Posted on: March 23, 2010 3:35 pm

Expansion-Pac 10 Wondering If It Needs It

CBS'  Dennis Dodd reported today that the commissioner of the Pac-10 has had conversations with the Big 10 and Big East about holding a championshp game with less than the NCAA-mandated twelve teams.

The article notes that there's not a lot of value for the Pac-10 adding teams.  Unlike the Big Ten, it does not have a cable network that is driving the expansion issue.   (Although, there reportedly have been talks about the Pac-10 and/or Big 12 joining forces to form one.)
Dodd's article leaves the impression though that the Pac-10 might be interested in staying at ten teams but having a championship game.  What stands in the way are NCAA bylaws that require a conference to have 12 teams to hold a conference championship.

So I'm reading this article and I'm thinking, well good luck with that Pac-10.  If I remember correctly the ACC wanted to do the same thing but was told they needed twelve teams.  That set them on the path to expansion and the Big East raid.   So why is the Pac-10 commissioner bothering to talk to the Big East and Big Ten about this?  Well they're the only BCS conferences that don't have a conference championship.  Maybe he's trying to cobble together some support to get the twelve team rule overturned?

Here's another thought.  What if the Pac-10 decided to set up a championship game that involved not one but two or more conferences?   Suppose the Pac-10 approaches the Big East and says, "Hey let's soak up some of this post regular-season, pre bowl time TV time  and maximize our TV revenue by staging a Pac-10/Big East championship?"  Now I'd include the Big Ten in this idea because it, or at least Joe Paterno and Barry Alvarez are concerned about the Big Ten disappearing from the public eye after conclusion of the Big Ten season.  Expansion, however, makes more sense for the Big Ten because of the potential for further profits from their Big Ten Network cash cow.

The Big East and the Pac-10 don't have that option.  If Dodd reports that the Pac-10 is having trouble finding schools "valuable" enough to support expansion, how do you think the Big East feels?  The Pac-10 targets could be Utah, BYU, and Colorado.  The Big East gets to look at UCF, Memphis, and East Carolina.  Now don't get me wrong, I think any of these schools could become valuable members of the Big East, just as USF, Cincinnati, and Louisville did.  "Become" is the operative word though.  They're not going to come in and immediately increase the pie.

But a Pac-10/Big East championship would increase the TV revenues of both conferences.  Some hungry network would be happy to pick it up during the week of the other conference championships.  You don't have to expand to do it.   Finally, it gets you back in the public eye during conference championship week.  Alternate the site between the Pac 10/BE champ for the first few years so you don't have the embarrassment of an empty Gator Bowl like the ACC had.  If you get a really prime matchup like a highly ranked West Virginia and USC you can always move it to a larger pro stadium nearby if deamand warrants it.  In fact most of the teams in these conferences line up pretty well with nearby pro stadiums.  Just look at the BE:  WV and Pitt- Heinz Field in Pittsburgh,  Cincy and Louisville-Paul Brown Stadium, Rutgers, UConn, Syracuse-The new Meadowlands, USF- Raymond James Stadium.  The Pac 10 already has USC, UCLA, in the LA Coliseum and Rose Bowl, Cal's Memorial Stadium seats 75,000, Stanford can play at Candlestick, Husky Stadium holds 72,500,  (Sorry Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State, you get to schlep to Seattle), and Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium and Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Now, I'm sure the bowl interests would fight this tooth and nail.  The Big Ten wouldn't like it.  But, hey, with the Big Ten's potential expansion, it' a bold new world in college football right?

Now, will this stave off expansion for both of these conferences forever?  No.  But not a bad interim step to make some money.

Posted on: March 14, 2010 12:21 pm

Expansion - Time for the ACC to Enter the Fray?

And the plot thickens even further.  So is the Big Ten plan to cherry pick one or more Big East teams if Notre Dame doesn't come around?  Well don't wait to long Jim Delany.  You may have competition soon.  It's called the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Hold it, the ACC already has 12 teams.  Expansion for the ACC has been a money-maker by some reports, but hasn't put the ACC in a position to challenge the SEC.  Miami is still trying to return to a dominant team.  Virginia Tech and Boston College have both made the ACC championship the past few years.  With embarrassing results attendance wise.  So you'd think the ACC would have had enough expansion for a while.

Well think again.  According to an article in Sports Business Journal, the ACC's television negotiations with ESPN aren't really going that well.  Seems the ACC thinks they should get a 60 to 70% increase.  ESPN apparently has told them, "Sorry, you're not the Big Ten or SEC."  The reason?  According to unnamed media executives, the "weakness of the ACC's football teams."

Can't you just see the ACC honchos, scratching their heads and saying, "Hmmm, I wonder where we can get some good football teams that will make the TV networks give us more money?  Well we certainly don't want to geographically expand our footprint.  Going to Boston College is far enough already.  If we could only find some decent teams a little closer than Boston College.  We could revamp divisions, save some travel costs by going to geographical divisions with only a few out of division games.   We could come up with a rival for BC.  And of course, we could get some more money out of those TV devils.  If only there were some teams that could do that.  Are there any teams like that close to Boston College?  Or if not,  how about Maryland, who's the next farthest north.  Aren't there some schools around there that have strong football teams?"

Nah forget it.  The ACC wouldn't know how to go about getting teams from other conferences to join.  Just not something they'd do.  Never mind.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 2:05 am

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg Should Pay Frank the Tank

Just surfing around the net today, and I wound up on ESPN's Big Ten blog written by Adam Rittenberg.  My position is that Adam should start sending part of his paycheck to blogger Frank the Tank.  Here we have the self-styled leader in sports programming, assigning writers (I use that term losely) to write blogs on the BCS football conferences.  Sounds like a good idea.  So we'd expect some reporting that you wouldn't otherwise get in the papers or on SportsCenter right?  So what did Adam the wordsmith have today about Big Ten expansion?  Two links to fan blogs.  Now how's that for insightful journalisim?

One of the blogs linked was that of "Frank the Tank" a Big Ten blogger who recently has gained some press (thanks in part to lazy reporters like Rittenberg) due to his early suggestion that the Big Ten should get Texas to hop on board.  Well, when the Texas/Big Ten rumours surfaced a few weeks ago, Frank looked rather prescient.  That is until the recent recent statements by  the Wisconsin AD and an article by the Chicago Tribune that Texas wasn't on a list of first fifteen and later five schools that were being considered.  Frank's latest blog takes issue with this and I'll address that further in a moment.

First let me say that Frank and I had a civil exchange of views on the Rutgers Rivals board the other day and as a fellow blogger, I respect him.  He makes no excuses for the fact that he is an Illinois and Big Ten fan and doesn't really believe or even like the idea of Rutgers going to the Big Ten.  I heartily disagree with him, but as a blogger I'm happy for him that his work, which he probably gets no money for, is getting some notice.

I no longer have any respect for Rittenberg.  He's getting paid by ESPN.  So as part of his journalistic efforts, he cites fan blogs?  Well Rittenberg I think you should hand over part of your paycheck to Frank the Tank.  Because it's clear from a comparison of your writing and Frank's, that Frank has put a heluva lot more time and effort into his.   Since you're doing nothing but piggy-backing off of his work, it's only fair that you should send Frank some of that big salary of yours.   And Frank if you get some money for this I expect at least a beer for championing your cause.

Alright let's take a look at Frank's latest blog which I disagree with.  The Chicago Tribune recently came out with a story that the Big Ten had hired an investment firm to look at whether expansion would be profitable.  Apparently the firm found it was and the names of Rutgers, Missouri, Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse were the five schools mentioned.  The Tribune's Teddy Greenstein wrote a further article, citing unamed Big Ten and other conference sources indicating that the best choices would be: 1. Rutgers, 2. Missouri, and 3. Syracuse.

This didn't sit well with Frank, who understandably as a Big Ten fan, would like to see one of the most storied football programs in history, in the form of either Notre Dame or Texas join.  http://frankthetank.wordpress.com/2

Fair enough.  But in his zeal for stating his case, he stepped on the toes of the oldest Division I football program so some wrongs have to be righted here.  Frank's first attack on the Tribune article is an attempt to find another reason one of Chicago's most respected sportswriters could publish something as heinous to Frank as Rutgers to the Big Ten.  The reason?  Well it seems to be a veiled message to Texas, that the Big Ten is willing to expand with other teams and Texas should come running.  In fact Frank is aghast that the Big Ten could treat Texas fans so poorly.

My personal opinion is that it would be unconscionable to have Texas alums legitimately considering a move to the Big Ten (and generally not having a knee-jerk reaction to it in the same way as Notre Dame alums) and then add a school like Rutgers or Missouri instead, but I’m just an Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

So not only would the Big Ten be making a huge mistake by taking Rutgers, they would also (heaven forbid) insult Texas alums.  Now Jim Delany may be a man of high moral fiber and impeccable manners.  I just don't think he's that concerned if Texas alums are disappointed.   I don't think Frank does either.  That's when he started taking some shots at Rutgers.  After wading through some poorly contrived analogies about Little League baseball and awkward NBA centers, I believe Frank is trying to say that NYC is a bad town for college football.  You know, it's a pro town, they'll never watch college football so Rutgers will never deliver a big TV crowd.  Now if Rutgers was a pro team, the argument would have some merit, with the Giants and Jets already in town.  However, New York City has not had a decent college football team to even consider since the Army teams of Blanchard and Davis in the 40's.  I lived and worked in New York for several years and New York loves a winner.  So if Greg Schiano can keep improving Rutgers football program, and it starts competing in BCS bowls, New York will take notice.  What about the argument that there's just so many entertainment dollars in a given area and if it's already saturated with pro teams, no one will support the college game?  Well if you live in Pittsburgh, with a population of 300,000 that can be a problem.  New York's smallest borough, Staten Island has over 400,000 people (and is 15 minutes from Rutgers.)  The city has over 7,000,000 people!  Nope, there's plenty of sports dollars to go around.  But New Yorkers demand a winner, and if Rutgers doesn't win, they won't be followed.   Fortunately for the Scarlet Knights they have been winning and crowds have risen from around 20,000 when Schiano took over to almost 50,000 last year.

Frank's parting shot was that the Big Ten has been waiting around for Notre Dame for years, why would they "settle" for Rutgers now?  Actually, there were several reports shortly after Penn State joined in the early 90's that the Big Ten was considering Rutgers, which at that time was a football only member of the Big East and played its basketball in the Atlantic Ten.  Funny how once those reports came out the Big East decided to offer Rutgers full membership for football and basketball.  So Rutgers to the Big Ten is not a new idea.

More importantly, times have changed since the 90's.  At that time, academics, cultural fit, tradition were much more important that they are today to the Big Ten.  (Not that Rutgers is a slouch in academics or tradition.  Cultural fit?  Yeah, the Northeast is probably more like the West Coast than it is the Midwest).  So when Penn State joined, these were the big considerations.  Today they are all trumped by one.  The Big Ten Network is a cash cow that puts about $20,000,000 in the pockets of each Big Ten school every year.  This money making machine can make even more by expanding its reach to more viewers.  Hmmm let's see, where's the closest place to the Big Ten's existing footprint that could provide a ton of viewers? (And it ain't St. Louis).  Yep, good old New York.   Well what if Rutgers can't deliver New York City?  That's ok, they'll just deliver the State of New Jersey which is the fourth largest TV market behind NYC, LA, and Chicago.  Oh and Penn State?  Remember how Comcast wouldn't pay you full price for Philadelphia?  Guess what's also part of Philadelphia's viewing area?  You guessed it, NJ.  So Rutgers could help you with a nice increase there too.  So Frank, if you want to know how Rutgers could be considered by the Big Ten, here it is.  It's called money, pure and simple.  And this is exactly what your beloved Big Ten is looking for, not prestige, and not prior national championships (although Rutgers does arguably have one).  Good old filthy lucre.  So don't be mad at Rutgers Frank.  If the Big Ten could be satisfied with 20 million per team annually, you could keep the Big Ten exactly the way you like it.  But apparently they're not.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com