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Friday, May 25, 2012
Big Ten Friday mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Wishing you a happy and safe holiday weekend. Barring breaking news, we'll be back with you bright and early Tuesday.

Mike from Chicago writes: I can't begin to explain how utterly confused I am as to your and Brian's stance on BIG 10 expansion. My question is why can't the BIG 10 just sit on their hands while every other conference expands to 16 teams. According to you, "Leagues would completely lack intimacy and commonality, teams would play even less often and there would be filler teams everywhere." As a fan of the BIG10 and Wisky, I would be livid if going to 16 teams meant Wisconsin would play Iowa even less than we do now and instead we had to play a Maryland team. Even if the BIG10 did get a bigger TV contract, it would still have to split the money evenly with an additional 4 members. And how in the world would the national image of your conference improve if you added teams like Rutgers or Maryland? And Notre Dame? Seriously?!?! The only thing Notre Dame is the Holy Grail of is being consistently nationally irrelevant for as long as I can remember. So your statement of the BIG 10 should/will do it cause everyone else is doing is laughable. The BIG 10 coaches, ADs, and presidents definitely have the right outlook of wanting to stay put.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, while the Big Ten is taking a cautious approach toward any future expansion, and the league's presidents don't seem interested in eclipsing 12 members any time soon, it's fair to ask whether the Big Ten can compete at 12 with 16-team superconferences. TV deals are absolutely critical in today's environment, more critical than most fans will acknowledge. The Big Ten has to weigh what type of deal it can get with 12 members vs. what it could with 14 or 16 and a larger footprint. If the Big 12 and SEC can sell their product in more regions and make substantially more money, the Big Ten's position could be significantly weakened over time. Yes, a league needs to worry about itself and its interests, but it can't be blind to what other leagues are doing in a competitive environment.

Your comment about Notre Dame comes from a place of being annoyed with Notre Dame. A lot of fans feel this way. But from a business perspective, you'd be absolutely insane not to want to add Notre Dame. It'd be a huge business boon for the Big Ten. And while there's a chance programs like Maryland and Rutgers simply could be more mouths to feed, those programs also could extend the Big Ten's reach into new markets. This is something the Big Ten must weigh in the coming months.



Nick from Omaha writes: Adam, with all this talk of super conferences and the speculation of conferences like the ACC and Big East being raided why doesn't the Big Ten try to move more into the southern footprint? Assuming Notre Dame chooses to join the Big 12, I feel like teams like Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Duke should all be considered as well as maybe Syracuse so the conference can move into the New York market. The ACC schools would all be home runs in athletics as well as academics, and although Syracuse is no longer an AAU member, they are still highly regarded in academics. I see no real pluses for the Big Ten bringing in teams like Virginia, Maryland, and Rutgers. Rutgers would hardly get us into the NYC market - Syracuse is the big school there and way better in athletics anyways. And besides academics, none of those three really bring anything to the table. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: The only home-run addition for the Big Ten would be Notre Dame, plain and simple. North Carolina would be a very nice addition, but UNC doesn't move the needle in football nationally much at all. Notre Dame would be a big splash, and if Texas were available, UT would be a home run as well. The rest are filler schools in my view, although some are better than others (Syracuse > Rutgers, as you say). Duke brings you NOTHING in football, and while Duke basketball is a wonderful national brand, these expansions are all about football. I like Georgia Tech because it's a strong academic school (AAU member) located in a major southern city (Atlanta). Georgia Tech has good tradition in football, and would give the Big Ten a greater presence in a key part of the country. Honestly, I don't know if the Big Ten can penetrate the New York market, even with a team like Syracuse. That part of the country seems so pro sports-focused, aside from Big East basketball championship week. I think Georgia Tech and Maryland would be more strategic additions.



Ben from Chicago writes: I know this is completely unrealistic, but how awesome would it be if the Big Ten played an 11-game conference schedule, so they could play everybody once. The 12th game could be reserved for traditional nonconference matchups, and that week could be rotated throughout the teams so Michigan, MSU, and Purdue could all play Notre Dame as their one nonconference game. Again, it's not going to happen, but one can fantasize, right?

Adam Rittenberg: You certainly can, Ben, but this will never happen. It also would remove the Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership, unless the Pac-12 game could replace Notre Dame or Iowa State on the schedules of Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Iowa. Also, it's hard to see a Big Ten team winning the national title with this type of schedule, unless schedule strength was the biggest factor in determining which teams make a playoff.



Daniel from Stamford, Conn., writes: Adam, I have seen a lot of talk lately about how the big ten division setup removes the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry. I started looking at the current setup and the rivalries that existed prior to the divisions and an idea occurred to me, switch Nebraska and Wisconsin. This brings back the Iowa-Wisconsin game and allows you to rename the divisions Big Ten North and Big Ten South. The obvious question becomes "what would guaranteed cross-division matchups be?" Here's my thought: Michigan-Ohio State, Illinois-Northwestern, Penn State-Michigan State, Indiana-Minnesota, Wisconsin-Purdue. This setup seems to maintain the most rivalries while also creating the most competitive environment. Note the only rivalries lost in this setup are Indiana-Michigan State (very one sided, Michigan State 41-15-2) and Minnesota-Penn State (only played 12 times). What are your thoughts on this setup? Do you think the Big Ten would ever consider it?

Adam Rittenberg: Daniel, it's important to point out that the other guaranteed cross-division matchup would be Nebraska-Iowa, which is and end-of-season game that has terrific rivalry potential. Your plan certainly helps from a rivalry perspective. The downsides for Nebraska is that it wouldn't play Michigan and Michigan State every year, but it would keep playing Iowa and have both Ohio State and Penn State on the schedule each season. Wisconsin would lose the annual Ohio State series, but it would keep both Iowa and Minnesota on the schedule every year. The big downside, and I know fans don't like to hear this, is that your plan puts three of the Big Ten's four major brands -- Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska -- in the same division. Should all three teams be really good in a given year, I'm not sure how much attention would be paid to the other division. The counter argument is that Wisconsin has won the past two Big Ten titles and Michigan State also is a program on the rise. The combination of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa should offset the strength in the other division. I like your plan. Good call.



Nicholas from Phoenix writes: Your article on Ohio State is a bit misleading and vague. You say that Ohio State admitted to secondary violations for recruiting but you never mention the absurdity of the violations. Like Urban Meyer saying "Good Luck" to Noah Spence before a game. Or Everett Withers inadvertently texting a recruit rather than emailing (happened once so clearly an accident). You also make it seem like this is an Ohio State issue. Every school in the country commits secondary violations all the time... most never report them and sweep them under the rug... Ohio State was being proactive and honest.

Adam Rittenberg: Nicholas, the specifics of the secondary violations are detailed here and here, and I did comment on the silliness of many of them. These type of issues aren't confined to Ohio State, and most football programs have multiple self-reported secondary violations per year. The reason this story was reported -- first by The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer -- is because it's newsworthy to see how Ohio State's compliance department has functioned after some obvious missteps in 2010/2011. It's not some vast media conspiracy against Ohio State, but when a school has major problems with the NCAA, it's our job to look back and see how the department is dealing with compliance issues. And the results of these reports is that Ohio State is doing its job in self-reporting violations and keeping track of them. There aren't any major issues here. So in that way, the news is positive.



Rich from Denver writes: Adam, after reading your argument that because Purdue basketball fans don't object to driving home at night the football fans probably won't either, I want to make a point with you. The fan bases are not exactly the same. I would guess that 99% of Purdue's basketball ticket holders come from within a 20-30 minute drive. I would guess a significant number of Purdue football ticket holders drive an hour or more for home games; maybe up to 20 percent. Speaking as one who used to drive to East Lansing from Chicago, night games are a huge burden for many. A noon or 1 p.m. kickoff allowed me to drive in for the game and still get back to Chicago at a reasonable time. Later kickoffs don't allow this -- especially in bad weather -- and often kept me from utilizing my season tickets. Just something to keep in mind when you advocate for more night games. Yes, I realize that one night game a year is reasonable as you argue. However, it might not seem reasonable to a long-time season ticket holder who lives far away to have to take on that burden for the most desirable game of the year (outside of the IU game, I suppose).

Adam Rittenberg: Rich, you make some good points about the differences in the fan bases. That said, I don't see how a Big Ten football fan base is vastly different from those in other parts of the country, where they regularly play night games. Do all LSU fans live 20 minutes away from Tiger Stadium? They don't seem to mind making the trips almost every week for night games. Do all Oklahoma State fans live right next to Boone Pickens Stadium? Penn State has the least convenient stadium location of any team in the Big Ten, and most Penn State football fans love night games and want more and more of them. I guess each fan base is different. My point is that Purdue is desperately trying to boost attendance and increase its profile both regionally and nationally. Having a better team will help this, but having more night games also can be very beneficial. And as I stated, night games can bring in fans who otherwise wouldn't attend a noon game (i.e. more students). I'm not saying Purdue should play five or six night games a year. But at least one -- and ideally two or even three -- would be beneficial.