Whenever the conversation turns to Big Ten expansion, it’s inevitable that a majority of the words on the subject will revolve around the Big East generally and Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse specifically.
Then there’s the green elephant in the room — Notre Dame — whose lips say “no, we’re not shedding our football independence” but whose thighs seem to be opening ever so slightly as the inevitability of super-conferences and the reality of Big Ten money continues to dance around their heads.
Those are seemingly the four schools everyone focuses on when it comes to an expanded Big Ten. And, to lend a level of credence to the talk, they were also four of the five schools utilized in an expansion feasibility study commissioned by the Big Ten that ultimately resulted in a recommendation to expand.
Of course, if the conference moves to 16 teams — and there’s a growing sentiment that that’s exactly where this is headed — there’d be a need for another school, assuming for this particular post the Big Ten wants and could convince the four already mentioned to jump ship. That need brings us back to the expansion study and the fifth of the five schools utilized by the study.
Ever since the Big Ten announced way back in December it’s intentions to explore the expansion issue, Missouri — along with Nebraska and their “don’t forget about us” mantra — has been a school mentioned more times than any university other than the current “Big Four” expansion candidates. To add further fuel to the speculative fire, neither school officials nor state government types have been the least bit shy about publicly stating they would have an interest if the league came a callin’.
Of course, the member of the football program who would be most affected by the Tigers jumping conferences would be head coach Gary Pinkel. While lamenting what such a move would do to his ability to recruit in the state of Texas — ” You’d make it work, but it would be difficult.” — Pinkel also had pointed words for how the Big 12 doles out revenues to member schools, and hints that a move to the Big Ten might just be in the best interests of the program.
“I love the Big 12,” Pinkel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But there are issues, no question. The TV package (without revenue sharing), that is staggering. … It’s the right thing to do; it makes your league stronger.
“And for some reason, there are people in our league who can’t figure that out. And so that’s a problem.”
To further drive home the point, Pinkel points to Illinois, a Big Ten member and season-opening opponent for the Tigers.
“With their TV package, they’ll get $11 million more dollars this year than Missouri does in the Big 12, so the value is what it is,” Pinkel said of the Illini, emphasizing that the money is vital not merely to football but the entire athletic department. “We’ve got four more years of this contract, so Illinois, as they’re building their athletic department, that’s $44 million more. So that’s not very good for our league. For the life of me, it’s hard to understand [why the Big 12 does it this way].”
As the BcS commissioners meetings commence today, both the Big 12 and the Big East are on the verge of understanding what an economic behemoth such as the Big Ten and its TV network is all about. And how it will very likely change the landscape of college football in very short order.