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Miller: Big 10 Puts Texas & Notre Dame on Notice?

May 18, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

You can get your fill of all of the Big Ten expansion stories from Tuesday’s press briefing from Big Ten commish Jim Delaney by clicking here.

This is a topic we have been following closely and will continue to do so…here is my two cents on what went down on Tuesday:

Delaney said that having a Big Ten Championship football game is not a priority, and if it was they could have put that together 20 years ago.  While it might not be a priority, when the league expands, there will be a championship game because that’s a cash machine in the making.

Delaney said that they are still operating on the 12 to 18 month time frame.  He said that reports and speculation have been premature, and he added that it’s the nicest way he can describe some of the reports.  The kicker for me is when did that 12 to 18 month clock start?  Did it start in mid-December when the Big Ten released a terse statement on expansion?  Here was that statement, in case you had forgotten:

Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in June of 1990 and its addition has been an unqualified success. In 1993, 1998 and 2003 the COP/C, in coordination with the commissioner’s office, reviewed the issue of conference structure and expansion. The COP/C believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion. As a result, the commissioner was asked to provide recommendations for consideration by the COP/C over the next 12 to 18 months.
The COP/C understands that speculation about the conference is ongoing. The COP/C has asked the conference office to obtain, to the extent possible, information necessary to construct preliminary options and recommendations without engaging in formal discussions with leadership of other institutions. If and when such discussions become necessary the COP/C has instructed Commissioner James E. Delany to inform the Chair of the COP/C, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, and then to notify the commissioner of the affected conference(s). Only after these notices have occurred will the Big Ten engage in formal expansion discussions with other institutions. This process will allow the Big Ten to evaluate options, while respecting peer conferences and their member institutions. No action by the COP/C is expected in the near term. No interim statements will be made by the Big Ten or the COP/C until after the COP/C receives the commissioner’s recommendations and the COP/C determines next steps, if any, in this area.

Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in June of 1990 and its addition has been an unqualified success. In 1993, 1998 and 2003 the COP/C, in coordination with the commissioner’s office, reviewed the issue of conference structure and expansion. The COP/C believes that the timing is right for the conference to once again conduct a thorough evaluation of options for conference structure and expansion. As a result, the commissioner was asked to provide recommendations for consideration by the COP/C over the next 12 to 18 months.

The COP/C understands that speculation about the conference is ongoing. The COP/C has asked the conference office to obtain, to the extent possible, information necessary to construct preliminary options and recommendations without engaging in formal discussions with leadership of other institutions. If and when such discussions become necessary the COP/C has instructed Commissioner James E. Delany to inform the Chair of the COP/C, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, and then to notify the commissioner of the affected conference(s). Only after these notices have occurred will the Big Ten engage in formal expansion discussions with other institutions. This process will allow the Big Ten to evaluate options, while respecting peer conferences and their member institutions. No action by the COP/C is expected in the near term. No interim statements will be made by the Big Ten or the COP/C until after the COP/C receives the commissioner’s recommendations and the COP/C determines next steps, if any, in this area.

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‘The next 12 to 18 months’ line came on December 15th.  We’re halfway through the 12 month time frame.  11 months would be November of 2010, at the end of the college football regular season.  18 months would be one year from right now, and before the 2011-2012 fiscal year begins in July of 2011.  Makes sense.

Am I totally ruling out something happening in the next 40 or so days before this fiscal year comes to an end?  Not entirely, but I think the chances are remote.

Next, Delaney talked about the shift in population demographics to Sunbelt states in recent decades, and how that was going to be a factor in looking at the future of the Big Ten.  Does this say, ‘Hello, Texas!’ or what?  Well, at least we think the Longhorns will most certainly be on the radar.  You can stop right there with regards to Sunbelt expansion; Texas is the jewel of college football in this regard, they recently talked of the benefit of forming their own TV network, and they bring in more revenue than any other college athletic department.  Texas is THE prize in Big Ten expansion, from a financial standpoint.

They are a member of the American Association of Universities, which is likely going to play a huge role in expansion, save Notre Dame.  They are the second most populated state but California is like another country as it relates to TV revenue because they are in a different time zone that is all but forgotten as it relates to college athletics.  Did I mention they are flush with cash?

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What I took away from all that I read was that Texas AND Notre Dame are going to have every chance to join a new Big Ten.  Neither is likely ready to say yes or no, so the ‘exploratory’ process will continue for the Big Ten into the summer and fall, and an announcement could come in November or December.

Apparently the league handed out an ‘expansion fact sheet’ to media members, and went out of their way to make it appear as though they are taking their time, performing ample due diligence, etc.

In my opinion, if Texas and Notre Dame would have told the Big Ten ‘yes’ by now, we wouldn’t have a 12 to 18 month timeline.

There is a game of…ahem…Texas Hold’em going on right now.  It will go on for several more months.  It will go on through the football season, where two teams from the Big Ten will get BCS bids once again, and the Big 12 probably gets one this year unless Oklahoma can really put things back together…Notre Dame will be out of the BCS picture as well.

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Texas is the king of the Big 12 as it relates to TV revenue, but with that total being just north of $10 million, and Northwestern’s TV revenue share being the same $22 million as Ohio State’s, that’s like saying in the land of the blind the man with one eye is king.  Texas will earn millions more for their athletic empire in the Big Ten, and potentially hundreds of millions more for their University in grant dollars, etc, through being tied in with the league on the academic side, over the next quarter century.

Lastly, I just want to reiterate one more time; being a part of the AAU is going to play a big factor.  Texas is in it, Notre Dame is not.  Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Pitt, Iowa State, etc are a part of the AAU as well…here is a link for that list.

In the late 1990’s, when Notre Dame was pretty much invited to the Big Ten, the academic side of the University was very much in favor of joining the league…but the athletic side won out.  Watching that fight play out again will be fun.

The Big Ten basically put the ball in the court of Texas and Notre Dame on Tuesday, and gets to sit back and wait for their phone to ring…apparently, they are in no hurry…nor should they be, because the cash register is ringing and will keep ringing regardless.





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