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Posts Tagged ‘Expansion’

TCU? Really Big East?

In an effort to quell the fear that they may get their BCS card revoked, the Big East has hastily invited Texas Christian University to join it’s bulging conference.  This attempt by the Big East to maintain their football relevance reeks of desperation and threatens to further fracture a union of schools that has a rich basketball history that was mortgaged some time ago.

This is not a criticism of TCU.  They have a very respectable football program that goes all the way back to 1896.  Since Gary Patterson took over the team in 2000 they are 97-28.  But let’s be realistic about this – what happens when Patterson leaves?  It could happen as soon as the end of this season.  If Georgia or Michigan were to call and invite him to interview for the head coaching position at their schools he’d have to take the call.  And if he leaves is the Big East left with just another mediocre program struggling for national relevance?  Goodness knows they’ve already got enough of those.

So the Big East is making a very short-term play and hitching their football future to a school that has been battling for respect in a conference that is a non-automatic BCS qualifier.  Is that a move that is supposed to get Big East fans excited?

And what about basketball?  I’ve thought in the past that the Big East’s best play may be to invest in roundball.  To pursue the title as the undeniable best basketball conference in the country.  They took a nice step toward that after the ACC grabbed three of their most competitive football schools in the early 2000s.  But now they take a step in the other direction without a major pay off.  And now the basketball conference has 17 teams.  How in the world are they going to manage 17 teams?

Finally there is the little issue of the money.  When the Big Ten was exploring expansion, money was a really big issue.  They were not going to add any schools that couldn’t bring in enough money to result in a revenue gain for all the members of the conference.  Where’s the big money gain here?  There is none. 

They can trumpet the fact that TCU resides in the fifth biggest market in the United States all they want but the reality is the Horned Frogs may not even be in the top 10 when you start ranking the franchises and universities that garner the most attention in Dallas/Ft. Worth.  And ultimately their addition could lead to a net loss because of the increase in travel costs.

So there you have it, that’s my take.  The Big East and TCU got together like two drunken Las Vegas club goers who could not keep their hands off each other and dashed off to the chapel to let Elvis seal the deal for their matrimony.  Let’s hope one of them doesn’t wake up wondering how big of a mistake they made last night.

Care to disagree?  Feel free to do so by posting a comment below.

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Over the past few weeks I have documented my predictions for NCAA Mega Conference expansion in a series of phases that I posted in the order I think they will occur.  In case you missed it, here are the links:

  1. First Big Ten expansion includes three Big East programs
  2. Pac-10 grows by two
  3. Big Ten completes full expansion to 16 teams
  4. The SEC responds in a big way
  5. Two more Big 12 teams move to the Pac-10
  6. 14 feels right for the ACC

The next question may be what happens to what is left of the Big East and Big 12.  My guess is that the Big East will become a conference driven by basketball without football.  I’ve read that the Big East has already approached some Atlantic 10 teams about their willingness to join the league if some of their current members are poached.

That could potentially leave Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida in no man’s land.  Perhaps the Big 12 would try to rally around what they have left in Texas, invite  the Big East castoffs and a couple of current non-BCS schools like TCU and Central Florida in a desperate attempt to maintain their BCS status.

Another question is what happens to the BCS.  Does the new conference alignment alter it in a whole new way?  Could the four mega conferences work together to put their four champions in a four team playoff and complete eliminate the involvement of all the other programs as reader NC_Buckeye has suggested?  I could certainly see that happening.

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As the Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC and Pac-10 again have expanded their conferences, the ACC has sat back and watched.  The most important thing for the ACC at this point is that none of their current programs have been taken away by the other quickly growing conferences. 

While the ACC was the league that caused all of the tremors of expansion earlier this decade they will be the last conference to grow this time.  Initially I said that I expected that the final result of expansion would be four 16-team mega conferences.  As I’ve gone through this exercise, my thinking has changed.  The reason is that similar to what I said about the Pac-10 expansion, I don’t see four legitimate candidates available for the ACC at this point.  If the league moves more quickly, or if the Big Ten only grabs one of the Big East schools, I could see four legitimate candidates (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia).  But I firmly believe that the Big Ten will grab two of those schools (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and take that option away from the ACC.

So that leaves Connecticut and West Virginia.  The case for both schools is complicated. 

First, let’s look at Connecticut.  Traditionally the Huskies have had an excellent men’s basketball program, but they are currently under a great deal of scrutiny by the NCAA.  And according to SI’s Seth Davis, that is just the beginning of UConn’s issues.  Their candidacy with the ACC is certainly helped by the inclusion of the premier women’s basketball program in the nation.  Their addition would also solidify a rival for Boston College in the Northeast and bring some access to the New York City market.  Their academics (#66 ranking by the U.S. News and World Report) don’t match up with the ACC elite, but are still solidly in the range of the other schools.

The biggest challenge for West Virginia to overcome will be their academics.  They are ranked as a Tier 3 school by the U.S. News and World Report.  That means they are not good enough to be ranked among the top 133 colleges and universities in the country.  That fact will not sit well with the ACC whose lowest current ranking school is Florida St. at #102.  Otherwise they have a strong football program with a passionate fan base and a very solid basketball program.  In fact, they have a lot of depth in their athletics program as they currently stand at #15 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.

Will the ACC be willing to overlook Connecticut’s NCAA violations and West Virginia’s less than ideal academic ratings?  I say yes.  I believe that the pressure to expand will be great because there is nothing saying that the Big Ten and SEC have to stop at 16 teams.  You could just as easily see them jumping up to 20.  So the ACC will react and add the Huskies and Mountaineers believing that their only way to ultimately survive is to strengthen their own ranks.

What are your thoughts?  Would Connecticut’s NCAA issues keep them from being invited to join the ACC?  Does West Virginia’s academic ranking make them a no-go?

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After the Big Ten and SEC max out their conferences with major expansions that take them to 16 programs, the Pac-10 will get back into the game.  I’ve already predicted that the Pac-10 will execute a modest two program expansion that includes Colorado and Utah.  I think they will pursue a second expansion, but after further thought I do not think it will be to a maximum level of 16.  I think they will add two more teams to get to 14.

Part of my reasoning is that I don’t think there are four more candidates that would be good fits in the conference.  As Schmolik over at the bleacher report writes, it is difficult to find six ideal candidates for a Pac-10 expansion.  One school that he doesn’t include in his evaluation is Nebraska.  That’s because he’s assuming Nebraska will be invited to join the Big Ten.  I do not believe that will be the case.  I believe Nebraska will be invited and will join the Pac-10.

The Cornhuskers would be a big coup for Pac-10 football.  They will instantly be one of the top three programs in the conference, will bring some more national attention to the league and also have an excellent athletics program that has them currently ranked sixth in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.  While Nebraska’s culture and academics are not a perfect match for the conference, their athletics are ideal.  And since the Pac-10 has already moved inland with the addition of Colorado and Utah, their location will not be a problem.  Their move to the Pac-10 will also reignite their rivalry with Colorado.

The other school I believe will join the Pac-10 is Kansas.  The Jayhawks certainly don’t have the depth of sports programs that most Pac-10 schools have, nor are they a major power in football.  But I believe their incredible basketball history will carry the day and appeal greatly to the Pac-10.  The chance to have UCLA and Kansas compete for league titles year after year will be too much for the conference to pass on the Jayhawks.

So the Pac-10 will swoop in and grab a pair of the “remaining” Big 12 schools and greatly enhance their conference membership.  Would they consider additional schools to get to 16?  Sure.  But, I don’t think they’d have a lot to gain from adding Baylor, Kansas St., TCU or any of the other possible candidates.  Their only reasons for expanding further would be to keep up with the SEC and Big Ten or to expand into the Texas market.

What do you think of the new 14 team Pac-10?  Would Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and Kansas be good additions to the conference?

Photo source: beatboxbadhabit

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Shortly after the second phase of the Big Ten’s expansion you can expect the action to be fast and furious.  Everybody will be waiting for the SEC, the highest revenue grossing conference, to make their move.  They will do so, and it will be huge.

To maintain its place as the top conference in the country the SEC will be compelled to act.  With Notre Dame committed to the Big Ten, Texas is the remaining big prize.  They are also the only university that can add a significant number to the SEC’s bottom line, and would certainly shift the balance of power.  The SEC will be smelling blood after Colorado and Missouri leave the Big 12 and will go right for the kill.

Much of the speculation on long term expansion has the SEC looking at ACC schools Florida St., Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech.  However, I don’t think they’ll be looking to solidify the ground they’ve already got covered in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  I think they’ll be looking West.  By doing so, they can eliminate all questions as to who really is the best college football conference in the country while greatly expanding their footprint and revenue potential. 

They will start the wooing of Texas early and will be willing to take on their state rival Texas A&M as well.  While the Texas A&M football program may not be at the top level right now, the school has an excellent overall athletics program and a strong passionate fan base.

And then, to add the cherry on top, the SEC will also expand to the Sooner state bringing in Oklahoma and Oklahoma St.  This addition will enable the SEC to own the Red River Rivalry, further expand into new territory and bring in two more programs with huge alumni support bases.

To me the addition of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. sounds much more impressive than the group of Florida St., Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech.

And since the SEC is already divided into two geographically-based divisions it is easy to imagine a new alignment:

East
Alabama
Auburn
Florida
Georgia
Kentucky
South Carolina
Tennessee
Vanderbilt

West
Arkansas
LSU
Mississippi
Mississippi St.
Oklahoma
Oklahoma St.
Texas
Texas A&M

Wow…so the SEC will have spoken and made a huge impact on the college sports landscape.  Will they have solidified their spot at the top of the college football mountain?  What do you think about this potential SEC expansion?

What conference will make the next move?  Will the Pac 10 or ACC strive to match the SEC and Big 16?  Will the Big East or the conference formerly known as the Big 12 make a move for survival?

Photo sources: dherrera_96 and SD Dirk

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Easy to miss among all of the expansion hubbub during the Big Ten meetings was a not so subtle jab at the ACC, and probably other conferences as well.  When questioned about why the early processes of expansion are taking so long Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany had this to say:

“A lot of these things that we’ve studied have been, in my view, improperly studied [by other leagues].  Didn’t understand the logistics, didn’t understand the culture, didn’t understand the academic fit, didn’t really understand whether they were doing a merger or whether they were doing an expansion. Expansion is very difficult, and we’re learning how to do it better, I think.”

With so much at stake the Big Ten is trying to do their due diligence and to ensure that when they make their final decisions the execution goes smoothly.  Clearly they’ve learned from the way the ACC botched their expansion earlier this decade by letting the information get out too soon, not being prepared to deal with the ramifications, inviting and then uninviting a program and then having a school jammed down their throat that they had absolutely no desire for.  Although in all fairness to Virginia Tech, they’ve carried the ACC banner much better than any of the 11 other members have in football.

In addition to navigating the choppy seas of politics, the Big Ten also has to be sure that they can drive revenue to the Big Ten Network.  They are going to do everything they possibly can to keep it all under wraps until they are ready to make an announcement.  That is why Delany keeps throwing all of the smoke screens up.  And when that announcement is made, I expect it to be an announcement of a done deal.

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The biggest thing that came out of the Big Ten meetings today was the reference by conference commissioner Jim Delany to the shifting U.S. population. 

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason, by itself, enough, to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “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.”  What does this statement that seems to have come from left field mean?  Here are four possibilities:

  1. The Big Ten is going to make a huge push for Texas.  Many folks, including me, have discussed the fact that their are two potentially huge prizes to be won in expansion, Notre Dame and Texas.  While Texas was mentioned briefly as a Big Ten target, most of the speculation is that the conference will push Notre Dame to move.  Maybe their main target is Texas.
  2. ACC schools like Maryland and Virginia may be expansion candidates.  On May 13 Tom Dienhart of Rivals tweeted that those two programs were included in the latest buzz he was hearing.  First of all, based on the ridiculous happenings in the state of Virginia during the ACC expansion earlier this decade I don’t see UVA going anywhere.  Secondly, the ACC is on the cusp of signing an impressive deal with ESPN that will significantly increase the revenue each member will receive.  A week ago this may have been a much greater possibility.  The Big Ten may grab Maryland but I’d expect it to take a lot of hard work to do so.
  3. Delany is simply firing a shot across the bow of the SEC and their commissioner Mike Slive.  It seems clear that the major battle for supremacy that awaits college football will feature the Big Ten versus the SEC.  Delany is trying to make the SEC a little less comfortable.
  4. It’s a complete smokescreen.  All of the talk about the South is simply to open up the possibilities and take some of the pressure off the Big East schools they are likely to invite along with Notre Dame.

In my mind the most likely option is the fourth one.  However, if there is any reciprocal interest from Texas (and I have to believe somebody somewhere in the Big Ten knows if there is) then the first option is a no brainer. 

Please, share your thoughts.  What other options do you see?

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