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May 18, 2010

Jim Delany spoke to the media at the Big 11 meetings today. No real rush on things is his claim. Meanwhile another reporter, Dave Birkett of AnnArbor.com tweeted some potentially interesting tidbits:

This: Delany on #NotreDame: “It chooses to be an independent in football and be a member of the Big East. That’s it’s destiny.”

This: Delany: Biggest factors driving expansion are population shift south and Big Ten Network.

And This: “the competitive aspects … the educational fit … and also it would have to be fiscally sound.”

All of which when more of it is disseminated in a less disjointed manner will then be proceeded to be parsed and dissected to within an nanometer of its being.

What everyone already seems to be homing in on, beyond Big Ten subscribers is another factor that probably is not good for Pitt.

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason, by itself, enough, to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “We’ve been blessed in many ways by the economy and the density of the population in the 20th century. Our schools have benefited by healthy economies, by strong markets, by growth, by integration. … In the last 20, 30 years, there’s been a clear shift in movement into the sun belt. The rates of growth in the sun belt are four times the rates they are in the East or the Midwest.

“You do want to look forward to 2020 and 2030 and see what that impact would be on our schools.”

Delany has brought up the demographic shift several times in recent years when talking about recruiting and other topics. He knows that in order for the Big Ten to maintain its national standing, its alumni base and its brand, the league might need to get bigger.

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said shifting demographics were one of the first subjects brought up when league officials decided to push forward with an expansion study.

“Without going into any specific school, it’s just projecting ahead,” Barta said. “Do we need to grow the business in the next 20 years, and, if so, does adding schools make any sense? That’s part of the principle of whether or not we look at expansion.”

Ohio and Michigan are already shrinking states. It has been discussed on by many on this site before about the shrinking population in and around Pittsburgh. That can’t be helpful.

No matter how sick we all may be of this already. How much we may wish the Big 11 would just get it over and done. This will still be at least a couple months before anything might happen.

But the story now is simply the discussions, not expansion itself. So everybody chill out. Expansion is still a good bet—remember, change is in the wind. The details just won’t be finalized for a long while.

And we aren’t the only ones looking to Big 11 Commish Delany for enlightenment.

“The commissioner always does a great job of letting us know what we need to know,” Indiana head coach Bill Lynch said. “There’s certain things we don’t need to know.”

Right now, Lynch and his coaching colleagues don’t know much. The same goes for the league’s athletic directors.

“I’m not only curious, I’m intensely interested,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. “There’s a lot of rumors out there. Based on what I’ve been told, they’re just that, rumors. It’s a process that has taken place for quite some time. It has become public more recently, and it will be great to get an update on where we stand in the process.”

The presidents and chancellors of Big 11 schools meet on June 6, but Delany is saying that no vote will take place then.

The Sporting News is doing superficial looks at candidates for the Big Something. Simple format 3 pros, 3 cons. They hit Pitt, and really the only con that holds real water is the big one. The lack of new subscribers and already in the geographic footprint of the Big 11.

West Virginia columnist tells WVU folks not to bet anything on the ACC coming to get them.

It’s all about markets and footprints and all those other terms the TV and conference people throw out there these days.

The ACC, by measures known only to those who, well, measure such things, has a television footprint in 25 percent of the households in America. To those who argue that West Virginia or any other school would be logical or beneficial to the ACC (or any other league) need to dismiss any discussion of how strong the football or basketball programs are or how the school would be a geographical fit.

It’s not about that. If the ACC can double its television money without expansion and with, as its calling card, what seems to most only a lukewarm football product, then what possible reason is there to go adding a school that adds nothing to that television footprint?

And meanwhile, USF can only watch. They know they aren’t getting called up any higher in the BCS system.

Conference USA, which is also holding meetings this week, looked into expansion last year.

While the Big East and others mull preemptive expansion moves to offset any changes that might be made by the Big Ten, Banowsky said C-USA will not be making any preemptive expansion moves.

“We reviewed an idea over a year ago to grow the league to 16 teams and it kind of made its way to our presidents and chancellors,” he said. “… And they elected at that time to not do anything preemptively. They generally liked the grouping that we have, the 12 schools that we have. They liked the amount of traction we seemed to be getting working together and beginning to see the first indications of new rivalries being built and those kinds of things, so they opted not to do that a year ago, but it’s something that constantly gets discussed as one of the possibilities.”

It isn’t preemptive to start considering expansion after teams are trying to flee.

The media for Nebraska like everyone else sees Nebraska ready to head East, but wonders if Nebraska itself will like all that entails.

What kind of culture would Nebraska find in the Big Ten?

When rumors first circulated about Texas joining the Big Ten, I talked with a current administrator at a Big 12 school who has strong Big Ten ties.

He chuckled at the thought.

“The Big Ten is a ‘Check your ego at the door’ conference,” he said. In fact, if Nebraska joined, it likely would have to pay to get in or take reduced revenue in the early years as payment for an equity position in the Big Ten Network.

The Big Ten is about the Big Ten, not the individual entities. Recall that when Penn State joined in 1990, the league refused to change its name. Instead, it tweaked its logo to include an optical illusion “11.”

More proof that the league is the No. 1 thing: The Big Ten is the only BCS grouping in which all revenue is shared equally. So no single school or small group of “haves” wields golden hammers.

Nebraska may hate the Texas influence of the Big 12 these days, but Big Red has been a “have” in the Big 12 for a long time and is on the verge of being so once more.

Not that will stop them from taking the money. But the transition will be a little bumpier than they would like — especially with the more stringent academic rules.

Finally, if you thought Mizzou fans were falling over themselves to get that Big 11 invite, check out the faculty.

“Hell, yes,” is a refrain being heard around Brooks’ office, the faculty lounge and university. Since the Big Ten broached the subject of expansion again in December, Missouri has not been shy about its interest. When it comes to the Big Ten, Ol’ Mizzou has been the waitress who unbuttons a couple of buttons on her blouse, leans over a table of guys and tells them, “I get off in five minutes.”

Oh yeah, Missouri is available.

“Faculty are almost unanimously in favor of going to the Big Ten because of the academic ramifications of it. We keep hearing that Mizzou is a lock,” said [Brian] Brooks [the School of Journalism’s associate dean of undergraduate studies], who quickly added he had no inside knowledge.

Of course Mizzou is probably a lock to go — as long as the Big 11 does actually expand so I can’t blame them.





So how does adding Neb and Mizzou help attract this population that is moving south? Are South Dakotans moving in droves to Nebraska? I would put Mizzou squarely in the Midwest not the south. Shouldn’t the Big 10 be going after TENN and GA if they are after the southern population? And how about that largest of Southern Cities that they are pursuing…NYC! And where are there more Honky Tonk bars than South Bend? I’m just not buying the whole “population shift” BS unless they land Texas, TENN and GA!

Comment by HbgFrank 05.18.10 @ 7:26 pm

Nobody really knows what direction the Big Something will go. Delaney has an idea of what he wants do to but he has to sell the Big Something college presidents on the idea. Back in 2003, when the ACC conducted its raid on the Big East, Beano Cook labeled the Big 11 as a bunch of snobs. They were snobs before then, the were snobs when Penn State joined and they are snobs now. Having said that, they are snobs who earn a lot of money.

Yes, the Big 10 Network is on almost throughout Pennsylvania but how many in the Pittsburgh area watch it? I don´t. Nobody I know watches it. Sure, the PSU alums here watch it but that’s it and that isn’t everyone by a longshot. That network will need more advertising dollars to grow and that means showing someone of interest.

For all the talk about Missouri and Nebraska – what if Delaney offers bids to Maryland, Rutgers and…Pitt? Yes, Delaney wants to grow the network, but the presidents will want universities that do more than just that. Having Rutgers, UM and Pitt would penetrate the Baltimore-Washington corridor, which is much more college football friendly than NYC, and add another Eastern team (Pitt).

We don’t know how this will shape up. Yes, the ACC just got a big TV contract from ESPN. Their football is still medicore and they face the possibility of being shut out of the BCS after the dust settles unless they upgrade their football. Really, the ACC should decide to become an Eastern Seaboard conference – like the Pac 10…but are they smart enough to figure that out? Yes, the ACC reaches a lot of people but they overlap the SEC in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and the SEC kicks their keesters athletically.

Pitt has more going for it than any other university except for the new network subscribers. that’s one facet, but only one facet.

Comment by Penguins Fan 05.18.10 @ 7:59 pm

you know, one angle that hasn’t been discussed is the effect of fan loyalty when switching conferences .. and wonder if this is being explored by the Big10.

Sure, PSU’s move to the B10 was widely accepted by their fandom but they were coming from being an independent where they only had annual games FB with Pitt, WVu & Cuse … and weren’t even in the same BB league with two of them.

On the other hand, if Nebraska were going to break ties with Okla, Ok St, Kansas, Colorado, etc whom they played forever, it would be a major change that would not be embraced. Even more so woud be Texas breaking their ties. Currently they are the darlings of their state, but would non-alums who follow the Horns still be squarely in their corner if their closest league rial was over a 1000 miles away in lieu of A&M, Tech, Okla, etc?

BC & Miami followers have never fully embraced the switched to the ACC nor, more importantly, did the switch bring them new fans.

While Missouri is located near a few B10 teams (Iowa, Ill, Wisc, NW, etc), would a (non-alum) Texas FB fan rather watch A&M play Oklahoma or Texas (as a member of the B10) play Iowa? I am not convinced that Texas, after about a century in the SEC and B12, would mintain its large local fanbase should they switch to a midwest US conference.

Comment by wbb 05.19.10 @ 8:01 am

[…] expected the words of Big 11 Commish Delany set off a frenzy of parsing what he said and what it means for expansion. […]


It appears that the criteria for the B10 is :
1)TV revenue (Pitt screwed by Comcast)- we don’t provide new households but viewers in Pa are still missing and Pitt would add viewers increasing advertising revenues;
2) academics – must have AAU membership Pitt checks out fine;
3) Research dollars – Pitt accounts for $642M in this area, of the reported expansion candidates only Texas has a bigger research program (and at $22M per year for football from the B10 it would take 29 years to equal the $642M from research-lol);
4) athletics – football and basketball are nationally ranked;
5) geography – Pitt fits the Big Ten footprint affecting travel for sports events (besides we are in the southwest (sunbelt country) of Pa !;and
6) B10 covets rivaries – Pitt Penn St rivals again;
Pitt satisfies in every way what the B10 is looking for in an expansion candidate. On a scale of 1 to 5 Pitt is a five in every instance but for point No.1 and there the B10 makes up for it in advertising dollars and research dollars.
The Big 10 presidents and athletic departments should find Pitt a good fit.

Comment by Marty 05.19.10 @ 6:25 pm

Marty,

That assumes all aspects are equal. They are not.

The issue of subscriber revenue is huge. Pitt does have a lot to offer — which is why of all the candidates they are the only one (aside from ND) inside the Big 11’s geographic footprint — but like all expansion it is revenue driven. It is speculative at best to assume Pitt can deliver ratings (and hence, ad dollars) consistently from year to year to make up for the lack of new subscriber revenue that other candidates like Rutgers, Mizzou and Nebraska can deliver.

We will see in time just how true statements are that this is not just about the money, but also fit. I have a hard time, though, buying that. We will all see in the next 6 months.

Comment by Chas 05.19.10 @ 7:34 pm

Chas,
BC could not deliver Boston with all the Pro teams there. Rutgers job to deliver NY is twice as difficult as BC’s because they have 2 pro teams for every major sport. FCC rules are under review restricting mandatory packaging of cable offerings like Comcast did to us in Pgh.
So households may not translate into dollars in the future .

Comment by Marty 05.19.10 @ 9:50 pm

I did see a post on the Minny Gophers’ blog….right now, Pitt has better football and basketball teams than Michigan.

I think Delaney has his eyes on Texas. If Texas is smart, and I think they are, then Texas is just stringing Delaney along. There is no way Texas will ever play second fiddle to OSU and Michigan. What does the Big Something do for Texas? Why would the Longhorns want to go to Minneapolis or Bloomington or West Lafayette, or, for that matter, Detroit (!)? Flying basketball teams to those places in the winter from Austin would be problematic.

The SEC isn’t stupid, either. No, the SEC doesn’t have its own TV network, but the SEC is in states that are growing, such as Tennessee, South Carolina and until recently, Georgia and Florida. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think the SEC won’t offer bids to Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That would make the SEC THE number one conference and the Big Something would never be able to counter it.

On second thought, Delaney has the ego of John Swofford back in 2003. The ACC expansion blew up in Swofford’s face. UM’s football program fell apart. BC was never going to make the ACC a bunch of money and despite the new contract they still won’t.

Delaney is a snob and that is clouding his judgment. He seems driven by putting his TV network in new markets. The South isn’t interested in the Big Something. Notre Dame will stay independent as long as NBC throws money at them. Rutgers will not deliver NYC TVs. Neither will Syracuse. The economy in New Jersey and New York is about as bad as it is in Michigan and Ohio – which is much worse than in Pennsylvania.

At some point, UConn, Pitt, Syracuse and WVU will have to sit down with Swofford and make the ACC a true Eastern Seaboard conference. That will leave out Louisville, Cincy and US, but those are the breaks.

Comment by Penguins Fan 05.20.10 @ 10:22 pm

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