Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Big Ten? Big Twelve? Big WTF.

With the arrival of the new Big Ten Network, the conference is once again bringing up the discussion about adding another school to the football conference. This creates some interesting questions, but unfortunately only a few half-solutions at best. There are limited options in where you get the team from, and a few criteria need to be met:

1) The additional team is Notre Dame. Done and done.

2) It makes reasonable sense geographically.

3) It’s a good school.

4) The school could realistically compete (at least by the standards of shitty Big Ten football teams) and has a good fan base for TV ratings.

Let’s consider the first point. This is the easiest and best solution. Even the most ardent Notre Dame haters (me) can agree to this. Tons of money, tons of fans, tons of tradition. Metrosexual quarterbacking doesn’t hurt ND in this situation.

Now for #2. I’ve seen some people suggest Eastern Carolina or something like Texas A&M. All other arguments aside, these schools aren’t close enough to the other Big Ten schools. Personally I think the biggest stretch would be Rutgers or Syracuse. Either of those are at least within nuclear bomb range of Penn State. MAC teams fit this consideration, and teams like Miami OH, Toledo, and Bowling Green are usually good enough to hang with and beat Big Ten bottom feeders.

The third consideration. I don’t know a ton about ECU but I’m just going to venture a guess that it doesn’t have the quality undergraduate program or the research facilities/graduate programs of a Michigan, Northwestern, or even Ohio State. In fact, if you’re not on this list: or this one: you’re probably not going to be considered by the Big Ten unless you’re Notre Dame or you’re a great geographical fit.

The fourth point from the list above. Okay, Johns Hopkins may fit both academic and geographic requirements but they’d obviously get demolished at the start, and who’s to say they’d ever get up to snuff with other D-1A schools?

Now there are two REALISTIC situations that could happen (sorry, Nebraska isn’t joining the Big Ten).

1) Draft a team from the Big East, throw a fuckton of money at them and leave it up to Big East people to decide how to fill the vacancy.

2) Draft a team from a lower conference that fits the last 3 considerations from above.

Stealing a Big East team

Syracuse – They’re on the first of the lists above but have been a remarkably horrible football team since McNabb left (and I don’t recall that they were anything spectacular with him). While they may have a lot of graduates and a big fanbase, I just don’t think it would work. Also, the Carrier Dome seems to be a total shithole. Hilariously, though sponsored by an air conditioning manufacturer, the CD isn’t air conditioned. As if Greg Robinson needs another reason to sweat it out on the sideline.

Pitt – This makes a lot of sense. Pitt makes both of the academic standard lists and is actually more geographically sensible than Penn State. They put out fairly competitive teams and have a nice, big main campus.

Rutgers – It came as a surprise to me that the de fact state university of New Jersey made the academic lists, but it did. Rutgers has been a pretty damn good team recently and it stands to reason that they probably have a ton of fans…somewhere. The NY/NJ area has a lot of football fans in general and Rutgers spits out a lot of alums. The questions here are whether or not they’d garner a big enough TV following and if they’re just too far out of the way.

Louisville – Geographically awesome, but doesn’t make either of the academic lists. Outstanding football program with lots of die hard fans and a nice stadium. Takes a bit of a hit because it’s a big commuter school and CFB Saturdays just don’t create much of an atmosphere on UL’s campus.

Cincinnati – Geographically awesome. Cincinnati is a gigantic metro area. However, normally shitty football team and not much interest in the program from the fans. Dark, craptacular stadium in “beautiful” Clifton in downtown Cincy.

Absorbing a team from a smaller conference

Toledo ­– I would say perfect geographic location, but Toledo is about 40 minutes (28 if you’ve got balls) from Ann Arbor. Cleveland sends a lot of kids to Toledo so there’s a good chance for displaced alums to tune in on TV. But honestly the Toledo area is about 50/50 between Michigan and Ohio State supporters. A 3rd large conference team might be overkill. Good engineering school, good football team.

Bowling Green – Only about 20 minutes south of Toledo, so many of the same things apply. Lots of Cleveland people and lots of UM/OSU fans. A pretty good football team as of late.

Miami OH – Makes more sense than Cincinnati in my opinion. A better school, very small commuting student population. Vibrant on-campus life. They’re usually at least competitive in the MAC but have taken a dive since Big Ben left. Would draw TV ratings from the Cincinnati Metro area.

The I-75 corridor has some quality prospects but I just don’t think another team in that area is logical. It’d just be too many teams and would create needless “rivalries” when we already have the best rivalry in college football in this conference.

Out of those, my pick is Pitt. It just makes the most sense as far as location, academics, and football prowess. Natural geographic rivalry with Penn State, fairly close to Columbus.

But now another issue arises. Let’s ignore the MAC for now, but obviously the Big East would lose a school should Pitt or whoever accept the Big Ten’s invite.

Big East replacement

Villanova – A decent 1-AA team, produced Bryan Westbrook not too long ago. Good location and school. Not sure about stadium capacity and whatnot. They have to be better than Temple at the very least.

Georgetown – Imagine having to meet a dress code to be admitted to the stadium. Imagine people spending a Saturday afternoon on their sailboat catching the G’town game on DirecTV. Any opportunity to see Georgetown teams lose works for me.

Buffalo – Not going to lie, Buffalo is routinely one of the worst D-1A teams there is. But the MAC has tons of teams already so they probably wouldn’t be missed, and assuming the law of averages they can’t be terrible forever. And besides, the Big East has a team like TEMPLE, I think they can stomach the Bulls.

Any other shitty team - The Big East could just absorb another doormat like Temple that doesn't have to specifically be Buffalo or Nova. Whatever.

I don’t know, the Big Ten is fine to me, even with 11 teams. If they can’t add Notre Dame or Pitt, I say fuck it. Not worth it. I'm not that in love with conference championship games to begin with.


Anonymous said...

If you really want to factor in academics into this, then we have to completely remove both Toledo and Bowling Green from the pot. Toledo who was once known for their pharmaceutical program, falls back on their engineering program which is fueled by their foreign students. As for Bowling Green... syphilis causes brain degeneration. Might as well recruit Tuskegee.

AK said...

The fact that BG/Toledo/Miami are close by makes them almost sure things. As in, there's no way the Big Ten comes calling and they say no.

I think there's some value in that the Big Ten knows it could absorb one of these smaller schools at almost any time, and it's probably a valid consideration for them.

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