Gaining Momentum?

Adam Rittenberg of ESPN blogged that the grassroots movement to add a 12th Big Ten team and create a championship game may be growing.

Seems like the movement for Big Ten expansion has received a boost, at least according to Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez.

The AD and former Badgers football coach told Wisconsin’s athletic board today that he expects the Big Ten to increase its push to add a 12th member. The Big Ten hasn’t expanded since adding Penn State, which began competing as a league member in football in 1993.

“I have a sense [Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany] is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it,” Alvarez told the board. “I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators.”

Which begets the question . . . who? Notre Dame would be a natural fit, geographically and historically. They usually play 3 Big Ten teams every year already. But their exclusive TV contract and independence remains a considerable roadblock.

I have seen various other teams thrown out there: Missouri, Nebraska, Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse, and even Rutgers.

Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror has thrown Cincinnati into that mix. His argument looks at things from the other side . . . not who the Big Ten wants, but who would want to join the Big Ten.

Not Pitt. Not Syracuse.

Forget about those schools because it’s not going to happen. They are happy in the Big East and have become national powers in basketball. They won’t give up their hoops exposure and rivalries merely for the right to be a second- or, in Syracuse’s case, third-tier football program in the Big Ten.

Notre Dame may be down, but it’s still getting paid big bucks. Its TV deal with NBC runs through the 2015 season and reportedly is worth $9 million per year. The school would be crazy to join a league and be forced to give up or share that money.

Looking over every major conference and every possible team, the best choice – for several reasons – to become the Big Ten’s 12th member is … Cincinnati.

There may be sexier candidates, sure, but just because the Big Ten might want one of them — like Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse, Maryland or Boston College — doesn’t mean those schools would be at all interested in walking away from their current situations.

Cincinnati probably would.

He lists as the only potential drawback the size of their stadium.

The lone drawback would be that its football facility, Nippert Stadium, seats only 35,000. That would have to be addressed if Cincinnati were to enter the Big Ten.

Size doesn’t matter does it? And even if it does, consider that our last game at Indiana was attended by 41,251 in 2007. I just realized that we played Indiana at home two years in a row. Huh? And next year the game will be in Washington D.C.! And the Northwestern game attendance this year was only 30,546. Surely the Bearcats could match that number with just about any Big Ten team on the schedule.

I think the maiun downside of Cincinnati is that it doesn’t add anything to the viewing area, since Ohio State already represents that zone well. At least Syracuse, West Virginia, Missouri and Rutgers bring new viewing and recruiting areas into play, although arguably Penn State already draws well from those areas with the exception of Missouri.

And as for writing Notre Dame off carte blanche, consider this report by Clay Travis as to the financial implications for Notre Dame:

Why’s that number important? Because in 2008, every school in the Big Ten will clear north of $15 million from the conference, a number that will only increase in years to come. Every school in the SEC will bank, conservatively, $17 million. (Looking at the numbers it’s likely the SEC will hit $20 million within a couple of years.) The reason for these increases is simple, spiraling television money. The Big Ten Network distributed $7.5 million to each conference school last year, and in conjunction with the 10-year, $1-billion deal that the Big Ten signed with ABC/ESPN, there’s a whole lot of new television money floating around. Let me repeat that, the Big Ten Network alone has almost equaled the payout for Notre Dame’s sacrosanct contract with NBC.

Every team in the SEC has also eclipsed Notre Dame since signing a new $3-billion contract with CBS and ESPN that tripled existing rights fees ($2.25 billion reportedly comes from ESPN, while the CBS deal is $825 million). Throw in that Notre Dame now nets just $4.5 million for an appearance in a BCS game (against $1.3 million each year if it doesn’t go to a BCS bowl) and you’re looking at a financial mountain that is becoming increasingly uphill for Notre Dame. Television revenue at most conferences is rapidly accelerating while at Notre Dame it’s staying the same. Where once the Fighting Irish were king of the television universe, conference affiliation deals are now lapping the Irish.

And these numbers were cranked out BEFORE the added expense of buying out Weis and dwindling TV ratings. It will also be interesting what effect the potential Comcast buyout of NBC has on the future of Notre Dame’s contract.

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Filed under Barry Alvarez, Big Ten, expansion, football, Jim Delany, Notre Dame

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