BT expansion push fueled by internal faith

April, 29, 2010
4/29/10
10:00
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Any Big Ten expansion plan to the East Coast that doesn't include Notre Dame is bound to be questioned and, quite frankly, doubted.

Is Rutgers capable of bringing in the New York market? Could a combination of Rutgers, Syracuse and Connecticut corner New York, and bring in a sliver of Boston, too? Why isn't the Big Ten pursuing Boston College as well?

These questions are constantly popping up as the Big Ten continues its expansion study. But it's important to mention an element that seems to get overlooked.

The Big Ten might be able to succeed in any market because of the strength it already possesses.

In other words, who cares if Rutgers can bring in New York? The Big Ten can bring in New York by itself; Rutgers simply gives the league a reason to be more present in the market. You'd have Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State making regular trips to Piscataway, N.J. You'd have a reason to try to get the Big Ten Network on local cable providers in the New York area, which could be very lucrative for the entire league.

Rutgers or Syracuse or Connecticut or even Boston College are simply ways to get in the door. Sure, they would have to bring something to the table. Big Ten presidents aren't going to share their money with just anyone.

But if the Big Ten is confident enough in its existing product -- its teams, its network, its clout in college sports -- it might not care too much about how much the new additions really pull into the league. And all indications suggest the confidence is there, from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to the university presidents and on down the list.

David Jones summarizes it perfectly:

"The reason the Big Ten is now such a cash cow and so attractive is cable rights fees pouring in from [Jim] Delany's 2-year-old Big Ten Network -- to the tune of $66 million last fiscal year. The Big Ten is hardly interested in the game-to-game ratings Rutgers or Syracuse would bring -- which, by the way, are historically comparable to several Big Ten schools. It's the new cable footprint and prospect of a deal with NYC metro provider Cablevision, one similar to the pact arduously hacked out by the BTN with Time-Warner in the Midwest and Comcast in Pennsylvania. That's where the big money is these days in TV sports.



Besides Notre Dame or Texas, no addition to the Big Ten truly moves the needle on its own. But if the Big Ten brand is as strong as it appears to be, it might not matter.

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