Big Ten Expansion Part 1

Okay, so now that Texas has gone from zero possibility to...some-degree-higher-than-zero possibility of joining the Big Ten, we are still not anywhere closer to having a single leading candidate(s). Among the many folks out there taking sides in this debate, mgoblog feels that 14 teams in the conference when this is all said and done is such a crazy idea, that it's not really such a crazy idea. And I tend to agree.

The idea of a super-conference is one that is both ludicrous and totally awesome at the same time. I don't know if the Big Ten is really the conference that is best suited to pull this kind of trick off...but then again, who is? The Big Ten has its footprint clearly through the heartland of maybe the best college football territory in the country. The middle to upper-midwest is prime time for college football recruits, fans, culture, and boasts some of the greatest and most tradition-rich colleges out there. Every conference is distinguished by its geographical location...and the Big Ten's is vast.

There are schools out there that have been mentioned so far as possibilities that already fall very close to the current reach of the conference's footprint. Among those schools, Missouri and Pitt both make sense in that they are located conveniently close to other Big Ten schools, have good academics and would be a natural fit to enter the conference with the ability to compete in not only football, but many other varsity sports as well.

So far 3 schools are leading candidates, by mere internet speculation only, but none-the-less, are leading candidates. And one school is just so crazy of an idea that today's news puts them on this list as well. So let's meet them.

University of Missouri:

Location: Columbia, Missouri
Established: 1839
Endowment: 1.02B
Enrollment: 30,831
Nickname: Tigers
Conference: Big 12
Colors: Black and Gold
Closest Big Ten Opponent: Iowa
National Titles: 0
Conference Titles: 15 (Last: 1969)
Bowl Appearances: 29 (Last: 2009)
All-Time Record: 612-512-52 (.543)

A flagship state university, Missouri would more than meet the academic requirements (whatever they are) in order to please the Big Ten's university presidents.

Well established as a solid football program in a very competitive conference. They have done well in recent years against the Big Ten, especially against Illinois. They are close enough in location so as to not dramatically increase travel costs for schools to have to visit or for them to have to travel. Really, athletically speaking, they are about as solid of a pick as you can get.

The one major con would be...would they be willing to leave the Big 12? You could argue the same thing for any potential school who has to leave an equally successful and competitive conference. But the main draw for Missouri, or any school really, would be money. I don't have my calculator in front of me, but I'd have to think they'd be better off in the Big Ten. So the real question for them is, would they be more successful in the Big Ten or the Big 12? It would depend on which division they'd be put in and who'd they be matched up with...but to me, I'd think they'd be more successful where they are now.

University of Pittsburgh:
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Established: 1787
Endowment: 1.837B
Enrollment: 27,562
Nickname: Panthers
Conference: Big East
Colors: Blue and Gold
Closest Big Ten Opponent: Penn State
National Titles: 9 (Claimed)
Conference Titles: 13 (Last: 2004)
Bowl Appearances: 26 (Last: 2009)
All-Time Record: 663-478-42 (.578)

Aside from the former rivalry with Penn State (on hiatus since 2000), the pros of having Pitt in the conference are about the same as Missouri's. Relatively close, decently solid football program. They also are located in an urban setting in Pittsburgh. They play home games at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers (although they rarely fill the stadium).

Well, actually Penn State would be the biggest road block to Pitt getting in. Ever since 2000, efforts to renew the rivalry have been on hold because of a lack of communication from both schools athletic departments...something of a bitter feud. Pitt's biggest current rival is West Virginia.

However, I feel that neither of those schools really add anything to the conference that we don't already have. In other words, Pitt and Missouri are not really exciting. To add one of these schools would feel like expansion for expansion's sake.

But the other side of the argument for expansion is one of a more genuine "expansion" with maps and stuff. Schools like Rutgers and Texas fall into that category. They not only add their great names and reputation to a traditional conference, but also extend the reach of the Big Ten into territories not really considered Big Ten regions.

Rutgers University:

Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Established: 1766
Endowment: 545M
Enrollment: 52,471
Nickname: Scarlet Knights
Conference: Big East
Colors: Scarlet
Closest Big Ten Opponent: Penn State
National Titles: 1 (Shared 1869)
Conference Titles: 7 (Last: 1961)
Bowl Appearances: 6 (Last: 2009)
All-Time Record: 596-589-42 (.503)

Rutgers is the largest state school in New Jersey and would fit very well into the Big Ten academic mold. So from an institution standpoint, they're a no-brainer (pardon the pun). Football has just recently come around at Rutgers since a long drought of pretty sub-par teams over the last 50 years. As far as tradition is concerned, Rutgers played Princeton for the first ever inter-collegiate football game in 1869. Head coach Greg Schiano, while having only a .474 win-loss record at Rutgers since 2001, is credited as the savior of Rutgers football and putting them back on the map in 2005 with their first bowl appearance.

Maybe the biggest pro to Rutgers is having a Big Ten presence on the east coast. This not only helps television viewership...hello Big Ten Network, but also would positively impact recruiting for all Big Ten schools.

They would struggle to compete early-on at least in football. Sure they've had some good seasons the last few years under Schiano, but a grueling and physical Big Ten schedule might be more than the Scarlett Knights are used to. Not a real "win" for the conference from a football standpoint.

University of Texas:

Location: Austin, Texas
Established: 1883
Endowment: 16.1B
Enrollment: 50,995
Nickname: Longhorns
Conference: Big 12
Colors: Burnt Orange
Closest Big Ten Opponent: Illinois
National Titles: 4
Conference Titles: 32 (Last: 2009)
Bowl Appearances: 47 (Last: 2009)
All-Time Record: 845-318-33 (.720)

Now Texas is a whole 'nother beast altogether. They are the better half of the Big 12's best rivalry. They are a national powerhouse. Among the 4 main contenders for the Big Ten expansion, they're the only team with a BCS bowl appearance (4 of them actually). They are maybe the biggest and most popular thing in Texas...which is saying something. Sorry Cowboy fans. If by some crazy turn of events Texas actually joins the Big Ten, watch out. Not only would this make the Big Ten by far the most powerful and competitive conference, in relatively all sports, but also the most lucrative. Texas was recently named #1 on the Forbes' Most Valuable College Football Teams list.

It could be argued that travel costs would dramatically impact the conference as a whole because of Austin's rather distant proximity to the rest of the Big Ten, and that's a valid argument. But I would say to doesn't matter. Increased revenue to the conference's team's from television networks, including the Big Ten's own Big Ten Network which would suddenly have about 25 million potential new viewers, would far outweigh any increase in travel budgets for member institutions.

But maybe the largest road blocks in baiting Texas into the Big Ten would be:
1) Current rivalries with Oklahoma and Texas A&M
2) Texas state legislature
3) The baseball squad at Texas would OWN the Big Ten
4) Texas is good enough and big enough, it could legitimately go independent (in football) and not have to share a dime with the Big Ten or the Big 12.

This debate will go on and on. But all it took was a little rumor about a phone call to get all the interwebs buzzing. Call it crazy off-season speculation, call is legit...whatever. Either way, this is a topic sure to make more news hopefully very soon.

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1 comment

  1. FYI. Rutgers has 37000+ students, not 55000. The New Brunswick Campus: 29,095 undergraduates; 8,269 graduate students; 2,681 acres; 647 buildings
    The other campuses are in Newark and Camden.

    Missouri has 31000+ students in Columbia. If you want to add the StL, KC and Rolla campuses it's nearly 65000.