It has been said that if you want answers, you need to follow the money. But in the case of the latest Big Ten expansion rumors -- talking beyond Maryland and Rutgers, already official and in the rearview mirror -- it's hard to get a handle on things. The trail is like a recycling logo, a series of arrows chasing each other forever.
At least that's how it feels if you root for the Gophers. According to the Omaha World-Herald -- citing multiple BCS school sources, albeit anonymously -- the Big Ten's reach might expand to 16 teams. And two schools mentioned often in those discussions are Kansas (Big 12) and ... wait for it ... North Carolina from the ACC.
Based on recent events, it doesn't take the mind long to leap to this delicious irony: the same North Carolina program the Gophers just paid $800,000 to take off their football schedule in 2013 and 2014 could be a permanent fixture on future conference schedules. All, of course, in the name of money (primarily from megabuck TV revenues).
These wouldn't be straight-up media market additions such as Maryland (Washington D.C. and Baltimore) and Rutgers (New York City, at least in theory), though North Carolina and Kansas certainly have broad local bases. They also wouldn't be football-based moves, despite what you might have heard about the pigskin prowess of the Tar Heels.
A cynic might ask whether the Gophers would be so bold as to attempt to buy their way out of a North Carolina game if the two were simply pitted against each other in Big Ten play. Of course they wouldn't, but it wouldn't be for lack of cash. In 2012, each Big Ten school is reportedly taking in $24.6 million in TV/media income. By 2017, SI.com reported, each conference team could receive nearly double that -- $43 million -- thanks to a new TV deal.
That kind of money could pay for a lot of things here at Minnesota -- facilities, coaches, you name it -- but it would no longer buy a North Carolina-free schedule.