Leland Stein III

Big Ten Expansion just part of the new landscape

In sports column on January 14, 2013 at 1:44 am
Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

By Leland Stein III

It is a little confusing how on one hand NCAA athletes – especially football and basketball – cannot get a happy meal without being labeled greedy and unappreciative of the lordly blessings the NCAA has bestowed on them with their scholarships.

I’ve seen all the narratives dominating sports news. Many with unwavering moral righteousness have expressed voices expressing disgust at the players calling them selfish and thoughtless, self-seeking, for wanting to just get a taste (like drive a car or have tattoo and dating money) of the mega-billion conglomerate that is college sports.

I tend to believe the NCAA and many that elevate at times are hypocrites. Yeah I know there are some who really believe in academia. However, there are many more that pretend to have virtues, moral beliefs and principles; yet, the underlying result for universities, coaches, administration and all the communication media and pundits that support it . . . is they actually end up possessing millions for themselves.

Big Ten

Big Ten

Look at the Big Ten and its recent expansion. It recently kicked off another round of conference expansion and realignment by adding the University of Maryland (formerly of the Atlantic Coast Conference, or ACC) and Rutgers University (formerly of the Big East Conference). They are expected to join the Big Ten in 2014.

Retorts echoed across America that both new schools were forgetting traditions and regional rivalries. So why do it? Money!! Something the student athletes that make all this happen are excluded from.

With all this positioning going on nationally, will the Big Ten who recently increase to 14 members, seek an extra expansion to 16-teams?

“There are some advantages to 16 (teams) compared to 14,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. “Fourteen is clumsy. We’re not out looking for two teams, but basically we will continue to survey the landscape. We don’t want to get outflanked.”

While Hollis said a 14-team league is “clumsy” as far as football and basketball scheduling, a 16-team league is easier to schedule with two, eight-team divisions.

Hollis noted that if the Big Ten expands it dependent on “what happens in other areas” in the country. So I guess that means that if another conference drops an ace, then the Big Ten needs to counter with another ace. And so the money grab continues.

The Big Ten, already the richest conference in the nation, will be negotiating a new media rights deal in 2017. It was a trailblazer in standing up its very own cable network. Its revenues, including the Big Ten Network’s swelling coffers, are shared by Big Ten member institutions. It’s estimated that each Big Ten member will claim more than $40 million annually from future TV deals.

With 16 teams instead of 14, the Big Ten also would be able to provide more “inventory or games for the Big Ten Network, increasing its value “as long as it wasn’t in the league’s current footprint,” sources said.

As far as future Big Ten members, speculation has swirled around the league pursuing ACC programs such as Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina.

I personally can never see North Carolina leaving the ACC. They along with Duke are the glue of that conference.

One factor that could impact whether the Big Ten expands in the future, specifically if it targets ACC teams, is whether Maryland will be required to pay the ACC’s $52 million exit fee.

The ACC has filed a lawsuit to guarantee the Terps pay the entire amount. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said Wednesday he doesn’t think the exit fee is enforceable.

If the Big Ten continues to do expansion, it could set off a domino effect in other leagues. However, history reminds us that conference realignment goes with the territory in collegiate athletics — and that the current configuration of collegiate athletic conferences wasn’t what is was 20, 30 even 60 years ago.

I do not mind the changes; I only wish some of it allowed added benefits to the student athletes that make it all happen!

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

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