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May 3, 2010

In-law visited on Thursday and stayed through the weekend. Somehow, the efforts to watch the kids and give the wife and I time to do other things never quite works out.

Each week I think I’ll try and round-up some of the best and strangest conference expansion/realignment material for  a post.

There is no real Big Something news. There is the usual rumor stuff that has been baseless. Even that stuff seems to be getting more sporadic as they get embarrassed by being exposed for being so stupid and inaccurate. This is a good thing.

In the mean time, the one thing that isn’t stopping is speculation. Not just the why and general speculation of how many and which.

You get the pattern. The more the weaknesses of a potential one-school addition become obvious, the more likely the Big Ten is to see strength in numbers and pursue a 14- or 16-team scenario.

Missouri and Nebraska might be more likely to join if the other did. If those schools looked as if they were headed to the Big Ten, Texas might consider the possibility of joining rather than remaining in a weakened Big 12.

If the Big Ten looked to poach some Big East schools, a package that included some combination of, say, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Syracuse would remake the college landscape.

What could ensue is a game of intraconference chicken in which members are torn about leaving the Big East but afraid of not taking the plunge and being left behind in a conference that’s a shell of itself.

Yes, I know, there is no real question. Any Big East team asked will leave simply for the money.

Nor is it simply the quiet desperation where Cinci can find themselves losing out to conference roulette.

There is the realization that Georgetown may lose not just its rivalry with Syracuse but a lot more.

Whatever happens in the coming months will be driven by college sports’ seemingly insatiable quest for more revenue. Specifically, it will be driven by the demands of big-time college football.

But at Georgetown, the heart of this very unsettled and unsettling matter is men’s basketball and, by extension, the viability of the conference the Hoyas helped found in 1979 and build into the nation’s preeminent basketball league, along with Syracuse, Connecticut and Villanova.

It really doesn’t do much to explore the possibilities for the basketball schools. I think they honestly don’t understand how minimized they could become without a full football-basketball conference TV deal. It does make the point many of us who doubt Rutgers true viability.

But Rutgers? It’s a stretch to assume that adding Rutgers, simply because of its proximity to New York, would reel in New York’s coveted TV market.

The ACC, for example, hasn’t exactly converted Boston to college basketball’s Tobacco Road North just by adding Boston College. Boston remains a resolute pro town, and Boston College basketball has suffered for its flight south.

To be fair, it isn’t about actually reeling in eyeballs. So much as it is about getting the Big Ten Network on cable systems in the area.

Meanwhile, even schools safely in relatively stable BCS conferences seem worried — or at least there is speculation of concern. How about Clemson being “stuck” in the ACC?

Right where it is now. Which isn’t a good thing.

At last week’s BCS meetings, the SEC sent a veiled threat that it would be ready if the Big 10 made its move. Commissioner Mike Slive told reporters that “if there is going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful to make sure it maintains its position as one of the nation’s preeminent conferences.”

Some Clemson fans have suggested that CU would be a natural SEC expansion target.

They’re ignoring expansion’s biggest factors: television and money, partners intertwined like peanut butter and jelly.

TV is why the SEC and Big Ten are the two most powerful leagues: Big Ten schools make $22 million per year in TV revenue and SEC schools $17 million. Why? The Big Ten has its own ultra-profitable network; the SEC just signed a 15-year, $3 billion deal with ESPN and CBS.

Future expansion is about maximizing that revenue. That’s why, as CBSSports.com suggested, the SEC could poach the Big 12 for Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

That’s new territory, just like the Eastern seaboard is for the Big Ten.

Money, money, money. No one wants to be in the conference that doesn’t bring it at least close to the same level of money to compete.

For even more absurdity. How about suggesting Kentucky explore a move to the Big Something.

That reason is football.

UK and the overwhelming majority of its fan base may see Kentucky as a basketball school, but even here in Lexington it is football that brings home the financial bacon.

For the 2009-10 fiscal year, UK Athletics projected 35.4 percent of its revenue (some $25.7 million) from football, compared to 21.4 percent of revenue ($15.56 million) from men’s hoops.

All national indicators suggest that football is becoming more and more dominant in shaping the landscape of college sports conferences.

So if Kentucky could find a spot in a conference that is a cash machine similar to the $EC but where UK football would have a far more realistic chance to sustain success, shouldn’t it at least be worth considering?

Which brings us back to the Big Ten.

Or Vandy? OK. Not really, just message board stuff that amused me.

Perhaps most disturbingly, a Toledo columnist felt the need to write a column explaining that the Big Something will never take Toledo or any MAC school.

As for Pitt, it remains, that but for the TV market issue, they are the best fit.





Permit me to add this to your intriguing tale of “suspense”. Yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch had a huge sports front page article pertaining to the expansion of the “Big Ten”, whatever that is, I count eleven including the Ivy Leaguer Northwestern. Today there is a follow up by a very prominent and respected daily sports columnist(Bob Hunter). The tone of the propaganda is which university would serve tha celestial mid-west conference the best.(That is, add to its coffers) Of course, Pitt was included and there it was, big as life, a Pitt flag on the front page. This is indeed, MOST UNUSUAL. And so, the drama continues in these “slow sports news days”. Where will it end? Only the Shadow knows. I reiterate,(as i have in previous blogs) I cannot see how the steel city university would be served by fleeing the Big East for “Oz” in the mid-west. Nor do I understand why the eastern market cannot sustain a viable football conference. Perhaps someone will enlighten me with the rational that,exclusive of dollars, the Big East should be put to rest so the Big Eleven can further monopolize collegiate television. George from Columbus, where no one other than the local media gives a “Tinkers” about expansion.

Comment by rev. george mehaffey 05.03.10 @ 12:12 pm

If the Big 10 expands by one team, I don’t see Pitt in the picture. If the Big 10 expands by more than one team, I think its a 95% chance that Pitt is one of those teams. While the TV market is a primary concern, you can’t just worry about expanding your TV market. You also have to consider what product you are offering to that market. Even though JoePa can’t stand the thought of it, Pitt and PSU played each other nearly every year for 100 years. The football game was usually on National TV. Basically, in taking Pitt, the Big 10 would not be adding TV market, but they would be adding something that is marketable to TV nation wide. A 100 year old rivalry that money can’t buy….errr, I guess it can!

Comment by HbgFrank 05.03.10 @ 12:50 pm

Rev George,

“Our long, national nighmare is over .. the NY Jets have finally agreed to terms with Bret Favre” .. a famous lead into an ESPN radio Sportcenter update by Dan ‘Duke’ Davis a few years ago.

I suggest the same words be used if and when the B10 finally makes their announcement.

Comment by wbb 05.03.10 @ 12:50 pm

Rev, here’s my theory regarding the lack of a viable Eastern football conference.

The eastern states are relatively hamstrung for college football because of the types of schools in the East.
Historically, the East was home to the early football greats, but those schools are private schools/service academies without HUGE alumni fan-bases, nor subway-alum style fans who identify with them because of their proximity. The Ivy league, Army, Navy, and the mighty Fordham Rams (inside joke between Chas and I). No one in NJ gives a damn about the Princeton Tigers, and no one outside of the Bronx (and the predominately white part of the Bronx) cares about Fordham, etc. Potential fans aren’t going to take several hours of their day on Saturday to travel to those schools, pay lots of money, and take in a college football game if they didn’t go to the school or grow up rooting for that school; nor are they going to give up 3 or 4hrs of their Saturday to watch a team they don’t care about on TV.

When those private schools subsided in football in the east, they were replaced by the NFL. New England, NY/NJ, Philly area, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are NFL first markets (throw in Baltimore and Washington, who have lots of fans in central PA). The only areas with decent college football fan bases in those states are Pitt, Penn State and Syracuse, with the latter two being WAY far away from the major NFL cities.

Also, the eastern states are devoid of gigantic land-grant style state schools the dominate college football in the rest of the country. To make money for football, you need fans – and lots of them – either in the stands or watching on tv. Alumni and those who know or are related to alumni are your main source of fans. A school with a small alum populaiton may be a great academic institution, with a huge endowment, and may actually have a fine non-revenue athletic department (see fencing, equestrian, skiing, etc.) but can’t compete in football without lots and lots of fans.

NY has many smaller SUNY schools, but no main campus “New York State” that middle class kids aspire to attend (if they don’t have the money or grades to attend NYU or an Ivy League school); and the New England states are too small to have a big-10 size state school (I guess UConn is the closest), plus they are full of small, old, liberal arts colleges. Rutgers is big, but it has only recently billed itself as the State University of NJ.
Penn State was it for the East, and they went and joined the Big 10.

If the east were to ever get a big time football conference, it must have universities that locals identify with – Rutgers is trying to become that type of state school; UConn is heading in that direction as well; we are all well aware of Pitt’s expanded profile in Central and Eastern PA due to our being a state school.

What other schools have that type of pull in terms of alumni? What other schools do the “townies” actually root for, even if they didn’t go there?
[UMass? Temple? Delaware? Buffalo? Dare I say, the Mighty Fordham Rams? ]

Comment by Patrick 05.03.10 @ 2:10 pm

as Chas aptly pointed out, Rutgers is a prime consideration soley because they may provide the best opportuity for the B10 to get their network into the NYC market … whether people watch them play on the B10 network, ESPN, ABC or anywhere else takes a back seat.

Maybe research will them that UConn or Syracuse would provide an equal or better chance for entry of the B10 Network in the NYC market .. or maybe the combination of all three will guarantee it … but unfortunately, I would have to believe that this is the prime criterion and other considerations as acadmemics, sports programs popularity and tradition are secondary.

Comment by wbb 05.03.10 @ 4:21 pm

I remember reading that the Big 10 gets $0.36 (or so) per subscriber, but they actually made more money on advertising than subscriber fees – so intensity of the fan base is of equal or greater value than the number of cable customers in the NJ (and possibly NYC) area.

Currently, no one in New York cares to watch when Rutgers plays UConn or Syracuse – will they care if those are Big 10 conference games? Maybe, but most likely not.

They may care if Michigan or OSU are playing Rutgers. They will likely care even more if OSU is playing Michigan, or if Penn State is playing Ohio State.

So the question for the Big East: can WE get a TV network, how much would the BE get in subscriber fees, and how can we get anyone in the NYC area to actually give a damn about turning to the BE network to watch Pitt play Louisville (or UConn play WVU, or whomever) so we can get some ad revenue for ourselves?

Comment by Patrick 05.03.10 @ 4:47 pm

Rev, Pitt will bolt for the Big 11 (if offered) for one reason and one reason only: survival. Pitt doesnt want to be the last team standing in the ruins of the Big East Conference after the forthcoming raids eventually occur. In other words, when the ship is about to sink, you want to be one of the few lucky survivors asked to jump aboard the passing cruise ship.

Comment by Coach Ditka 05.03.10 @ 4:56 pm

Its pie in the sky, but if the BE could form an all sports conference comprised of its current FB members plus ND, PSU, BC, and Maryland, you would have a formidable conference. Both in terms of cachet for TV dollars and talent.

Comment by HbgFrank 05.03.10 @ 4:57 pm

Pitt-Fordham 1935,1936 and 1937 0-0 ties. Huge part of college football history. My Dad, who played for Pitt 46-48 used to talk about those games often. He would have been 10-12 years old at the time, would have been for him, what the 75 and 76 years were for me as a Pitt kid growing up.

Comment by Dan 05.03.10 @ 5:09 pm

anyone have any thoughts on this topic….
Robert Morris’s Rice to take top job at Rutgers

link to postgazette.com

Comment by Marco 05.03.10 @ 6:09 pm

Even though he just signed an extension less than a month ago with the usual coachspeak as to how well he likes being at RMU, etc, I don’t blame Rice for taking the RU job. And it certainly should be an upgrade for RU.

It will be interesting to see how well he recruits in the hotbed of high school basketball … and further, how impact becoming a B10 member affects the recruiting.

Comment by wbb 05.03.10 @ 6:27 pm

one more thing … I wonder if he would offer Bandon Knight a top assistant job which would bring him back to his home area

Comment by wbb 05.03.10 @ 6:29 pm

I actually predicted Rice to RU for a goofy reason I have to say: Every male in their Athletic Department looks like him. Carmody was their first choice.

NJ is actually becoming a Pitt market. Example: 5 seniors from Metuchen NJ High (153 seniors in total) will be attending Pitt next year. Up from 1 last year.

Comment by steve 05.03.10 @ 7:04 pm

wbb, Brandin’s home is Pittsburgh. Besides, RU hoops is and will be a disaster for many a year to come.

Comment by steve 05.03.10 @ 7:44 pm

I think Rice will try for Knight but won’t get him. Who he may get, according to Dokish at NBE, is Rasheen Davis. By the way, nobody here mentioned it yet but I guess Dokish and Mernagh at NBE are hinting that Dave Leitao may be the assistant to replace Herrion. Well, Mernagh more than hinted. He actually wrote it as a strong possibility and then it was taken down a few minutes later apparently. Very suspicious. And Dokish never mentioned Leitao’s name but he is describing someone just like him right at the time of the Mernagh posting. That adds suspicion. You do the math.

Comment by Mark 05.03.10 @ 8:02 pm

The dialogue is, indeed, heating up. The bottom line was and is $$$. A sorry mess, but one which does not warrant center stage on the world stage. Big East or Big Eleven, I will remain a Panther. George

Comment by rev. george mehaffey 05.03.10 @ 8:25 pm

My two cents…Pitt will be offered a spot in the Big “whatever” and I hope they take it for a variety of reasons. My personal reason is a longing for the rivalry with State Penn. Those were the biggest and most emotional games Pitt played in the past. My dad, uncle and grandfather went to PSU….I hate them. Beating them again would make my year! We will never get another shot unless we join up.

Comment by Dan 72 05.04.10 @ 8:43 am

we they go to the big whatever, hopefully pitt keeps wvu on their schedule. id rather play wvu then psu.
i think the last 5 yrs have been great games on the field and on the court, somehting psu cant say would happen.

Comment by mike 05.04.10 @ 9:56 am

while Pitt will most likely benefit by becoming a member of the B10, I cannot see and would be geatly disappointed if a long-standing competitive series (FB & BB) with a major university located only 75 miles to our south would be discontinued.

Don’t like the school but love the rivalry (just the way it’s supposed to be.)

Comment by wbb 05.04.10 @ 10:44 am

No question getting Rice improved Rutgers a lot and hurt Pitt, slightly. Rice can coach. He can recruit. He has strong Jersey and Philly connections. Both areas where Pitt has made great recruiting inroads the last few years. Rice will be going head to head with Pitt on every recruit in those areas. And even though Pitt will still have an advantage, Rice will win a few.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 05.04.10 @ 11:09 am

The Big East should have been proactive and raided the ACC before they took action against the Big East. The mistakes have been the basketball first commissioners that been heading the conference.

Comment by Pittastic 05.04.10 @ 11:29 am

pittastic–easy to say BE should have raided ACC first; but, strongly doubt there would have been any ACC teams interested–money and tradition wasn’t flowing in that direction.

Comment by pitt1972 05.04.10 @ 12:20 pm

Anyone know who won the weekend Pitt baseball series last weekend?

Comment by Marco 05.04.10 @ 1:33 pm

2 game played, split. Third cancelled, rain.

For those of you wanting realtime info from Pitt, download this gadget:
link to pittsburgh.newtier.com

It comes with a spiffy screensaver as well.

Comment by steve 05.04.10 @ 3:33 pm

[...] other Pitt news, over at Pitt Blather Chas breaks down all of the swirling rumors currently around Big Ten expansion.  Call me a skeptic [...]


Yes Dan, Penn St. is the blood boiler. It’s ok to admit, the truth shall set you free. I’m cetainly not telling anyone what they are thinking, but, I’m 44, if you grew up in the 70′s and 80′s, yes, WVU is a great rivalry, but the one that ticks you off, gets you talking out loud to yourself in the car, biting your lower lip is clearly Penn St. It’s a good thing, like I said about the truth, I have many Penn St. employees and 3 nephews and several nieces that are Penn Staters. On the first beer or two, they will say they have moved on, past the “Pitt” thing. Get number 3, 4, and 5 in them, guarantee you’ll hear what I hear, “I hate friggin’ Pitt, I hate everything about them, etc. etc.” lol It’s a good thing!! I have moved on past the “Pitt screwed PSU by joining”, and the “Penn St. screwed Pitt”. Screw it, they both should be playing, and in-conference would be incredible!!

Comment by Dan 05.06.10 @ 2:37 am

When I was out feeding the crows this morning, as I usually do, one sqwaked out at me “Big Ten!”. So I guess we’re really going. Either that, or the crow was trying to comment about Roethlisberger. Can’t really say.

The point of this, however, is that if Georegtown had voted to admit PSU into the Big East, they might not be losing their conference.

Well, it’s kind of a point.

Comment by Spanky 05.06.10 @ 2:39 am

Not to be a bore, but, also, a tidbit. I can’t recall the source, just a few days ago though, online, “Mainline Philly”, or “the line”, something like that. Did a poll, a suprise to me, even with what I said about Penn Staters above, 79% of surveyed Penn Staters listed Pitt as their number one pick to join the Big Ten. So, don’t think they have the “screw Pitt” thing going on. I’m sure some do, but 79% is a strong number and was clearly the number one favorite. Way ahead of N.D. Nebraska and even Texas. Look, I’m just a fan, I know we don’t know when, but, this is really huge for the Univ.. I hope they are not sleeping up in offices that be!!! Ya, I would hate to lose G-town and Villanova hoops, but, in the long run, what you don’t want, when the song is over, is to be standing with C.Florida, Memphis, E.Carolina, Fla.International and Temple again. No offense to those schools, but………..Just my opinion, Hail to Pitt

Comment by Dan 05.06.10 @ 2:45 am

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