As you might expect, given that this is my first mailbag since the stunner announcement last week that Southern California and UCLA would join the Big Ten in 2024, all of the chosen questions / comments are about expansion and ramifications thereof. It’s a new world.
This, from Adam Klein: Wouldn’t you rather see PSU play USC every year than Rutgers or Maryland?
No. Even if that was imminent, which I doubt but also don’t dismiss out of hand. And yes, I understand that a great part of FOX’s aim here is to stage more Big Ten games that bust the target threshold of 3 million viewers and a 2.0 rating. Generally, there’s only a handful of those per week nationally. You can usually count them on one hand.
To your point, Penn State against anybody in the B1G usually qualifies. Eight of the Nittany Lions ’13 games last season hit those marks. Two that didn’t were Maryland and Rutgers, albeit late in a shot season. And USC against just about everyone in the league will make that cut in 2024, certainly the PSU match.
But I will never equate college football with the NFL where division mates have been far-flung since I was a kid. Back in 1967, they put New Orleans and Atlanta in a division with Los Angeles and San Francisco. And famously, they put Dallas in a division with Washington and Philadelphia. You know how that worked out – mighty damn well.
But that’s the difference between pro and college football. What the merchandisers neither grasp nor care to is that the best part of the college game has always been about proximity. Border rivals are the most fervent. And league hopping orchestrated by ratings has killed so many great rivalries and, I believe, is killing the real soul of this game – based on being able to drive to enemy venues and represent.
The NFL, on the other hand, has always been about television. People don’t tell stories about being at games as much as simply watching them with friends. Something is lost if you apply that template to college football.
So, have Penn State-Rutgers or Penn State-Maryland ever been real rivalries? Nah, not yet. But they had the potential to be if RU or UMD ever fully got their acts together. And they would be the sort of rivalries you can feel when you get there.
PSU-USC, however many meetings per decade they allow, will always be a fabrication. It will be exclusively a TV production. And you’ll really feel how contrived it is in those years when one team or the other isn’t that great.
With Maryland and Rutgers, you always have a little bit of the border smack that can only result from neighborhood familiarity. I will never get used to college football any other way.
This, from Mike Tyworth: Will Notre Dame be smart enough to join the B1G?
Eventually, I think Notre Dame will have to join some conference. TV revenue has just become too great a chasm between those within the big leagues and those not. The next Big Ten TV deal will surely yield $ 100 million per school per year. Notre Dame’s current pact with NBC, expiring in 2025, is a mere $ 15 million.
Maybe the UND fathers ’stubbornness and adherence to their independence for this long is their genius – something greater than obvious expedience and profit. Because they have incredible leverage right now. Notre Dame has the ability to stick with the ACC and become a full member and save that conference. It has the ability to prevent the SEC from raiding the ACC for Clemson and Florida State – because the SEC knows that would likely spur UND to join the B1G and that’s a sequence that hurts the SEC more than it helps. The Irish are holding together what remains of college football’s status quo.
They also have time to negotiate and gain some not-so-equal concessions from the Big Ten if the other members agree to it. Not a greater payout than the others, but maybe advantageous scheduling and broadcast windows. Say, getting to play their established rivals – USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Penn State – every year in a preferential slot.
Where back in the ’90s after the Big Ten acquired Penn State I really hoped that UND would follow as the 12th member, now I hope the Irish stay on their own, if for no other reason than to piss everyone else off and not succumb to this trend.
But would it be financially beneficial for Notre Dame to join the B1G? It’s impossible to argue against it.
This, from Brian McDonald: You’ve written many times about how expansion decisions are largely tied to how a conference can infiltrate a new TV market. If that’s still the case and you were to combine that factor with brand recognition (not to mention greater access to a recruiting gold mine), would it stand to reason that the B1G would home in on Florida State and Miami as other new entrants? Tampa / St. Pete, Miami / Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando are all Top 20 markets. I realize neither are AAU institutions and understand there’s some trickiness to any current ACC school jettisoning the conference under its current media deal. Nothing’s sacred anymore in this new world order (bothers me like it does you), so why wouldn’t the conference look to pillage the South, too?
As you touched upon, the ACC’s interminable grant of rights conundrum and crappy ESPN contract through 2034 is an issue. So, that substantial exit payment would have to be taken care of somehow. Still, at least half of your proposal is an interesting notion.
What you didn’t mention is that south Florida is full of Northeastern and Midwestern expatriates who would dig the hell out of a Big Ten member in their midst much more than anything Hurricane football has ever done for them with the stinky Big East or humdrum ACC. Up to now, the fan base has been a sort of low-rent version of the Raiders, skanky ersatz outlaws who get lit for certain rivals but can’t get excited for garden-variety conference games. It really hasn’t changed much since Jimmy Johnson was coach. But start bringing Big Ten schools down there as league brethren and I think you open up a whole new sector of customers – both live gate and viewership.
Further, Miami could easily be a leftover once the SEC makes its next move (Clemson and Florida State, if Notre Dame bolts the ACC). They really don’t move the needle much against most SEC foes, not like FSU or Clemson or even North Carolina do. I might be wrong, but I don’t think the SEC is particularly interested in Miami, per se. I don’t think they’re very worried about them as a fiscal competitor either because of what they’ve always been.
Were Jim Delany still running the Big Ten, I could see him targeting Miami as a possibility, sort of a spec bet as RU and UMD were. But I seriously doubt Kevin Warren possesses such audacity. Further, only half of your plan is tenable; FSU is pure Dixie up near the panhandle and I don’t believe their alums and followers would hear of the Seminoles in the Big Ten. I know it’s a new age and all, but that’s just really not a fit.
Anyway, you are awarded bonus points for creative thinking. Nobody’s mentioning Miami in the B1G – private school, fickle fan base, incongruous reputation and all – but I think it’s an intriguing idea for all the reasons you mention. Big Ten membership overhauls the Hurricane brand. It also carves out a completely new chunk of viewership turf for the league. It’s not an insane idea.
This, from Caroline Faure: Pac-12 and Big 12 merge. Only way any school in the western half of the USA will have relevance.
And this from Frank Bilovsky: Plus it would allow them to retain the coveted Morgantown market.😊
You guys have it all figured out. No reason for me here. G’night, everybody!
In all seriousness, it’s entirely possible no one from either league is quite attractive enough to be poached by the B1G or SEC. The recently announced Pac-12-ACC alliance or whatever it sounds is inconsistent to me.
So, yeah, if two super-conferences are inevitable, why not a 24-team second-tier? It would be an amalgam of the 12-team version of the Big 12 (without departing Oklahoma and Texas), 10 leftovers from the Pac-12 and a single add-on each from the American and Mountain West. It becomes a rational 4-division set-up. And I can’t take credit for this because some online poster thought of it. But it makes a lot of sense. (Which, of course, means it has no place in today’s college football discourse.)
Cannot see the graphic? Click here.
Some Western fans might prefer San Diego State rather than Boise. Fine, the Aztecs go into the Pacific division and Washington State easily bumps over to the Mountain division.
You could also manage travel pretty easily with the 12 Western members playing each other more often, ditto with the 12 Eastern members.
The only real outlier geographically is UCF, but they were just happy to get an invitation to the Big 12 in the first place and knew what they were getting into.
More PennLive sports coverage:
• What remains after super-conferences pluck what they want? Hunger game between Pac-12 and Big 12.
• Freddie Mitchell on UCLA’s first hearing move to the Big Ten: “I was sick to my stomach.”
• Here’s hoping this USC / UCLA-Big Ten merger careens off the track, crashes and burns.
• Reasons for and residue of USC / UCLA bolt to Big Ten have me conflicted at best, depressed at worst.