t any great shakes either (note Cincinnati’s performance against Florida…). Pitt has a good academic reputation, but as far as delivering new markets, Pitt doesn’t do anything there.
      Nebraska would be an awesome add to the Big Ten, and I hope they are chosen. And not just because I’m a Penn State grad and my wife graduated from UNL! Nebraska has a lot to offer and I don’t believe they’d try to assert themselves in the Big Ten the way UT or ND would.


      1. Richard

        I agree. Granted, times are different now, but MSU was the lowest on the totem pole academically when they were admitted to the Big10. Texas, actually, would just be solidly in the middle of the Big10. If you want to add schools that are actually _better_ than the Big10 average in research, you’d be limited to only a handful who play football (Stanford, Cal, UCLA).


    2. Mike B.

      Order…I never said Nebraska was better than Mizzou. I said I didn’t think either were good enough, and that they didn’t bring enough to the table to offset their pitiful academics.

      And I’m fully aware of what Forbes magazine said about Nebraska. And, yes, it is my opinion that the value of their franchise is fading. But what is a fact is that Nebraska football is a mere shell of what it was in the Devaney/Osborne era. Value tends to follow performance in these things. It was pretty funny to see the younger base of Missouri fans melt down after they lost to *gasp* Nebraska.

      So when ABC is carrying the Nebraska-Michigan St. game, in which markets is ESPN going to show that game that they wouldn’t show, say Iowa-Michigan St.? And lets assume in both cases that ABC is carrying Oklahoma-Missouri at the same time (ABC frequently pits Big XII and Big Ten games along side one another for regional games).

      If the rest of the old Big 8 hangs together, either with Texas, or with Texas going to the Pac 10, I just don’t see any important markets that Nebraska adds for most Big Ten games regionally or nationally.


      1. Mike B.

        To further my point, here’s an ABC coverage map from 2008 when Penn St.-Illinois was on against Nebraska-Virginia Tech. Again I ask, what markets does Nebraska bring to the Big Ten? Note that Nebraska couldn’t even deliver the St. Louis market on this particular Saturday evening…


        1. zeek

          Nobody beats Penn State in the northeast…

          Look at the most recent one; Nebraska-Washington got the Northeast, whereas the Wisconsin-Arizona State game only got Arizona/New Mexico and the core Midwest.

          That puts Nebraska as a solid 4th at worst in the Big Ten as a draw in the Northeast, since it’s better than Wisconsin according to the ABC choice…


      2. Richard

        Hardly shocking that Illinois would beat out Nebraska in St. Louis. Illinois would beat out Texas (or Florida, or USC) in St. Louis as well. Nebraska may not have a large population where it’s the number 1 most popular team (Nebraska, the Dakotas, and some areas surrounding Nebraska), but you can be sure that Nebraska woud garner higher national ratings than, say, Pitt.


      3. Mike B.

        Well, when you consider that St. Louis is a BigXII market, and Nebraska is allegedly this 800lb football gorilla, and ABC picks a Big Ten game for the second biggest non-Texas Market in the Big XII. It might not be shocking, but it should be eye-opening to those who consider Nebraska a slam-dunk plus on the football side, when they add nothing academically.


      1. Richard

        He’s making a case for Rutgers. Academically, Rutgers would fit in fine in the Big10. They also have the best recruiting grounds if Texas (or Florida/Virginia/California) aren’t options. Rutgers fans also travel pretty well (to bowls and away games); they wouldn’t travel as well as Nebraska, ND, or Texas, but they’re considerably better than Pitt, ‘Cuse, or Mizzou. Rutgers also would be the best option for Big10 alums; the Big10 probably sends more people to NYC/NJ than any metropolitan area outside the Big10 footprint.

        The big question is how many viewers they would deliver. The record’s not inspiring, but then again, they’ve been regularly playing Big East teams; it’s hard to get New Yorkers excited when the biggest opponent for Rutgers so far in a football game is Louisville. Cycle Michigan, OSU, and PSU (maybe even ND) through, and there may be more interest.


      2. Jeepers

        The problem I have with Rutgers is that if Schiano were to leave for whatever reason, I think they’d return to being terrible very quickly.

        Missouri can fall back on their geography. Pitt could fall back on geography and basketball. Syracuse on basketball and sorta geography. Rutgers would be the new guy with a bad football team miles away from the Big Ten epicenter.


      3. Rick

        Losing Schiano would hurt. But the idea that they would fall back to being miserable again is not a given. If at the time, they are in the Big Ten, Schiano has continued W/L success, has built a very solid foundation, continued bowl success, continued sending players to the NFL, and continued the academic performance of the team, I think it would be a very attractive job for some very good coaches.

        While their overall schedule since 2006 is relatively weak (very weak outside BE), they do have a 69% Winning Percentage, 4-1 in bowl games in the last 5 years (small bowls grant you), overall 1-0 v. Big Ten, 1-0 v. Big 12, 3-2 v. ACC, 0-1 v. WAC, 0-1 v. PAC 10 (2005) 5-0 v. MAC/Sun Belt/CUSA.

        They have 20 current players in the NFL, probably 2 drafted this year in the 1st 2 rounds.

        Academically, for the Football team, their GSR (Graduation Success Rate) is 81% (only Penn State with 85% was higher in the Big Ten), and the APR (Academic Progress Rate) is in the 90th percentile (none higher in the Big Ten), 1 of 6 D1 schools to receive public recognition by the NCAA (top 10% for Football APR; Stanford, Duke, Rice, Navy, Air Force, and Rutgers). This is not in any way discounting the overall excellence of the Big Ten schools as a whole just pointing out the Football teams’ academic performance (which is overall very good with a few exceptions).

        Rutgers is a good candidate, so are all the others, some better, some may be much better. In the end it should be interesting what transpires.


  18. Jake

    “DeLoss Dodds has since told AP that the school’s relationship with the Big Ten ‘is working. I like it … We’re always going to be looked at. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. That’s a good thing.'”

    Wait – UT’s relationship with the Big Ten is working? What relationship does UT have with the Big Ten? Is that a typo? If not, that’s kind of a big revelation by Dodds.

    Alright, so first it was 15, now it’s five. Are these the finalists, or is this just the first wave? Do we have two more waves of schools to look at? I find it hard to believe that Missouri was included but not Nebraska.


    1. Richard

      Looks like the first wave:
      “The source, though, called those five “the obvious suspects” and cautioned that other universities could earn consideration.”


    2. It was a typo. The original interview was about the Big 12. Dodds confirmed that all was well with Big 12. Kind of a big typo…I wonder if this went to print. I see mistakes all the time on the internet among journalists…this is OBVIOUSLY a huge one.


  19. OrderRestored

    Mike B.,
    You really aren’t making a point. My question for you is why would Nebraska carry the St. Louis area over the Penn St.- Illinois game? That is like asking you why the Wisconsin-Iowa game didn’t carry the Kansas City area over whatever Nebraska game was on that weekend. You aren’t making a very well thought out point here Mike. I don’t mean to come off as disrespectful or anything of that sort; but I’m not sure why Nebraska not carrying the St. Louis area in this example means anything at all.


  20. OrderRestored

    You make a good point here. But I ask then; how many nationally televised prime time games would you anticipate for the duration of a year with Missouri or Pittsburgh joining the Big 10 vs how many would be televised if Nebraska were to join. Nebraska has been down the last few years; but I am part of that ‘younger generation’ and I still have great respect for the University of Nebraska from a football standpoint. What sounds like the more nationally marketable match up, what holds more weight: Pittsburgh vs Michigan, Missouri vs Michigan, or Nebraska vs Michigan? Missouri vs Ohio St, Pittsburgh vs Ohio St, or Nebraska vs Ohio St? Missouri vs Wisconsin, Pittsburgh vs Wisconsin, or Nebraska vs Wisconsin?

    Also look at the fan interest in those team’s fan bases as of right now, these percentages are percent capacity for each schools home games:

    Missouri – 90.30
    Pittsburgh- 81.64
    Nebraska – 105.95

    The Big 10 average is: 85% (that includes the Northwestern percentage of 51.33%, the next lowest was Purdue at 81%)

    If the home fanbases for Pittsburgh and Missouri can’t even sell out a home game regularly, the I don’t see either one of the being the “big splash” that Barry Alvarez refers to. I’m not saying Nebraska is the best choice out there….but from the criteria I’ve read; they seem like the best match. Every school has its down side though and Nebraska’s is their state population.


    1. Kyle

      I don’t think home attendance or percentage numbers mean as much as you think. There are a lot more factors at play; Pitt has two issues that I can think of. Building traditions and memories in a new building; Pitt has only been in Heinz Field for 9 season and they’re still building the alumni base that consider it ‘home.’ Second, they’re in a very strong pro market. Minnesota and Northwestern have the same problem along with schools like Miami and maybe Maryland. Pitt still outdraws all of them, even if their average is 12,000 under capacity.


      1. Richard

        True, though to use your analogy, I would think the Big10 would rather bring in an OSU, or failing that, a Wisconsin, rather than a Minnesota.


      2. Kyle

        I agree, but even if the football brand is on a level similar to Minnesota, the football product is much better. The basketball brand and product is WAY better. It’s the too-good geography that kills Pitt’s chances.

        If Pitt had the location that Syracuse, Rutgers, or Maryland has, they might have got the call back in 2003.


  21. TCU Fan1

    As a TCU fan and alum, I would think that we would jump at any BCS offer. Though I think our fan-base identifies more with southwestern and mountain time zone schools, I think if the Big East offered, we would join with several conditions. The current Big East is not stable and I think our President and Athletic Director and fans would like to having something more stable. Second point, while we were in C-USA in terms of football, only East Carolina, Southern Miss, and Louisville were trips worth making and seemed to be the only schools outside of us that were serious about football. Moreover, if the Big East had to expand outside of TCU, East Carolina is probably the obvious choice on that hand for football, baseball, and their number of fan reasons and then Southern Miss. I had a chance to go to almost every C-USA away football game that involved the Frogs and those were the best programs in terms of football and fans. Adding another Texas school would be great as well to thrown in the mix and make things a little easier for us. Houston is a good choice as they are once again re-starting their program and are committed to winning. If I had a choice as how this hybrid Big East would look I would say:

    West Virginia

    East Carolina
    Southern Miss

    Honestly, I would prefer a move to the Big 12 or Pac 10 but would be happy with the Big East. The Cowboys play in the NFC East so it would not be a stretch.


  22. Nivek

    No way Syracuse and Georgetown will ever split. Too much history – they built the Big East back in the day!

    Keep the football alignment you suggest but leave basketball, lacrosse, and other sports alone.

    That is my 2 cents…


    1. Michael

      If Georgetown is so important, it’s not impossible for the two schools to schedule home-and-home series in basketball every year.

      As for “too much history,” the Big East still is only 30 years old. Remember that the Southwest Conference was together for 70 years, and that group still split.

      Syracuse wouldn’t turn down the very lucrative opportunity to be in the Big Ten just for Georgetown, or Providence, or anyone else. They wouldn’t turn down a Big East split, either, if it meant Syracuse would be protecting its own financial interests.


      1. Richard

        To be fair, there’s not much he can do. I mean, what are his options? Remember that the commissioner works for the university presidents, and if the schools disagree with each other, he can’t take any particular position without pissing people off. The Big12 commish is in the same unenviable position (if not more so), since that conference is riven between north&south, big school vs. small school, etc.


  23. Jack

    What about a football Big East with the current eight teams and two of the service schools – Navy and Army. Navy has proven that they can be competitive most years and actually quite good. It would seem that if Army lands the right coach they can also be competitive. These two schools also bring a rich tradition that includes playing the BE core teams – SU, PITT, WVU, RUT, as well as solid teams – UC, USF and Lou. If the BE sought to go to twelve an option for the 11th team would be Temple. The 12th team would be tough to choose, maybe ECU. One criticism that might be leveled at this configuration would be TV market. I do think that the core teams and the addition of ARMY-NAVY would add some cache to the league, keep revenues at a decent level. From a perspective of Eastern football, this league would go along way toward preserving that tradition. There would seem to be a relatively easy break into No-So or East-West Divisions. I do recognize that money (TV market shares) may be the bottom line and such a configuration may not cut it.


    1. Michael

      TCU would be a great choice in a split-off Big East. Houston would too because of its market size AND because there’s evidence to believe they’ll only get better in football and b-ball. Memphis would be a ‘project’ like Cincinnati in football, but it would be great for basketball.

      But I wouldn’t go with Temple back in the Big East. They’ve improved, yes, but they’re nowhere near being “BCS-ready.” I can see Big East viewership being strong in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, and Memphis, but Temple would not add anything appealing enough for viewers in Philly to make any noticeable impact.

      Instead, since we’re saying, “to hell with geography,” why not look into BYU? You know get a host of Mormon viewers with them. You get pretty much all of Utah, instead of a teeny-tiny portion of Philadelphia. Based on the fact its strong history, you get a much better national audience than Temple. BYU is about as “BCS-ready” as they come.

      Now I would not include Boise State. They bring virtually no market, and while the Big East doesn’t demand ACC- or Big Ten-level standards for academic reputation, it does have standards. I would also not include ECU (dedicated but tiny market size), UCF (lost in the crowd of four in-state BCS schools), or other common suggestions.


    2. Boyee

      They best way to get to 12 for the Big East in football is to add Temple and UMass for all sports and add Army, Navy, Air Force and your pick of SMU or UCF or ECU as football only members This way you get two historically good basketball programs and decent FBS football programs that are both in the original geographic footprint of the Big East. All other Conference USA members are jokes for football and would make the Big East lose their AQ.


  24. Michael

    I really, really like your analysis here. It’s refreshing to read something so logical as opposed to all these ridiculous ideas like the “Pac-16!!!”
    I do want to ask you a little more about your assumption that the MWC, as it’s currently comprised with TCU, BYU, & Utah, won’t get an automatic bid. I realize, of course, that the MWC might stumble the next two years and fail to meet the 3 pre-determined criteria, but I doubt it. The top 3 programs are solid, and the middle & bottom teams certainly aren’t getting worse.
    I just can’t imagine the MWC meeting the criteria and the 6 power leagues refusing to honor that agreement in such a public manner. They may be able to put a spin on why there aren’t playoffs, but there’s no spin they could put on dishonoring their agreement. Would not a lawsuit follow that the 6 power leagues couldn’t win?
    Now if the MWC loses Utah and/or BYU, then the MWC won’t be getting an autobid.


    1. Jake

      As long as BYU and Utah are in the MWC, the conference will also have Orrin Hatch in it’s corner. That helps, too. Giving an autobid to a conference that’s earning them most seasons anyway (particularly if Boise is included) is a small price to pay to keep Congress off your back.

      If just BYU left, Boise could be pulled in as a replacement, and the conference’s BCS evaluation numbers would actually improve (of course, they’d lose the national LDS fanbase, but that’s another issue). And if Boise does get the invite without anyone leaving – and they must be invited before July 1, 2010, if their numbers are going to count for this evaluation period – then it will get even harder to say no. If the Big East somehow lost it’s autobid (the BCS denies that’s a possibility, but you know they want to), then the other conferences wouldn’t really be giving anything up.

      An autobid wouldn’t mean a thing for the MWC members if the Pac-10 or Big 12 comes calling. But it might keep TCU from leaving for the Big East.

      Of course, this is all assuming the league stays more or less intact, which is a big if at this point. I don’t really buy the Utah-to-the-Pac-10 rumors, but the Big 12 and Big East could both be looking for new members soon.


  25. Ghost of Elf

    Great stuff, Frank. And yes, I completely agree with you about TCU. They would add value to a new/reconfigured ‘BEast’, if it came to that. Of course, I believe they were turned down by the BE when the Cusa teams left after the ACC raid. So, keeping that in mind, there could be some trust issues/hurt feelings that may complicate things if the BE approached them.
    I suspect, however, if it came to a true pursuit of TCU, if would be the ‘remnants’ of the BE that would be doing it. Whether they could lure the Frogs away would be largely dependent on whether the MWC is decimated by the Pac-10 or B-12, or both.
    I suspect that only this remnant scenario would make trying to get TCU even plausible. The Northeast BE teams likely have no interest in going all the way to Texas, so they would have to be gone, and the conference core shifting more westward–say to where Pitt, WVU, UC and UL are. Add in Memphis as a kind of bridge, and Texas is opened up to the new conference, whatever it would be called.
    I can fully envision both the B-10 AND the ACC raiding the NE, btw…


  26. kingottoiii

    Frank love the blog.

    As to the BE I think there are three different outcomes:

    1. Split
    2. Expand
    3. Kick teams out

    1. If the FB teams split they would most likely add one team and one team only. BE teams barely bring in any FB money as is. Expanding to 10 or 12 just doesn’t make $en$e. Even going to 9 would hurt but you almost have to go to 9 to help with the scheduling issues that BE FB teams have. In today’s CFB environment it is hard for BCS teams to find 4 OOC games. Which makes things even harder in the BE which has to find 5 OOC games.

    IMO that one team would come down to UCF or Memphis. Both bring new markets and both have home town Bowl games that the BE may b e able to get into. UCF adds a travel partner for USF, meaning the BE could use the P10 model for non FB sports limiting expenses. Memphis has FedEx money in their pocket. And they currently hired former BE commissioner Mike T as a consultant. So they have a “in”.

    The only way I see TCU joining is if the B11 or ACC steal a BE school. In that case the BE would need 2 FB teams to add. So you can take TCU and Houston to help with travel.

    2. Having 16 teams is kinda silly but is 17 or 18 really any crazier? As I said above the FB teams need a 9th for scheduling. While 17 is an odd number it easily provides 16 conf games or if you want 18 you can play 2 teams twice. With 18 teams you can play 18 conf games with one main rival twice. Also it keeps the balance of BBall vs FB schools at 9 each. So the first team would be UCF or Memphis. I think the best choice for the second team would be St Louis which is a Catholic school and adds a new market. Richmond and Dayton are possibilities as well. I don’t think UMass would be taken for fear of them wanting in eventually for FB. The BBall schools would not want that and the FB schools would not want to split the pie and program build for UMass.

    3. Again for FB you need 9 so in comes UCF or Memphis. Now if the FB schools “leave” they can take 3 BBall schools with them to have a 9 FB and 12 BBall conf. Seton Hall, DePaul, Providence, and St Johns add very little to the conference. Those schools have some history, especially St Johns. But small private schools with little $ to improve means they won’t likely get much better. While they are in good markets, those markets are already covered by other BE schools. Marq is just far away. So if the FB schools split and keep ND, GTown, and Nova all of the good teams and the markets come along to the new conf.

    IMO #3 is the best scenario for the conf to survive. And the Basketball conf would be even better as you cut the fat of 4 bottom teams and replace Marq with Memphis.


    1. I’ve seen option #3 proposed but from what I understand, you need a unanimous vote to kick anyone out of the Big East. I highly doubt you’re going to get all of the Catholic schools to turn on one or more of their own. Option #2 might be the way to go as a stop-gap since from a scheduling perspective, 18 schools actually works better than 16 schools (everyone has 1 protected rival for home-and-home and play everyone else once per season). Adding Memphis and SLU makes a lot of sense there. The main concern is that I feel as though the Big East at 16 schools is already missing out on NCAA Tournament bids because of its size – there seems to be a virtual ceiling of 8 schools (50% of the league) that can get into the Tourney in any given year. Meanwhile, you’ll see smaller leagues like the Big Ten, Big XII and ACC regularly get 7 schools into the Tourney themselves. It’s not the determining factor if there’s more money to be made from TV, but the BE basketball schedule is a tough gauntlet already.


      1. kingottoiii

        That is why I put leaves in “”. If the FB schools say we are leaving but want you (GTown, ND, and Nova) to come with us then they can stay in tack without kicking teams out. Technically the 5 BBall schools left over would own the Big East name still. But those schools are more likely to join other confs then keep the Big East by expanding. So the new conf would have to buy the BE name or use a new name. Buying the name would allow them to not have a guilty conscience for leaving the 5 behind.

        I think this year we will see if the BE has a cap. I think 7 teams are pretty much in. Then ND has a real good shot. UConn and Seton Hall can still make it by winning their next 3 games (making BE quarter finals).

        I don’t mind the 18 team league. I rather see UCF but it is more likely Memphis. So the designated rivals would be:


        Not sure where you stick Memphis in that group if they are in over UCF.


        1. Boyee

          If the Big East was going to add Memphis, they would have done so when they took DePaul, Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida. Memphis has a terrible football program.


    2. Jake

      I don’t think the Big East football schools will leave the conference. They are desperately clinging to that BCS auto-bid, and if they formed a new conference that would give the other BCS conferences a perfect opportunity to do away with it.

      If the basketball schools split off to form a separate conference they might give up their NCAA Tourney autobid for a while, but they would eventually get it back; they would still be a pretty good basketball conference. The football schools would not be so fortunate.

      Of course, if the Big East did lose its privileged BCS status, the “haves” would lose their majority, as there would then be 6 “mid-majors” to 5 BCS conferences, and 63 “mid-major” teams to 57 BCS teams. Not sure if that’s a concern.


      1. Michael

        I don’t think the other conferences are necessarily anxious for the Big East to lose their autobid. Granted, each conference wants what’s best for itself, but I think the BCS leagues have a strong degree of respect for schools like West Virginia and Rutgers, and especially Syracuse and Pitt, based on their histories. I get the impression that they may thumb their noses at Louisville, Cincy, USF, and UConn because their newbies to the world of major conferences


  27. chris

    I’m a recent Notre Dame graduate. I would be martyred for saying this, but I want Notre Dame to join the Big Ten. Playing an independent schedule is lovely, but the time is ticking on that before the BCS conference schools get upset at so-called “sweetheart deals” Notre Dame receives from the NCAA. I would also love the academic benefits of joining the Big Ten.

    If Notre Dame doesn’t join the Big Ten, I predict it goes to the ACC. They have no football interest in aligning with the Big East. If the Big East were to collapse in basketball, I predict they’ll go to the next best thing: the ACC.


    1. Michael

      Thank you!

      Granted, some annual games would have to be sacrificed, but ND could still play a fairly national schedule if it is so willing. They need only look at their archrival’s scheduling.

      USC plays nine Pac-10 games, ND, one other national power (like OSU), and the twelfth game is either a mid-level BCS team (like Virginia) or a relatively easier game (like San Jose State).

      USC will be the one rivalry I’m certain they won’t give up. Otherwise, ND can still play Pitt, BC, Navy, Army, and Stanford, just on more of a rotational basis. It wouldn’t be much worse than the way OU now plays Nebraska twice every four years rather than annually. Other non-continuous series can also go on as scheduled (Arizona State, Washington State, UConn).

      I think joining the Big Ten would be a chance for Notre Dame to show that it’s truly willing to play a competitive schedule outside its routine set of games.

      Another former independent, Florida State, didn’t stop scheduling tough opponents just because it joined a conference. For the first 11 seasons in the ACC, FSU still play Florida AND Miami out-of-conference, and for its 11th game FSU played the likes of Notre Dame, USC, Texas A&M (when they were good), and Kansas. This past season, FSU played at Florida, at BYU, and home against USF, in addition to several top 25 ACC opponents.

      The Big Ten is a quality league, but it’s not as though the it’s a total, top-to-bottom juggernaut. As a Big Ten school, Notre Dame could schedule aggressively if it wants.

      When you take into account that the money is better in the Big Ten, and the other options (Big East & ACC) aren’t as appealing, regionally or financially, I’m left scratching my head as to why Notre Dame isn’t chomping at the bit.


    2. Michael


      Maybe they just need to wake up and smell the coffee.

      The argument for Notre Dame to the Big Ten is no longer, “IT’S NOT FAIR!!! ND SHOULD HAVE TO BE IN A CONFERENCE IF EVERYONE ELSE IS!!” Or, “ND is arrogant for not being in a conference.”

      The argument is, “You guys are going to pass up $10 million a year just to maintain your ‘rogue’ image? It’s not like you’ll be giving up USC. Oh, and how well has that national schedule helped with the way your recruits have panned out the past 20 years, anyway?”

      Any finance, math, economics, or business major from ND will realize the Big Ten’s where they ought to be. The Big Ten no longer needs them as much as they need the Big TEn.


      1. Richard

        They’re administration realizes that. They’re just afraid of the backlash from their alums/boosters who always threaten they’ll stop donating if ND joins a conference. Of course, I think the ND admin can call their bluff, and more and more, even ND supporters realize that it’s a question of when, not if, ND will join a conference, because if the college landscape becomes dominated by 3-4 superconferences (which I think it will be eventually), there won’t be a place at the table for an independent ND.


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  29. Fotballfolly

    Here’s the issue with this line of thinking…
    No matter what, if the BE is raided or not, the #1 school on the mouths of those letting out info on the Big Ten expansion is Missouri. And, they (Mizzou) have said they are very open to the idea of joining the Big Ten. That being said, TCU will be the main target of the Big XII (to either replace Mizzou or to increase the league’s number of schools). Face it, NO school would join the BE over the Big XII right now, that’s a pipe dream.
    In reality, any Big East expansion would likely look more like…


    East Carolina/Navy

    for a lower tier “Big Six” conference like the Big East geographic issues are a concern. Travel expenses, fan travel, PR issues, national perception, TV contracts…and on and on. Yes, teams like TCU do put a superior product on the field, however from a traveling, alum/booster point of view, traveling to see a 6-2 Cincy team play a respectable 4-4 Navy team is a MUCH better option than one of traveling to see a 6-2 Bearcats squad take on a highly ranked 8-0 TCU.

    But, really, the Big 10 will take 3 or 4 schools from the Big East. The SEC will take 4 schools from the ACC. The Big XII will take 5 schools from the MWC, WAC and C-USA. The PAC 10 will raid 2 schools from the WAC & MWC. C-USA will go shopping in the Sun Belt, WAC & MWC. The ACC will pick up scraps from the Big East (w/the MAC taking anything left over). And, the MWC, WAC & Sun Belt will combine to make 2 conferences.
    The Big East & Sun Belt will basically become basketball leagues (and yes, ND will stay with the BE). The Big Easy will eventually add Xavier, St.Louis and U.Mass to keep its “elite” basketball status.

    You’ll also eventually have a split of conferences where there is a superconference BCS league and 4 massive NCAA leagues…

    BCS leagues:
    Big Ten + 6
    Big XII plus four
    PAC 16

    NCAA leagues:
    WAC(WAC/MWC/Sun Belt)

    ND will eventually have to join a conference of become even more irrelevant.

    That’s my call.


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  37. Boyee

    The Big 12 might lose Missouri to the SEC, but the Big 12 will not die. They will add BYU to replace Mizzou and if they want to go to 12 will add Louisville and WVU. The Big East should go to 12 football members and back to 16 basketball members. They should add UMass and Temple for all sports. Army, Navy, Air Force and SMU or UCF or ECU for football-only teams.


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