Monday, May 24, 2010

I'll Take Pitt if Big Ten Expansion Goes East.

Give Me Pitt or Give Me Death.
Everyone and there mother has a take on Big Ten Expansion, and I am no different.  I make my case for a 16 team expansion here.  I have been a strong proponent of leaving the Big East intact.  In short I believe the Big East is a good football conference and a great basketball conference, which doesn't pose a threat to how the Big Ten does business, but either will it dramatically help the conference in terms of competition vs the SEC or Big 12 for that matter.  So why break them up?  Of course the answer is TV sets and potential money for the BTN.  But expansion must be more complicated than just adding a potential viewing populous that has been virtually dormant for years now.

With that said, if the Big Ten does decide to go East, I hope they decide to add The Pitt Panthers.  Not because Pitt brings X amount of TV sets or because they are popular with viewers between the ages of 18 and 45.  But because Pitt is an academically sound research university with a damn fine football team and a national basketball powerhouse, not to mention a natural rival with Penn State.  I'm sick of all the analysis of team value being about how many TV viewers a program brings.  How about the value of wins and losses.  Pitt basketball under Jamie Dixon is 264-79 in the past ten years, while the Pitt Panther Football team is 74-49 during the same time period.  That is a two sport winning percentage of .725.  Hell Texas has a .763 two sport winning percentage.

Does Rutgers blow your skirt up, because of the potential 19 million viewers the NYC market could add to the BTN?  Well where are those viewers for Rutgers now? I love the Big Ten but I'm skeptical that just adding some games vs U of M, OSU, and Penn State, will automatically turn NYC into Big Ten country.  It just seems like a stretch.

Lets take a look what is under that skirt.  Rosie O'Donnell comes to mind.  Rutgers has had 2, 10 win seasons in the last 100 years.  In the last ten years, Rutgers Football is 58-62, and this is considered the glory days of their football program.  Rutgers Basketball is 137-158 over the same ten year period.  Now extrapolate Rutgers success in the Big Ten?   Tell me why the East Coast is suddenly going to fall in love with Big Ten football, when their East Coast Team is fighting for 6th or 8th place most years?  I do not buy the benefits of Rutgers.

But the writing may be on the wall.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sadly explains why Pitt may be on the outside looking in.

They write.

Pitt might again be left off the Big Ten's invite list -- not because of its academic profile but because of its location. The Big Ten is looking to grow -- in size and geographic footprint -- so that it becomes a more marketable conference to TV executives.
That could work against Pitt, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Massachusetts, because Penn State already brings the Big Ten to Pennsylvania.
"I'm not saying they wouldn't go for Pittsburgh," Zimbalist said. "There's just a smaller inducement to go into Pittsburgh as there would be New Jersey."

This sounds like a bad dream in terms of competition, but easily could become reality if Delany rules that market is more important than product.


  1. Bill,

    Don't know what you have against Rutgers...academically a better fit than Pitt, athletically could potentially add a lot by bringing the Big 10 out east. Currently, I feel like we could compete with most if not all of the Big 10 schools in football.

    Could you imagine first all the alums from Big 10 schools in the tri-state area that would be able to see there team out East every other year? Could you imagine all the pro football fans that would now have more intriguing football matchups being played on Saturday nearby where they can drive to a game...and finally, don't forget the Big 10 network and how people throughout the tri-state area would add to that huge money maker...all in all, Rutgers seems to me like a no-brainer and fortunately many people agree with me.

    Thanks for listening.

    Dr. Marc

  2. No Problem Marc. I respect your view, I just don't think Rutgers moves the needle like they claim they can. I think there last bowl game got a 1.4 rating which was tied for the worst.

    I don't have anything against Rutgers but I feel the Big Ten should go in another direction. I think Rutgers benefits greatly from if they are invited to join the league. As for Academics Pitt is an AAU member and that seems to be good enough for Delany.

    But more to the point, my beef lies with chasing potential TV sets as opposed to bettering the product.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Bill,

    I think that expansion will result in the renegotiation of existing TV contracts. If a conference expands and is told they must divide the existing TV pie between the new total of members, then the opposite would also be true. If a league lost two teams they could tell TV that they must pay the same amount for less of a product. I'd bet the existing TV contracts have price adjustment clauses in them to handle an increase or decrease in the number of teams in a conference.

  4. Hey Frank I'm not as convinced about the TV contract re-negotiation as you are. For Example The SEC has just signed a huge 10-15 year deal with ESPN and CBS. Say they added ACC schools already in their league footprint. What does ESPN gain by re-negotiating? that is why if the SEC does expand they need to be smart if they go to 16, because they will have to share their revenue with four more teams and they already have a Championship game.

    Now the Big Ten just signed a Ten year deal with ABC and ESPN. If they add 5 teams I'm not sure ESPN will re-negotiate either. But The BTN gives them the opportunity to still increase revenue with 70-88 cents per cable viewer going to the Big Ten every month. Add that to a championship game and they stand to increase even more revenue. While The SEC likely stands to lose revenue if they expand.

    this is why Pitt is often being overlooked because many feel PSU already has captured all the TV sets in PA. But I believe their product is to good to pass on. I think a good product is what makes a league in terms of sport.

    As for The Big East I think anything could happen. If they lose teams all bets are off in terms of TV $ because they will likely lose their BCS status. That is why I advocate leaving them intact if The Big Ten goes to 16 teams. I think the big 12 is more ripe for the picking because that conference is so poorly run.

    Thanks for the comment.