Scoggins: Latest Big Ten expansion adds to profits, not product

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 23, 2012 - 11:24 PM

The Big Ten opened its doors -- and money vault --to Rutgers and Maryland this week in moves that will grow its membership to 14 schools. But hey, why stop there?

The Big Ten should just keep peddling its brand and lucrative TV network to other corners of the country. That's what this is all about, anyway. So why not target other schools to add to the fold so that the financial pie grows even larger?

Go after Georgia Tech. The Atlanta market is expansive and remains a hotbed for college football fans. Make Boston College an offer it can't refuse. That's a passionate sports market with plenty of households.

Go west and target Arizona State. Lots of snowbirds down there who presumably have ties to Midwest football. And can you imagine if the Big Ten added UCLA and nudged itself into the Los Angeles market. Whew, what a windfall that would be.

Sound ridiculous? Perhaps, but conference expansion isn't necessarily guided by what makes sense. It only needs to make dollars and cents.

And that's precisely the driving force behind the Big Ten's latest expansion. This decision revolved around expanding the league's geographic footprint more than improving its beleaguered football product. The Big Ten wanted to tap new television markets in order to increase the Big Ten Network's considerable reach and profit margin.

Why else would Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany bail out two financially strapped athletic departments with middling football programs at a time when his conference's football image has taken a beating in national perception? Money, of course.

The Big Ten's migration to the East Coast potentially could generate $200 million annually in cable subscription fees, a TV executive told Sports Illustrated. The Big Ten reportedly distributed $24.6 million to each member school last year. SI.com projects that payouts will increase to $43 million in 2017.

Those figures dwarf the ACC's and Big East's revenue allotments and can pay a lot of bills. That certainly makes Maryland's $50 million buyout from the ACC more palatable. Rutgers' athletic budget is heavily subsidized by the university. Delany tossed both schools a lifeline.

"The Big Ten is really where Rutgers belongs," school president Robert Barchi said.

Really? Since when?

The Big Ten's addition of Nebraska last year sparked excitement around the conference, particularly among fan bases. The Cornhuskers brought rich tradition and history in football and a Midwest connection. That move made sense. This latest expansion generated a collective "huh?" in Big Ten circles. The only people celebrating are those who cash the checks.

We shouldn't be surprised, though. College athletics is big business and decisions are based on demographics and TV viewership as much as anything -- rivalries and tradition be damned.

The fiery Missouri-Kansas rivalry got left in a roadside ditch once Missouri bolted for the SEC. San Diego State is scheduled to join the Big East next season because nothing says East quite like San Diego. Predictably, there already are rumblings that San Diego State might back out over concerns about the Big East's future.

Conference realignment has become the ultimate money grab, and schools are terrified to get left behind once the dominos start to fall. It won't be surprising if the Big Ten's latest bite of the apple triggers more frenzied movement within other conferences and ultimately results in the formation of 16-team superconferences.

Hopefully that's not the case, but it's hard not to consider that possibility because conferences seem to operate under a bigger-is-better philosophy now. Who cares if Rutgers is any good in football as long as the Big Ten can include New York City in its footprint?

The guess here is that Delany is not done dealing. A 16-team conference makes more sense than 14. It just seems inevitable.

The Big Ten could benefit in recruiting by following a population shift south and plucking a few more ACC schools. Georgia Tech makes sense academically and in market size. Virginia has been mentioned as a possible candidate. Delany graduated from North Carolina and probably would love to add his alma mater's national basketball brand to the Big Ten.

Anything seems possible at this point. Fans might not embrace these landscape changes, but geographic footprints and cable subscription fees represent a new reality. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 14 3rd Qtr
Seattle 14
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 80 FINAL
New York 92
Arizona 3 FINAL
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 75 FINAL
Canisius 67
Fordham 77 FINAL
Dayton 101
Manhattan 87 FINAL
Monmouth 76
Quinnipiac 100 FINAL
Niagara 105
Utah 67 FINAL
USC 39
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Houston 70
California 90 FINAL
Washington 88
North Dakota St 64 FINAL
Western Ill 62
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 69 FINAL
West Virginia 78
St Johns 73 FINAL
Seton Hall 78
Delaware 73 FINAL
Hofstra 62
Binghamton 49 FINAL
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 49 FINAL
Hartford 60
William & Mary 72 FINAL
Northeastern 66
Boston College 60 FINAL
(16) North Carolina 72
Virginia 77 FINAL
Clemson 72
(2) Connecticut 83 FINAL
Temple 49
Arkansas 53 FINAL
Alabama 42
Virginia Tech 71 FINAL
Georgia Tech 79
Kansas 58 FINAL
(3) Baylor 66
Canisius 51 FINAL
Rider 52
Monmouth 52 FINAL
Fairfield 54
Quinnipiac 81 FINAL
Saint Peters 50
Butler 55 FINAL
Creighton 62
Wichita State 61 FINAL
Drake 64
Evansville 52 FINAL
Indiana State 67
(18) Miss State 67 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
Villanova 47 FINAL
DePaul 49
Georgetown 73 FINAL
Marquette 80
North Texas 55 FINAL
Rice 58
Auburn 45 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 78
(11) Arizona State 58 FINAL
Utah 48
Missouri State 56 FINAL
Northern Iowa 64
Michigan 60 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 75
Minnesota 49 FINAL
Northwestern 70
Wisconsin 73 FINAL
Illinois 62
Bradley 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 76
Florida 67 FINAL
Vanderbilt 58
(20) Iowa 88 FINAL
(5) Maryland 93
(1) South Carolina 77 FINAL
Ole Miss 59
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close