Big 10 Adding a 12th? Who Will It Be?

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney told the Des Moines Register on Thursday that the Big Ten may discuss adding a 12th member to its league, partly due to the formation of the Big Ten Network...that's always an interesting topic, and we take a look at it, from top to bottom. Who might the 12th team be, how will that affect the football aspects of the league, and much more..

A new discussion has emerged regarding future expansion possibilities within the Big Ten Conference.  Commissioner Jim Delaney stated in a copyrighted Des Moines Register story from Thursday that due to the creation of the Big Ten Network, adding a 12th member would one again be a relevant discussion, as early as next year.


That spawned some debate and discussion on the Hawkeye Nation message boards today, as well as on my radio program.


There are several aspects to consider, and I want to get several of them into one location for a greater understanding and discussion of the situation, because it's not so cut and dried.


First, who would the 12th member be?


Notre Dame had their chance in 1999, but decided to stay independent.  I am guessing the Big Ten would at least make one more inquiry to Notre Dame before looking in a different direction.  I would be shocked if they did not.  As much as I despise Notre Dame football, I would welcome the Fighting Irish into the Big Ten in a heartbeat.


That would put more distance between the Big Ten and every other conference in the league as far as television viewership goes;  there are more Americans living in Big Ten states than in the states that comprise the other BCS Conferences.  Adding Notre Dame, whose national appeal is rivaled by Michigan, and Michigan alone, would be a home run.


But they don't appear to want to share things the way they would have to in the Big Ten.  They are also scaling back their ‘mini' Big Ten schedule, doing away with their series against Michigan and Michigan State; they will still keep Penn State and Purdue in their lineup.


I personally believe that Notre Dame would have a tough time being ‘Notre Dame' if it played an annual eight or nine game Big Ten conference schedule, and I am guessing they know that, too.


The way things are set up right now within the current BCS system, Notre Dame has a far too easy road to the $15,000,000 BCS game payday, and they don't have to share that money with anyone.  They have their own TV contract with NBC, and they don't have to share. 


So whose next?  I have been keen on Rutgers for about the last five years of this discussion, and that was well before it was cool to say Rutgers; since joining the Big East in 1991, they have had just four winning seasons.  The first two years and the latest two years.


They had some solid winning percentages during the 1970's as an Independent, including an 11-0 season, but they played between three and five non-Division I opponents during those years.  So their football history is really being made right now under Coach Greg Schianno. 


But they are located next door to the media capital of America, if not the world; New York City.  And while New Yorkers will never be called rabid college football fans, as that is an NFL and MLB town, the sheer volume of people in the region makes Rutgers very attractive here.  The University is also a research institution, a likely criteria for a future Big Ten invite.  C. Vivian Stringer's lady hoopers are pretty salty, too.


Syracuse is the other team most often mentioned.  They too are a research institution, and they have a much more rich football tradition than Rutgers.  Heisman Trophy winners, a running back legacy in the 1950's and 1960's, flirting with National Titles in the 1990's…things haven't been great there for a few years, but they have done it before.  Their men's basketball program is one of the most successful teams over the course of the last quarter century, which is a big time bonus.  They would instantly improve the stature of Big Ten conference, and that league needs a bit of that in hoops right now, on the whole.


Some folks like to throw Pitt out there, but the Big Ten will likely want to expand into a new market, a new state.  Penn State is the dominant team in Pennsylvania.  Louisville is another popular school that gets bandied about due to their recent rise in football and their rich basketball tradition, but they are not a research institution.  Neither is Missouri, another popular name.


Now, I doubt that Nebraska would leave the Big 12, but they are a research institution, as long as the Big 12 stays away from equal revenue sharing, there would be little incentive to leave that league.  If they did, they might be able to schedule an annual game against Oklahoma in say, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, where both teams could split the gate.  Losing that matchup was a bummer of a deal when the Big 12 formed.


So to be a fit, you are probably looking for a state that borders at least one of the current Big Ten states, or is just a state away in a logical region.  Looking to the south doesn't make much sense to me, as you are talking about a much different culture than what exists in the heartland and Ohio Valley regions.  Nebraska is in a conference, Mizzou doesn't fit the bill academically, Iowa State would be a second team from a small state, Louisville is out academically.  Kansas State is a research institution, but their players wouldn't make it through the Big Ten admission standards.  OK, I was just kidding on that one…a little bit.


As I scanned all of the colleges in the Universities Research Association (, there really are just three schools that don't seem currently entrenched in a conference that also meet the research institution criteria; Notre Dame, Rutgers and Syracuse.


Again, Notre Dame appears fine content to be on their own.  They are the absolute perfect fit, as they are right smack dab in the middle of the region…but oh well.


Next comes the athletic thought process, and since football is the bell cow for athletic departments, we start there.


12 teams likely means two divisions.  Two divisions likely means six on each side, and playing the other five teams in your division each year.  The Big 12 does that, and they play three teams from the opposite division in a two-year, home and home setup, then they rotate to the other three teams and doing the same.


Some other discussions on the message boards include playing a nine game schedule, where you would play your five division foes, then get to have two protected rivals in the opposing division, and then rotate between the four other teams on a two-year, home and home basis.


But a nine game schedule means playing five home games and four road games one year, then four home games and five road games the next year. 


I don't see that as working out. 


The current football schedule of 12 games was put into place basically by the presidents of the BCS conference schools to make more money from an extra home games.  This has a trickle down effect for smaller conferences, such as the MAC, who have to populate the schedule.  The Big Ten and MAC have a scheduling agreement in place.   The MAC schools get a nice payday for traveling to a Big Ten school, and that helps support their athletic departments. 


Northern Illinois averaged right around 20,000 fans per home game last year.  20,000 times $20 per ticket is $400,000 dollars.  They probably got at least that, if not more, for coming to Iowa City last year.  Now, they don't get any concessions dollars, but that is a lot of money for a road game.


So if you are playing five Big Ten road games and four home games, that leaves three out of conference games to be played at home to have at least seven home games.  And you are not going to see BCS conference teams have any fewer than seven home games, unless there is a situation like Iowa has this year, playing at Soldier Field.  It won't happen any other way, save for the elites of the world like Notre Dame, who will play in Orlando and San Antonio down the road.  But trust me, they will make their cash for those games.


For an Iowa, that would mean that the Iowa State football game would be in jeopardy, unless that game could be scheduled to be played in Iowa City during the year Iowa would have just four home games.  But that means Iowa would never have more than seven home games in one season.


It doesn't add up, in today's BCS climate.


So I don't see a nine game Big Ten slate being a reality, or if it is, series like Iowa-Iowa State would probably come to an end.


Then there is the discussion of having a Big Ten title game. 


I don't know if the coaches favor such a thing; Kirk Ferentz doesn't seem to at this time.  


The Big 12 title game has oftentimes knocked out one of their schools from BCS consideration.


The Big Ten, even prior to the addition of the fifth BCS game, was routinely getting two teams into BCS games.


What's that old saying…if it ain't broke, don't fix it.


Certainly, this is a discussion to be continued…

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