Here’s a hunch: Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney wants two Big Tens. Twenty schools total, one east and one Midwest. He needs to add six major
television markets research institutions to reach that presumed goal.
Here’s another hunch: Most of those six will come from the eastern seaboard.
television markets research institutions are no-brainers because of their long traditions of excellent academics and athletic success: #8 Atlanta Georgia Tech, #9 Washington Virginia, and #24 Charlotte North Carolina.
Luring these schools from the A.C.C. might require a better deal than Delaney offered Rutgers, which isn’t even getting the reach-around in its initial membership phase. But consider that Purdue’s payout for last year was $12 million more than Florida State’s, and you can see why those schools would join Maryland in leaving.
Delaney won’t go west of the Rockies, so
#2 Los Angeles UCLA is out of the picture. But what about #5 Dallas and #49 Austin Texas? Rice is excellent academically, but it’s tiny so probably hasn’t produced enough eyeballs. University of Houston is at the opposite end of the academic spectrum, ranked #187 by US News (tied with Nevada, South Dakota State, UNC-Greensboro, & Western Michigan). On the one hand, its alums almost certainly spend hours mesmerized by television. Delaney might not stoop that low.
Penn State counts about 123,000
viewers alums in the Philadelphia metro area (#4). But college basketball in Philadelphia is always focused on The Big 5 — Penn, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova . shore up viewership in Philly leaven the B1G’s highfalutin brainiac reputation, Temple would take over last place among B1G schools in the US News rankings (tied with Kansas but still ahead of Arizona and DePaul). Temple makes more sense than University of Pittsburgh, which is considerably smaller (but much higher ranked, academically). But Pitt is certainly a good option.
No university in New York City (#1) combines athletic prowess with outstanding academics. The New York market is considered immune to college sports, being rabidly obsessed with pro teams. So don’t look for Fordham or Columbia to join the B1G.
#7 Boston Harvard. The Ivy League is a great concept, but it doesn’t make any money. Besides, the Ivy League exists mostly in the mind. If Harvard joined a major athletic conference, it would still be a member of the Ivy League as a matter of history and reputation.
Boston College would enter the B1G as the third-highest ranked institution, for academic purposes. But BC is tiny, less than half the size of a typical B1G land-grant behemoth. Moreover, it’s hard to envision the B1G entangling itself with a Vatican school. Much of Rome’s American college sports is internecine, although the West Coast Catholics and the Big East both recently adopted quasi-Christian members in BYU and Butler, respectively. (WCC member Pepperdine is Church of Christ, while recently rejoining Pacific is Methodist.)
Delaney is a product of east coast parochial schools. Maybe he has a fondness for mother church, but you’d think we’d have seen it by now. Boston College’s defection from the Big East demonstrates Rome’s willingness to prioritize money over brethren. As Garrison Keillor wrote in Pontoon “the money you spend there goes in part to pay for diamonds for the Pope’s shoelaces.”
The B1G is currently #2 in revenue, behind the SEC. But that’s mostly the result of TV contracts.
We estimate that the SEC generated a staggering $347 million in TV money last year. Nearly $300 million of that total came from ESPN
The onus on Jim Delaney is to cultivate the Big Ten Network so its revenue exceeds ESPN payments. Surely the proceeds of a wholly-owned network, given sufficient market share, should eclipse the fractional outlay any for-profit network could afford to disburse.
Live sports is not the Holy Grail of TV anymore, largely because people are fed up with ever-growing subscription fees. But live sports is still the most reliable path to viewer eyeballs. Advertising revenue need not be marginalized into a subscription model.
I’ll drop the
strike-through gimmick to make a serious point. There’s no way Delaney could capture the top ten TV markets in the United States, no matter whether those eyeballs are watching via traditional television or smartphones.
But it’s not hard to imagine 8 of the top 11 markets claiming a hometown B1G team. And revenue opportunities grow larger if there’s no need to negotiate an exclusive contract with a regional carrier: There may be no B1G schools in Los Angeles and the Bay Area (#6), but there are literally millions of B1G alums in those markets.
The 2018 Big Ten Basketball Tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden, in dreary old Manhattan. Perhaps, by then, East Coast Bias will be the B1G selling point.
#29 Nashville #15 ranked Vanderbilt, the only school in the SEC that cares about academics.