It’s Thanksgiving Wednesday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. I know, this is usually a Friday tradition, but we won’t have Mad Chatter on Friday. So today we cover college football rivalry weekend and Creighton hoops, Kinnick Stadium and Grinnell’s record night. But first, Big Ten expansion.
Jim Delany made one move (Nebraska) for prestige. He made the next (Maryland and Rutgers) for demographics. Where does he turn next? You can count on the Big Ten going to 16, most likely before Maryland and Rutgers join the league in 2014.
It’s impossible to know what Delany is thinking — and his seems to be the only opinion that matters. But let’s look at his options. Based upon the lay of the land and Delany’s stated priorities, here are the 10 schools most likely to become Big Ten members:
10 — Texas: Nebraska might ask out of the Big Ten if this happened. But the appeal is obvious. Big Ten schools would be swimming in money the next 50 years.
9 — Boston College: Could Delany get the Big Ten Network into New England? If he’ll accept Maryland, he would at least look at BC.
8 — Florida State: Not an AAU member, but a football power in a high-population state. This would be a stunner.
7 — Virginia Tech: Another football powerhouse in a large-population state. But it’s a long way from major metro areas. Besides, the Hokies look primed for an SEC move.
6 — Notre Dame: You know all the reasons why. Everybody wants to see it happen … except Notre Dame. If you think they’re turning their back on independence after a 12-0 season, you’re crazy.
5 — Kansas: Would definitely deliver the Kansas City market. But that’s probably not enough. Basketball doesn’t move the meter in conference realignment. And could KU get away from K-State?
4 — Syracuse: That ACC contract won’t mean much if the league starts falling apart. It’s a good fit academically, culturally and geographically, especially because it would help deliver New York City.
3 — Virginia: A logical choice for so many reasons. Phenomenal academic school. Borders Maryland. Large population state. But if the Terps give you the D.C. market, is Virginia necessary?
2 — North Carolina: UNC is facing multiple problems, including an academic scandal. But it’s a booming state with a marquee program, men’s basketball. Did I mention Delany played for Dean Smith? The question is, would the Tar Heels leave Duke and N.C. State?
1 — Georgia Tech: What better way to fire a shot at the SEC? Georgia Tech is in a huge market in the capital of the South — Atlanta. It’s an excellent academic school with satisfactory athletic programs. It’s only been an ACC school since 1979. And it’s not a candidate for the SEC, because of Georgia. If I were betting my house on somebody, it’s Georgia Tech.
>> I asked Twitter followers on Tuesday to give me their best/most logical choices for Big Ten 15 and 16. I received 24 different schools. The five schools with the most votes: Notre Dame, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia.
>> For the record, in September 2011, I projected the superconferences. I had Notre Dame, Maryland, Virginia and Georgia Tech going to the Big Ten. I’m already wrong on one.
But eventually, here’s what I think will happen. Georgia Tech and North Carolina/Virginia go to the Big Ten. Virginia Tech and North Carolina State go to the SEC. The Big 12 adds Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and BYU. The ACC leftovers (North Carolina/Virginia, Duke, Wake Forest, Miami and Boston College) join the Big East’s best.
>> A report Monday said that Delany had told Maryland officials they would join Rutgers in the Leaders Division, and Illinois would move to the Legends. Delany has since refuted that report.
In Monday’s Chatter, I laid out why the Big Ten should go East/West. No matter how the conference breaks, I believe the league will soon go to nine league games. You just can’t maintain a conference only seeing certain teams once or twice a decade.
>> Let’s really jump the gun and say the Big Ten does go to 16 teams, with nine conference games.
How’s this for a format: Split the league into four divisions. Play your three divisional rivals every year. Play two teams from the other three divisions (protecting rivalries if necessary). At the end of the season, gather the division champions for a four-team Big Ten playoff.
Let’s really, really jump the gun and draw up some divisions:
Dare to dream, right?
>> If Illinois does jump from Leaders to Legends, how would you like to be a Wisconsin fan? The Badgers would be the only school west of Chicago in the Leaders. Its closest divisional rival would be Purdue.
Rather than playing annual games against neighborhood schools (Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern and Illinois), it would play yearly against Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State. That might be good for recruiting, but it would be terrible for the fans. I maintain that Wisconsin got the worst draw when Delany divided the conference. If Illinois moves to the Legends, it’s only going to get worse.
>> Here’s an excerpt of Mandel, which echoes the way I feel:
“This move may well turn out to be one of incredible financial foresight 10 or 20 years down the road, and I’m sure all that extra television revenue will be put to a good cause, like increasing coaches’ and athletic directors’ salaries or putting new Jacuzzis in the weight rooms.
“The problem is, none of that benefits actual Big Ten fans. In fact, the more the realignment wheel spins, the farther back fan interest seems to fall on conferences’ priority lists. College fans’ passion is due in large part to their sense of belonging. Now they’re starting to feel much the same disconnect as when a professional owner trades a favored player to slash payroll. Hopefully college teams won’t start moving to other cities for better stadium leases.”
>> And from Chait:
“The superconference experiments failed because you can’t manufacture tradition, and tradition is the only thing college football has to offer. Without tradition, college football is just an NFL minor league.”
>> In Monday’s Chatter, I asked for your thoughts on Big Ten expansion. Here’s a few excerpts from emails.
From Fred: “I live in Annapolis, Maryland and work inside the DC beltway. And my immediate take is that Delany looked at too many charts and didn’t talk to enough people or even drive around the beltway one time. Culturally, Maryland (and I suspect Rutgers) is a poor fit. And here is why I believe that.
“For the average Marylander, the Terps and college football don’t even jiggle the dial. Unlike the midwest or southeast, college sports are not a public trust. The only people whose opinions were considered this afternoon were Maryland alumni. And the DC metro area is owned by Va Tech and to a lesser extent Penn State. Part of that is demographics, and part of that is the fact that Marylanders are not barmy for Terps sports.
“Yes, Baltimore has great and really intelligent sports fans — but the allegiance is Ravens and Orioles. DC sports fans, in general, are not so smart but are dedicated to the Redskins. I expect Maryland fans will get excited about the Penn State game, but I would welcome all Huskers to make the trip because I expect plenty of tickets to be available.”
From Terry: “So from what I see the Big Ten priorities are now. 1. Make sure Michigan and Ohio State are in opposite divisions (hoping they make it to conference championship) 2. Make sure each team has a rival (NU-Iowa will never be a true rivalry). 3. Have a crossover rival (makes even less sense) 4. Have a bunch of other teams that you play every so often (wow!). Notice how each point cheapens the big ten a little more till all you got left is, MORE MONEY?”
From Scott: “I’m a longtime Husker fan living in Central Pennsylvania, and while I relish the thought of getting to see Big Red more often via a 2.5 hour car drive, at what price are we doing this? When Nebraska came on board, it was like your first day at a new job. Nothing but smiles, pats on the back, and huge pieces of cake. This feels more like a corporate takeover, where a few employees from the smaller company are force-fed to the bigger conglomerate.
“Is the BTN going to have a ‘Rutgers Day’ like they did for Nebraska, where they show classic games like their regular season victory over Louisville in 2006 and the….2010 Papajohns.com Bowl? I know money drives everything, and TV footprints outweigh all else, but does anybody realize that nobody in NYC actually watches college football? Syracuse and Rutgers both advertise themselves in their own stadium as “New York’s College Football Team”. Unless they change their mascot to the ‘Giants’ or ‘Jets’ it isn’t going to matter.
“Tradition? Gone. Geographical ties? Gone. Getting a buddy or two for Penn State? Don’t underestimate that part of the deal. I can hardly wait to buy tickets for the Illinois/Maryland game on stubhub.”
>> OK, Big Ten expansion isn’t the only thing happening in the sports world. Pat Forde previews the biggest college football weekend of the year.
Nebraska-Iowa play Friday, of course, but the best eight games of the weekend all come on Saturday. Plant yourself in front of the TV and remember — two years from now — rivalry clashes like Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson and Oregon-Oregon State will actually have national championship ramifications!
>> USA Today released its annual study of college football coaching salaries. Here’s some of the quirks.
>> Jon Gruden owns land in Tennessee. This has created quite a stir among the Vols fan base.
>> The executive director of the MLB Players Association is fighting brain cancer.
>> By now, you know all about Jack Taylor, the Grinnell guard who scored 138 points last night. But should that record be celebrated? No, says Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky. It’s a sham.
>> You may have noticed, but Nebraska-Iowa hasn’t created much buzz this week. That’s a reflection of how badly Iowa is playing. I’m very curious to see how many empty seats are in Kinnick Stadium Friday morning — or how many of those seats are occupied by Husker fans.
The last kick in the shorts for Iowa this year would be a 50-50 crowd. Selfishly, I wish I could see Kinnick at its best. I’ve never been there and I heard from several players at Big Ten media days that it’s the toughest place to play in the conference.
>> Finally, we’ll save a big one for last. Creighton-Wisconsin, Friday night in Vegas.
It pains me to watch all these early-season showdowns on ESPN knowing Creighton isn’t getting the same publicity. This is the Jays’ only shot to send a message nationally. Wisconsin got drubbed last week at Florida, but the Badgers will test Creighton’s toughness, especially in the paint. Gregory Echenique needs to play well. So does Austin Chatman at the point.
I expect Creighton to win. And to be honest, the Jays need to win because they won’t get another chance for a statement win over a BCS foe the rest of the season.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great Turkey Day.