As expected the words of Big 11 Commish Delany set off a frenzy of parsing what he said and what it means for expansion. Specifically the bit about population shift and the Sun Belt (not the conference).
Delany said the expansion process has been driven primarily by two factors: the demographic shift of population toward the Sun Belt and expanding the reach of the Big Ten Network.
“As far as the shifting population is concerned, I think that is reason enough by itself to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “The rates of growth in the Sun Belt are four times what they are in the East or Midwest.”
That statement seems to contradict widespread conjecture that the Big Ten is looking at schools from the Big East (Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh) and Big 12 (Missouri and Nebraska). The only Southern school mentioned as a possibility is Texas, which is considered the biggest catch, but probably the most elusive one.
The issue of demographics was actually mentioned in advance by Iowa’s AD. Now as Black Heart, Gold Pants noted that still helps a school like Rutgers that is about the metro NY area and subscribers. To say nothing of a region that isn’t shrinking, but constantly replenishing itself. Metro areas that consistently reinvent and are reinvigorated by people coming there — NYC, DC, Boston those types of metro areas.
Pittsburgh does not have that — something that has been bemoaned in the area going back to my time at Pitt 20+ years ago.
The general feeling is that it simply means that the Big 11 is not giving up on Texas — which makes sense. You have to at least make an effort to land a big prize like that. It sure has people scrambling to figure out what it means. And it is amusing some.
“You’re on track with the thought process,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said when pressed on the issue.
The idea may widen the circle of prospective candidates. The Sun Belt stretches across the country, from the Southeast through the Southwest.
Is the Big Ten seriously considering schools from conferences like the SEC, ACC along with the Big 12? Georgia Tech? Vanderbilt? Texas?
Smith wouldn’t say.
“I’m trying to give you a hint,” he said with a laugh.
Yeah, that’s going to keep some people up at night. Resume meaningless speculation on Georgia Tech and Vandy in 3, 2, 1…
Maryland will also stay in the discussion, and while it still makes a good deal of sense in my view, I don’t see it happening. Maryland has a large chunk of its identity wrapped up in the ACC and I’m not sure they really want to make that radical a change.
Meanwhile, the snark and cheap shots are starting. A Tulsa paper goes after Mizzou as a candidate for the Big Something. More than just hinting at Mizzou not even being able to handle things in the Big 12.
Here’s why: Since the Big 12 started competition in 1996, Missouri has won or shared four regular-season championships and eight titles overall when you include postseason Big 12 tournaments.
No, I’m not talking about just football or men’s and women’s basketball championships. That is the combined number of titles the 18 men’s and women’s teams have won for Mizzou over the past 14 years!
And that’s counting two Big 12 North football titles. And those came against only the five other teams that make up that division.
By comparison, including tournament titles, Oklahoma has won a combined 45 championships and Oklahoma State 35. OU fields 18 men’s and women’s teams in Big 12 play, while OSU has 16.
Here’s what underachieving Mizzou really wants to keep quiet: It’s the only Big 12 school with single-digit championships. Yup, Baylor, the league’s so-called weakest link, has captured a combined 36 championships.
Mizzou’s telling the truth about the desire to get away from Texas. And here’s the real reason why — the Longhorns have amassed 113 combined championships over the same stretch the Tigers won eight.
That still doesn’t matter since it is all about the money. Not the competition.
Now for a view from ACC country. A rather silly cautionary tale of expansion from North Carolina.
Duke and North Carolina, the two schools that account for about 99 percent of the ACC’s reputation as a basketball kingpin, weren’t wild about the idea of adding so much as a 10th team, much less zooming to 12.
Schedules had to be revamped across the board, travel expenses in minor sports soared, and any semblance of a “conference family” was forever abandoned.
So much ill will was created among the old Big East clan that pre-raid relationships will never be restored.
At the end of the turmoil, the ACC wound up a weaker basketball conference, roughly the same in football and with a baseball “championship” tournament that prohibits four teams every year from even competing.
This column was written just before the new TV contract came out, but there are some key differences between Big 11 and ACC expansion.
The first and most important was the changing of the very nature of the conference. The ACC went from a basketball conference with football to a football conference. That was a complete shift in culture. More than the new members it brought in.
There is no such shift that will take place in the Big Something. It is a football conference first, and a cable channel second. That won’t be changing.
That’s also why, outside of Texas anyone thinking that the Big 11 is really looking at teams in the south has no clue. There really aren’t any great choices that would leave.
Finally a rather tongue in cheek call for the ACC to look into expansion once more, but to get it right this time. Best line:
Virginia Tech, however, has been invaluable. One of my favorite annual ACC moments is when basketball coach Seth Greenberg flips out when the NCAA tournament rejects his team.
Greenberg aside, I love the Hokies. Along with delivering the coveted Roanoke market, they’ve shown the ACC what big-time football looks like. It’s not their fault that the rest of the conference has been unable to keep up.
As you may have figured out, in the state of North Carolina they still are not big fans of ACC expansion.