Archive for March, 2010

If you were a reader of this blog prior to it becoming a hub of conference realignment viewpoints, I would regularly run “Land-o-Links” posts that had some random links to usually unrelated news stories or blog posts that I simply found interesting.  In the wake of having my faith in the journalistic instincts of Barbara Walters re-affirmed today, I figured that it was time to re-institute the Land-o-Links posts with a mix of expansion news and other random items on a regular basis in between my full-length missives.  So, here are today’s links:

(1) Notre Dame AD Expands on Expansion Talk (Kansas City Star) – I had put up this news article in the comments in the “Ain’t No Party Like a West Coast Party” post and wanted to focus on it a little bit more.  Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick talked to reporters again about the prospect of the Domers joining a conference and he didn’t say anything to make the fine folks at NDNation feel better.  Here’s the key quote for me:

Swarbrick indicated the dilution of Big Ten revenues could be offset by the success of the leagues own TV network, apparently on sound footing.

“The traditional model, where a conference had a fixed fee media rights deal, if you added somebody you sliced the pie a little thinner,” Swarbrick said. “When you’re dealing with equity in a network … it’s a situation we haven’t had before.”

Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds a lot like Notre Dame wants a piece of the Big Ten Network gravy train.  It’s a clear message to the Domers that don’t already realize the following: the NBC deal is a relic of the past while controlling your own content like the Big Ten Network is the future.  At the very least, the quotes coming out of Notre Dame about its commitment to independence are increasingly more wishy-washy.

(2) The Great Baseball Card Bubble (Slate) – This excerpt from a new book on how baseball cards went through a tulip bulb-like craze (which I’m now going to have to read in full) hits pretty close to home.  My youth coincided perfectly with the explosion of baseball card speculation in the late-1980s and early-1990s where I spent virtually every penny that I had during that era on wax packs.  Years later, a good portion of my basement closet is taken up by boxes of gems like the Todd Van Poppel rookie card.  Are these pieces of cardboard now so worthless that I sometimes wonder if I’d be set for life today if I just opened up an IRA when I was 10 years old instead of plowing through boxes of Donruss and Fleer?  You bet.  Do I even dignify a response to my wife that annually asks about “getting rid of some cards to make it more organized” right around spring cleaning time?  Heck no.

And finally…

(3) Doc Jensen/Totally ‘Lost’ (Entertainment Weekly) - As a huge ‘LOST’ fan, there’s quite a mix of emotions as we enter into the final weeks of the show.  While there have been cable shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ that might arguably be at the top of the heap in terms of quality television over the past decade, ‘LOST’ is the best network TV drama that I’ve ever seen.  Doc Jensen of Entertainment Weekly has provided some of the most mind-blowing analysis of the show out there with an avalanche of literary references, religious allegories, and pop culture notations.  The fact that Entertainment Weekly could be home to such a deep high-brow look at this show is mind-blowing enough.  This also serves as an excuse for me to write about ‘LOST’.

If you don’t watch ‘LOST’, please feel free to ignore the rest of this post because you won’t know WTF is going on.  As of now, I’m subscribing to the common theory that the “flash sideways” story lines represent the epilogue for each of the characters, where the people who sided with Jacob have ended up with semi-happy lives and the ones that sided with the Smoke Monster/Fake Locke are doomed to the same negative lives that they had before.  It seems to be the way that everything ties together and would give those scenes a purpose that currently isn’t quite clear.  I’m really intrigued by Jensen’s prediction that the purpose of Jack is ultimately to take Real Locke’s body back to the Temple and bring him back to life in the pool, which is a not-so-veiled reference to the resurrection of Christ.  This way, Real Locke, who has really taken a figurative beating over the past season with Fake Locke’s references that Real Locke led a pathetic life, will end up being the strong leader that we originally thought that he would be when the show first started.

This provides Real Locke the opportunity to make everything right by taking down Smokey once and for all (in a manner yet to be determined) and taking his rightful place as the chosen “candidate” to replace Jacob.  What’s my guess as to what his first (and only) act as Jacob’s replacement will be?  Sacrifice himself by sending everyone home.  That’s right – I don’t think that Juliet’s detonation of the bomb last season was the cause of the “reset” in the flash sideways, but rather Real Locke, with his power as Jacob’s replacement, destroys the island that he had always wanted to stay on in order to send his friends back to a 2004 world where Oceanic 815 never crashes.

Of course, this means that Real Locke would be giving up his power AND sending himself back to a world where he couldn’t walk, which would be an incredible sacrifice.  This has to work out for him, right?  Well, I can’t think of a more apt ending to the show than Jack, the world-class spinal surgeon, fulfilling his purpose in the real world by finally being approached by Real Locke for a consultation and “fixing” his problem.  Jack has already shown the ability to fix Sarah after a car accident that should have left her paraplegic.  If Jack resurrects Real Locke on the island, then the perfect mirror would be Jack getting Real Locke to walk in 2004.  Then, the show closes with Real Locke fulfilling his dream of going through the Australian outback, which he was previously prevented from going on because of his disability, with a huge hunting knife in hand and looking every bit as strong as we had seen him on the island.

Now that I’ve put all of those theories down, it virtually guarantees that it will end up in a completely different manner.  That’s perfectly fine with me – I’m ready to savor these last few episodes before a big TV void opens up in my life.  I’ll be back with a full-length post later this week.

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As I continue to follow the Illini (NIT) championship run with bated breath and brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack, I wanted to address this interesting story from Dennis Dodd.  The Pac-10 has explored the possibility of staging a conference championship game with its current league of 10 teams.  Of course, this would require changing the NCAA rule that mandates that a conference have at least 12 schools and divisions where the members of each division play an intra-division round robin in order to stage an “exempt” championship game.  (“Exempt” refers to the fact that such championship game won’t count against the 12-game regular season schedule limit.  Please see NCAA bylaw 17.9.5.2(c).)  This reminds me  of the “Amendment to Be” song from The Simpsons – “If we change the Constitution, then we can make all kinds of crazy laws!”

Regular commenter Adam has pointed out the byzantine process in which it would take to change the NCAA rule on this matter, which made it seem only slightly easier than going through a Senate confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court nominee or having to tell Suge Knight that you don’t have the money that you owe him.  What’s interesting from Dodd’s article was that changing the conference championship game rule would supposedly be “non-controversial”.  Who knows why it would be non-controversial today when the ACC was rejected several years ago in its attempt to stage a championship game with less than 12 members prior to adding Boston College.  Maybe schools in all conferences (whether BCS or non-BCS) believe that changing the rule would result in more conference membership stability or at least avoid having conferences add schools simply for the sake of a championship game.

The Big Ten could use a rule change to its advantage in a number of ways.  On the one end, the Big Ten could simply stand pat at 11 schools and stage a conference championship game without expansion.  This would yield an instant boost in revenue without having to add another school to split it with.  Other conferences that are at risk of being poached by the Big Ten (particularly the Big XII and Big East plus possibly the ACC) would likely be very supportive of this rule change if it meant that they could save the status quo as a matter of survival.

On the other end, though, the Big Ten could push for a further change to the championship game rule in exchange for supporting the Pac-10 on its proposal: remove the division requirement.  Why would the conference want to do that?  Because if the Big Ten goes up to 14-schools, not having divisions could ensure that all conference members would play each other at least 2 out of every 4 years in an 8-game conference schedule.  Each school could have 3 permanent annual rivals and then play all other conference members 2 years on/2 years off.  This solves all of the headaches of trying to figure out which schools should go in which divisions and making sure that every single currently protected annual rivalry is maintained.  The Big Ten is NOT like the SEC where it’s going to be acceptable for schools to go 4 straight years without playing each other – most Big Ten members freak out when they skip playing Michigan or Ohio State only 2 years per decade.  The lack of divisions also has a side benefit of having a stronger conference championship game by pitting the top two schools in conference regardless of geography, so there won’t be the 2008 Big XII worry about having 3 national championship contenders in one division and a bunch of scrap metal in the other division.  Adam has had a solid argument that if the 2008 Big XII South situation didn’t result in a change to the championship game rule, then nothing would.  However, I think the circumstances have changed as a result of all of these expansion talks and that conferences are going to want a lot more flexibility either immediately (10-school leagues wouldn’t have to expand) or in the future (12-school leagues would be more open to going up to 14-schools with such flexibility).

I’m tending to think that the Big Ten would want championship game rules to account for the latter scenario.  As I’ve stated from the beginning, the conference championship game is NOT the primary driver for Big Ten expansion.  (This is in contrast to way too many media pundits that continue to insist that the Big Ten just wants to expand so that it can maintain relevancy for the last couple of weeks of the season, which is ridiculous when you take two seconds to think about it since that could simply be solved by the conference scheduling regular season games in December just like the Pac-10 and Big East.)  The main revenue driver in this expansion process is and always will be new basic cable households and higher fees for the Big Ten Network.  The revenue that comes from that cable property blows everything with respect to a conference championship game out of the water.  So, the Big Ten isn’t going to drop expansion plans simply because it might have the ability to stage a championship game with 11 schools.  In fact, changes to the NCAA rules could embolden the Big Ten to have a larger expansion since it removes the concerns the scheduling concerns that I’ve described above.

The other important takeaway from Dodd’s article is that it appears that the Pac-10 is going to be very hesitant to expand.  It noted that the conference members were having a “hard time finding value” in two extra members (which would likely be accurate if one of those extra members isn’t Texas).  This doesn’t surprise me at all – I said back in January that I thought that the Pac-10 would end up standing pat no matter what happened.

That’s contrary to the widely mistaken perception that the Pac-10, which is hunting for revenue in order to catch up to the Big Ten and SEC, would supposedly be more willing than the Big Ten to bend its traditional requirements to maybe take in schools like Texas Tech in order to lure a school like Texas.  Here’s the problem with this line of thinking: the Pac-10 has a unanimous voting requirement for expansion.  Let me repeat that again: the Pac-10 has a unanimous voting requirement for expansion.  I need to beat this into all of your heads one more time: the Pac-10 has a unanimous voting requirement for expansion.  (As someone that grew up and continues to work in Cook County, where vote counting is an art form as opposed to a science, I’m hyper-sensitive to voting requirements.)

So, now that we know that the Pac-10 has a unanimous voting requirement for expansion, then we also know that all it takes is a single school to nix all conference expansion plans.  You can completely count on Stanford to be that school.  If the public thinks that the Big Ten university presidents are too methodical (and in reality, they are actually very forward-looking considering that they invited Penn State before it was fashionable to look for new markets and created the Big Ten Network when it was considered to be extremely risky), then Stanford is downright reactionary by comparison.  Stanford might be the one school in the entire BCS that literally doesn’t give a crap about TV money – the school has an endowment that is valued at over $1 million per student and its academic standing is right alongside Harvard, Yale and Princeton.  The Cardinal rejected Texas back in the 1990s, so even if the Longhorns are acceptable now, you can be sure that there’s NFW schools like Texas Tech will even be considered.  I think you’d be very hard-pressed to get Stanford to approve even a match-on-paper like Utah.  Stanford is in a position where it’s not going to compromise at all on academics and, as a result, the rest of the Pac-10 won’t be able to do anything even if the 9 others thought that some of the 16-school plans that I’ve seen in the comments were brilliant money-makers.  The Pac-10 can’t be aggressive because its voting requirements are specifically built to prevent such aggression.  (As a side note, you’ve haven’t lived until you’ve played EA Sports NCAA March Madness in mascot mode with the Stanford Tree vs. Otto the Orange at 2 am while hammered.  All I can say is that the visions on the screen must be what Keith Richards experienced non-stop from about 1965 through 1989.)

All of this means that the Big Ten’s chances to grab Texas (however small they might have been in the first place) could drop precipitously.  As plenty of observers such as Barking Carnival have noted, while Texas might want to switch conferences in a world without crazy-ass Lone Star State politicians, it would take the Pac-10 taking Colorado from the Big XII to give the school the political cover to make a move.  I’ve never bought that the Big Ten is seriously interested in Missouri, so I doubt that the conference would go after the Tigers simply to get Texas to act.  Therefore, if the Pac-10 is gridlocked in its expansion plans, there isn’t the requisite instability in the Big XII for a major Texas/Texas A&M shakeup.  That’s not to say that it still can’t happen (and no one should ever assume any school would preemptively reject any conference proposal without performing its own due diligence), but it pushes the chances of a Westward Big Ten expansion clearly down below an Eastward move.

If I had to bet on where the Big Ten goes in terms of expansion as of today (and I’ve changed my mind on this numerous times), I’m feeling that “JoePa’s Dream Conference” with Notre Dame, Rutgers and Syracuse would be the most likely.  (Yes, I know there’s a contingent out there that think that I overrate Syracuse as an expansion candidate.  I still think it would be a big mistake to leave them out in an NYC-centric strategy.)  Jack Swarbrick all but said that Notre Dame would join a conference if the Big East was destroyed, so it would make little sense for the Big Ten to take any Big East school without the Irish coming, too.  Securing the New York/New Jersey area as much as it can be locked down is really what takes the Big Ten to the next level in an Eastern-based expansion (although as I’ve stated elsewhere, the conference really needs Notre Dame in the mix if it wants to successfully pursue that strategy).  I wouldn’t be surprised if my opinion changes on this as more details come out, but if Texas is off of the table, then the Big Ten needs to add a population base that’s the size of the New York City market in order to make a 3-school expansion financially acceptable to the current members.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from Retro Music Snob)

As we enjoy a glorious first round of the NCAA Tournament, which included Notre Dame losing to my long-time bracket busting favorite Ol’ Dirty University, there have been rumblings that that the real plan for the Big Ten is a permutation of JoePa’s Dream Conference, with an expansion threesome of Notre Dame, Rutgers… and Boston College.  Hawkeye State of the ever esteemed Black Heart Gold Pants (whose love for freedom fighter J Leman knows no limitations) had heard these rumors and then commenter Justin noted the same thing in this posting last night.  Now, I’m just an unfrozen caveman lawyer/blogger, so I’m certainly not reporting this as news or fact.  However, this doesn’t seem to be a far-fetched scenario considering that I believe that the Big Ten has a two-pronged plan to both add large markets for the Big Ten Network and grab at least one national marquee football name.

I’ve seen a number of people bring up BC as a Big Ten expansion candidate before and, frankly, I never took it seriously.  As I’ve noted before, the ACC is a fairly tight-knit group, while BC isn’t exactly high on the Boston sports agenda.  That being said, if the Big Ten inviting BC is ultimately the final hook for the conference to grab Notre Dame, then I believe that it would move forward.  While Boston is definitely a pro sports town, BC at least has the advantage of being the clearly designated major college football home team in that area, while the New York City area really doesn’t have any single school of that nature.  Thus, there’s a reasonable argument that BC, for all of its issues of supposedly not delivering its home market very well for the ACC, still would have enough pull (in conjunction with Notre Dame and Penn State) to get the Big Ten Network onto basic cable in Boston (whereas a school like Syracuse, by comparison, would be speculative in terms of its ability to deliver homes in the NYC market).  That turns BC into a pretty powerful asset for the Big Ten in and of itself.  Let’s also not forget that this could create a kick-ass Big Ten hockey league.  (Illinois doesn’t even play Division 1 hockey and I’d be excited to see that type of league formed.)  At the same time, the ACC may not really care if BC stays or not – it may just as soon grab Pitt and/or Syracuse instead and say goodbye to BC in a mutually agreed upon separation.

Now, the Notre Dame fan readers out there will likely point out something that a lot of non-ND fans don’t seem to realize: the Irish and Boston College really aren’t that close emotionally.  There’s a perception that they’re tied together as the only two Catholic universities that play FBS football, yet they really didn’t play on a regular basis until the 1990s.  Notre Dame arguably cares about 3 schools: Navy from a historical and emotional standpoint and USC and Michigan from a marquee competitive standpoint.  Everyone else would be expendable, including BC (who is rolling off of Notre Dame’s schedule in the coming years).

Still, the Big Ten inviting BC would effectively remove the last two “non-emotional” arguments that Domers have against Big Ten membership: the inability to play a “national” schedule and having no peer institutions in a conference that’s dominated by large public flagship universities.  If the Notre Dame/Rutgers/BC additions were to occur, I fail to see how Notre Dame’s schedule would be materially different from what it is today.  Assuming that Notre Dame continues to play Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and BC annually within conference play plus USC and Navy in non-conference play, the Irish would be retaining 6 of its 8 main re-occuring rivals.  Pitt would fall off of the schedule, but it would be replaced by Penn State in the Big Ten, which delivers the same market as Pitt and is a much larger national name.  The one true loss would be not playing Stanford anymore, but Notre Dame would still be heading to California with its USC rivalry and the Irish would in turn be playing the likes of Ohio State (which, even with its Midwestern location, provides much more of a “national game”) and get some direct access to prime recruiting territory in the state directly east of Indiana.  Add in a regular trip to the ND-fan heavy New York area at Rutgers and it’s very hard to argue that the Domers would lose much of its “national” schedule at all while concurrently adding some much better teams.

Meanwhile, the other major Notre Dame complaint is that it would be a member of a conference without any of its institutional peers, thereby putting itself at risk of being on the losing end of a lot of “11-1″ or “13-1″ votes in the Big Ten.  I’m not exactly sure what issues with respect to athletics would be so different between Notre Dame and the rest of the Big Ten that there would be that wide of a gulf – as some commenters pointed out, no one has ever pointed out anything specific that ND has an objection to other than joining a conference in the first place.  Certainly, Northwestern is a higher-rated private university with tougher admissions standards than Notre Dame and we haven’t seen any type of acrimony between NU and the supposedly “big bad public schools”.  If there’s any major conference in the country that actually has upheld high academic standards, it’s the Big Ten from top-to-bottom.  The discussion occurring in the comments section in the “Notre Dame to the Big Ten: Thy Will Be Done?” post has been fascinating.  I agree with alot of commenters that it’s incredulous that some Domers think that there’s some type of academic downgrade by moving to the Big Ten (once again, it doesn’t seem to bother the people in the tougher academic environment at Northwestern) or that improving graduate research will somehow be toxic to the Notre Dame undergraduate experience (as several commenters have noted, ND actually has been ramping up its graduate research capabilities on its own and that the school has been doing itself a disservice by downplaying this fact to its alums, who mistakenly still think that the undergrad focus continues to prevail and use it as another excuse to not join the Big Ten).

Look – I have a lot of friends that went to Notre Dame and Domer commenters such as Rich have been presenting viewpoints in a very civil manner on this blog knowing that he’s going to be critiqued.  I completely understand and respect the emotional foundation that ND alums have towards independence.  I’m not going to argue with that and it’s pointless for anyone else to do that, either.

It’s just that the Notre Dame supporters need to understand that the stand that they are taking is simply that: completely emotional.  The financial advantage of independence is now gone since the Big Ten’s TV revenue completely trumps Notre Dame’s NBC contract.  Now that Notre Dame doesn’t schedule the likes of Miami, Florida State, UCLA and Tennessee anymore, the “national” schedule of yesteryear is dead and its hypothetical conference schedule in the Big Ten would actually draw more national interest than a game against Washington State in the Alamodome.  The academics in the Big Ten supercede all of the other BCS conferences, so it’s not as if though there is some type of greener pasture for Notre Dame elsewhere on that front.  Finally, if Boston College were to join the Big Ten, then Notre Dame wouldn’t even have the argument that it doesn’t have any peer institutions within the conference.

There’s no problem with those emotional ties per se.  The fact that any of us watch and care about spectator sports at all is a fairly irrational practice.  However, I do have a problem when those pure emotions are attempted to be supported by substantive arguments that don’t hold water anymore (if they ever did in the first place).  At the end of the day, do you want the leadership of any organization that you care about, whether it’s a charity, company or university, making long-term decisions based on pure emotion?  Good intentions based on tradition aren’t necessarily enough to make sound decisions for the future.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from Sports Illustrated)

When I was cursing the dehydrated gerbils that run the WordPress commenting platform in an insomnia-induced haze on Friday evening, I thought to myself, “We need a message board! That’s the answer!”  So, I quickly created one and hastily posted it up.  In less than 48 hours, I’ve realized a few things:

(1) Between work, family and writing this blog, it will be impossible for me to monitor a message board on top of all this.  I’m an idiot and didn’t think this through at all.  In case you didn’t know, I have 7 1/2 month old twins at home, which pretty much means my free time is a couple of hours at night at most.  Since I obviously can’t quit my job, never want to truncate my time with my family and love writing this blog, the message board is going to be more of burden at this point.

(2) Part of the nice thing that’s developed over the past couple of months is that each blog post has turned into a free flow discussion on expansion issues, with news articles and viewpoints converging in a centralized place.  After thinking about it over this weekend, a lot of that would be lost be diverting discussions to a separate message board.  As awful as the WordPress commenting issues are at this point, it’s been nice to just go to one website for a discussion and not have redundant discussions going on at multiple sites.  I really want to preserve the flow of discussions here on the blog because, personally, that’s been the most fun part of writing in the first place.

(3) If you like the message board format, there are already more established and robust sites that focus on expansion issues, particularly the BigEast BBS Expansion/Split board (which has a Big East focus but draws people from across the country, including me where I post as Frank the Tank) and the forum at CollegeSportsInfo.com (which reviews expansion issues from a national perspective and where I post as illinibluedemon).  There’s no need for me to establish a new message board regarding conference realignment when all of you would be better served by checking out these 2 other boards which have existed for years with much broader users bases to interact with.  I highly recommend both of these boards.

So, this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ll be closing down the forum later tonight before too many people get invested in it.  It’s an extra step that isn’t necessary with the existence of the blog discussions here and established message boards elsewhere.  I want to thank all of the people that quickly signed up as users.  The threads that have been posted will be archived at the site, so they will still exist to refer back to if you’d like in the future.  So that people don’t think that their effort has been for naught (because there’s already been a lot of great stuff posted), I’d like to post a couple of entries from the forum that are really excellent blogs in and of themselves for your review.

The first is from PSU2433, who has created this 16-team scenario:

FranktheTank: Let me first and foremost thank you for your insightful thoughts and the passion you bring to college football. I share the same passion for college football as you and have been pro-playoff for 10+ years.

After reading all of your blogs, I am leaning towards the Big10 being the first conference to go BIG and form a 16 team super conference. Money is power and right now the Big10 has a whole lot of both. At the end of the day, I think the Big 10 goes for a Grand Slam and invites TEX,TAM,ND,SYR, & RU. I think they start with the Texas Two Step and then proceed to lock up the NorthEast. In order to lock up 5 teams, they have to produce at a minimum, $110 million for the BigEleven to break even. Well, these 5 teams all but lock up the 8mil HHs of Texas and 15mil HHs of NY & NJ for the BTN. I also believe the BTN could command MORE than the $.70-$.80 they are currently getting from Comcast. I think this would push them over the $1.10 range per HH. One could also argue, with the national presense of ND,TEX,PSU,OSU, & UM that this now becomes a National Conference.

So how is scheduling going to work. I am a huge fan of the 4 POD system with 9 conference games. At this point, all the money is in the conference so the more conference games the more money. I am sick of watching OSU-Akron & PSU-Little Sisters of the Poor so I think the conference maximizes the amount of games. Here is how I see it playing out.

East Pod: PSU, RU, SYR, ND
South Pod: TEX, TAM, PUR, IND
West Pod: WIS, IOWA, MINN, NW
North Pod: UM, MSU, OSU, ILL

Each team plays their pod every year. You play one other pod for 2 consecutive years and that pod is on your side of the confernece for the championship game. You also play 2 other teams from another POD for 2 years. This creates a balanced schedule over a 12 year period where you play your POD 12 times (6H/6A) and you play every other team 6 times (3H/3A). The conference alignment would change every 2 years for the conference championship game. It would look like this

Years 1-2
East/West vs. North/South
Years 3-4
East/South vs. North/West
Years5-6
East/North vs. South/West
Years 7-8
East/West vs. North/South
Years 9-10
East/South vs. North/West
Years 11-12
East/North vs South/West

A sample schedule looks like this. I’ll use Penn State as the example.

Year 1: SYR, @ RU, ND, @ WIS, IOWA, @ MINN, NW, OSU, @ MSU
Year 2; @SYR, RU, @ ND, WIS, @ IOWA, MINN, @ NW, @ OSU, MSU
Year 3: SYR, @ RU, ND, @ TEX, TAM, @ IND, PUR, @UM, ILL
Year 4: @SYR, RU, @ ND, TEX, @ TAM, IND, @ PUR, UM, @ILL
Year 5: SYR, @ RU, ND, @ OSU, UM, @ MSU, ILL, @TEX, IND
Year 6: @SYR, RU, @ ND, OSU, @ UM, MSU, @ ILL, TEX, @IND
Year 7: SYR, @ RU, ND, @ WIS, IOWA, @ MINN, NW, @TAM, PUR
Year 8: @SYR, RU, @ ND, WIS, @ IOWA, MINN, @ NW, @ OSU, MSU
year 9: SYR, @ RU, ND, @ TEX, TAM, @ IND, PUR, @WIS, IOWA
Year 10: @SYR, RU, @ ND, TEX, @ TAM, IND, @ PUR, WIS, @IOWA
Year 11: SYR, @ RU, ND, @ OSU, UM, @ MSU, ILL, @MINN, NW
Year 12: @SYR, RU, @ ND, OSU, @ UM, MSU, @ ILL, MINN, @ NW

Conference championship games held from Dallas, Chicago, Indy, Cinncinati, & NYC.

For basketball 18 conference games stay the same, you play your pod home/away (6 games) and everyone else once (12) games. Championship tounrneys in Indy, CHI, NYC, & Houston.

I haven’t run the numbers yet, but I think a conference this size could command $600-$800mil /year with an outside shot of $1bil if the BTN can go national.

I’ve got my sports goggles on here but all 5 fit the academic mold the conference is looking for as well. The weak link is SYR (I’d be open to MD as well) but SYR with RU & ND all but locks up NYC & NJ.

Am I nuts? Hopefully this dream will turn into a reality.

The second is from TheBlanton, who examines how he thinks the dominoes will fall:

1. Big 10 fires the first shot. Inviting Texas and Notre Dame. Big 10 knows that even if they only land one, they will be in position to stage a CCG.

2. Texas, already having a contingency plan in place demands that A&M be included. Notre Dame stalls and goes to committee. Big 10 gives an ultimatum which ND ignores. After 6 months, ND’s spot is offered to A&M. Texas and A&M are brought into the new big 12. Cable rates increase across the board.

3. The Big XII moves quickly. Because there is no love lost between the old Big 8 and the Texas schools, they find UT and A&M easy to replace. Wanting to maintain the Texas market as Big 12 country, the Big 12 offers TCU and Houston. This has already been worked out between Big 12 officials and Texas Legislators in a secret room inside Jerry’s Stadium scoreboard. Now instead of 4 BCS conference schools, Texas has 6. New Big 12 cable channel is formed with revenue sharing. Again cable rates increasre.

4. The Pac 10 tries to lure Colorado and Utah. Utah jumps at the chance but Colorado, sensing new balance in the Big 12, rejects the Pac 10 to stay with its old big 8 cohorts. Pac 10 is left reeling, after some time a vote is brought up on BYU. Stanford and Cal vote no, Pac 10 is stuck at 11 members. In a desperate move, Pac 10 forms a B division, with the promise that if they show growth, they may join the original 10 in a full capacity. San Diego State, Fresno State, Nevada, San Jose St, New Mexico St, BoiseSt, Colorado St, and Utah form the B division. A conference championship game is scheduled between the A and B division. If the B division team wins they are immediately considered for inclusion in the A division by simple majority vote. Cable rates stay surprisingly unchanged.

5. The Big XII, sensing the weakness of the MWC and the WAC, decides to shoot the moon and go to a 16 team conference. Rice, New Mexico, UNLV, and BYU are offered and jump at the chance to join a big time conference. The B12 is immediately split into two new divisions, with Oklahoma and OK st, joining the Big 8 division (former Big 12 North). The 5 Texas schools join the western schools for the Southwest Division.

6. The remaining MWC and WAC merge.

7. The Big 10, not to be outdone decides to go for a 16 team league. The reformed Big 8 gets a much better deal from the newly formed TV station that covers the new Big 8-Southwest Conference, closing them off to Big 10 expansion. Big 10 decides to make a play for the NY market and grab Syracuse and Rutgers from The Big East. One final offer is given to ND, assimilate or die. Pittsburgh is holding a standby ticket. Cable rates increase.

8. ND finally capitulates, joining the Big 10+6. Cable rates increase.

9. The Big East is crumbling. The basketball only schools break off and pick up a few regional catholic universities.

10. Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Conn, and Cincinnati Join The ACC based largely on their basketball revenue. ACC forms it’s own TV Channel. Cable rates increase during basketball season.

11. By this time SEC TV deal is on the horizon. They move to add Louisville and South Florida, and expand their market by adding SMU in Texas and Tulsa in Oklahoma. They form their own Cable channel. Cable rates are so high now that people are forced to work for the cable company full time in order to receive service.

12. Conference USA merges with the Sunbelt Conference.

After everything shakes out there are now 5 super conferences. Big 10+, Big 8-SW, Pac 10+, ACC, and SEC each have 16 teams. The MWAC and Sunbelt USA conference have some undetermined number of inconsequential schools.

The Cotton Bowl is revived as a BCS bowl In JerryWorld, making 5 BCS bowls.

The plus one system is added making the National Championship game during the bye week before the Superbowl, it rotates every year between the BCS sites. The winner is chosen by taking the two highest ranked teams after the bowls.

Every Mega conference is offered 2 BCS Bowl bids. 1 for the CCG winner, and an at large. However, the 2 BCS bids max is removed and any Mega Conference can steal any number of at-large bids as long as the team stealing the bid is ranked higher than the at-large team from the other conference.

In addition, the smaller conferences can steal an at large bid as long as they are ranked higher than the at large and any other 3rd team from a mega -conference.

Conference Alignment:

Big 10+

(West)- Texas, A&M, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana
(East)- Penn St, Ohio St, Michigan, Mich. St, Syracuse, Rutgers, ND, Purdue

Big 8/SW

(8) -Nebraska, Oklahoma, OK St, Kansas, Kansas St, Missouri, Iowa St, Colorado
(SW)- Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Rice, Houston, New Mexico, BYU, UNLV

Pac 10+

(A)- Wash, Wash St, Oregon, Oregon St, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Az, Az st
(B)- Utah, Nevada, Boise St., San Diego St, San Jose St, Fresno St, New Mexico St, Colorado St

ACC

(North) – BC, Pitt, Uconn, W Virginia, Cincy, Maryland, Virginia, VaTech
(South) – Wake, NC, NCst, Duke, Clemson, GeorgiaTech, FSU, Miami

SEC
(east) –
GA , Tenn, Vandy, Kentucky, Louisville, South Carolina, Florida, South Florida
(west) – Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Miss St, Arkansas, SMU, Tulsa

So there it is. I have now wasted half of my Saturday. Please start picking apart my suggestion, really I was just writing it to get it out of my head and on paper. I think this lasts about 50 years until greater global forces (crumbling economy, fuel shortage, Armageddon) force a need for smaller more compact conferences, probably 8 10 school conferences or 10 8 school conferences…. Discuss amongst yourselves.

I’m still fairly skeptical of 16-school conferences being form in this round of conference realignment.  I think it will be hard enough for the Big Ten university presidents to wrap their minds around a 14-school conference at this point.  Still, there are some extremely interesting scenarios out there and they’re fun to discuss.  So, the forum is dead.  Long live the forum.  Sorry for blue-balling everyone and keep the comments and news articles coming here.  Meanwhile, I’ll be spending my time over the next few days enjoying the NIT.  (Ugh.)  Go Illini!

I’ve had a few questions about the forum, so I just wanted to make it clear that I definitely still want to see and encourage your comments posted here on the blog. The discussions have been fantastic and I don’t want to see that go away. The main hope for the forum is to provide an outlet for those of you that have been putting together comments that are effectively quality blog posts in and of themselves so that they don’t get overwhelmed in the shuffle. It’s really intended to complement the discussions that we have on the blog as opposed to replacing them. I will always be posting my main thoughts here and want to ensure that the blog continues to be the center of activity. Thanks to all of you for your constant support!

Up until a couple of months ago, I never imagined that (1) I’d be spending this much time on college conference expansion analysis and (2) this blog would be receiving several hundred comments per post.  Not only that, your comments have been so incredibly thoughtful, well-written and insightful that it keeps readers coming back.  (Well, except for this guy.)  The most touching notes are from people that have said that they’re happy to find a place where fans can discuss a pretty hot and emotional topic with a high level of discourse, civility and good humor.  There really isn’t a better compliment than that in terms of what I’ve wanted from this little piece of the Interweb.  My favorite part of writing this blog isn’t writing the posts themselves, but getting to see all of the great viewpoints from across the country.

Of course, with rapid growth comes growing pains in the form of finding out that the WordPress.com commenting platform is powered by a couple of dehydrated gerbils.  A lot of the readers have been posting breaking news articles in almost real-time, so I don’t want them to get lost in the shuffle.  So, here are a few things to address this:

(1) Frank the Tank’s Slant: The Forum – I’ve created a new message board for people to post news articles and their own thoughts located at http://frankthetank2000.proboards.com.  If you’ve ever read my original objective for this blog, you know that I actually went out of my way to say that I was going to be a generalist as opposed to focusing on any niche.  Normally at this time of year, I’d be dissecting Illini basketball in-depth and writing a 10,000 word diatribe questioning the existence of Vinny Del Negro in any coaching capacity.  Well, this round of college conference expansion is fluid and interesting enough for me to focus on it for the time being (and I love to write about it), but I also encourage people to discuss topics that have nothing to do with Big Ten expansion, whether it’s related to sports or your favorite TV shows.  Personally, I’m dying to get a dialogue going on this season of LOST.  Regardless, the forum will hopefully be a useful tool to post new info, address different topics and get feedback in a more organized manner than the clusterfuck of the WordPress.com commenting system.

(2) New Email Address: frankthetank.illini@gmail.com – The comments have been coming in so fast and furious lately that it’s tough to keep up with a lot of the questions posed to me.  If you want to contact me directly, please send a message to the aforementioned Gmail account.  Who knows – we may have to institute a regular mailbag post if there are enough questions out there.

(3) Twitter – Just as a reminder, I also have my Twitter account @frankthetank111, so feel free to follow my angst on Selection Sunday as to whether Illinois will make it into the NCAA Tournament.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and GO ILLINI!

Big Ten expansion news continues to fire out at a rapid pace, which means that there isn’t any rest for me other than watching the latest episode of LOST and wondering if Bruce Weber was giving Demetri McCamey a lesson on the Bolshevik Revolution this past Sunday.  (OT rant – Joe Lunardi, why are you fucking with my head on the Illini?  What the hell do you see in us?  Does the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee secretly like teams with RPIs in the 70s that go down by double-digit deficits in the first half, mount furious comebacks within the last 10 minutes of the game, and then commit insane fouls like tackling opposing players to blow any chance of winning?  You’re telling me that I actually still need to care this week during the Big Ten Tournament and Selection Sunday?  Damn it all to hell. /OT rant)  Everytime that I think this story is going to slow down until the summer, something pops up that throws everyone for a loop.  The surprise this week is that the latest expansion tidbits are coming from the almighty University of Notre Dame itself.  Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick basically said that Notre Dame’s hand could be effectively forced to give up independence in the event of a “seismic” shift in the college sports landscape.

Just as I wondered what purpose the Big Ten had in leaking its study of 5 different expansion candidates last week (including Notre Dame), I’m perplexed as to why Swarbrick started spouting his mouth about whether Notre Dame would end up joining a conference.  Up until today, there seemed to be a media consensus that Notre Dame was a “pipe dream” for the Big Ten (which I never really believed, but that was the perception), so it wasn’t as if though he was trying to bat down any specific rumors.  Maybe Notre Dame was just testing the waters with its own alumni base to see how they’d react?  (I already know the answer to this: it is vitriolic anger and they’d rather drop to football program entirely than dare join a conference.)  Perhaps the Irish were getting a little tired of hearing how great Rutgers would be in the Big Ten or that Texas would actually be way better for the Big Ten than the Domers ever could be?  Or could Swarbrick and Notre Dame’s administration be seeing the proverbial writing on the wall where conference membership will become a necessity in terms of having a financially viable athletic department and they’re preparing their alums for an unpopular decision down the road?

I really don’t think that Swarbrick is really saying anything that contradicts with what he’s stated before.  As I noted in point #2 in this post, he’s a shrewd attorney skilled at wordsmithing and there isn’t a single comment that he’s uttered over the past several months that would be considered to be a lie if Notre Dame joined the Big Ten tomorrow.  What’s a little more unusual in Swarbrick’s latest comments is that he stepped out with an affirmative acknowledgement that Notre Dame could indeed consider conference membership under the right circumstances.  Of course, everyone wants to know what those circumstances would be.

I’m not going to presume anything about Notre Dame.  As much as the Irish are criticized as being selfish, they have actually been willing to leave money on the table in order to preserve certain traditions.  Notre Dame doesn’t play games in South Bend in prime time even though NBC would love to see that happen, there isn’t any advertising in Notre Dame Stadium and its NBC contract is worth a lot less today than the Big Ten’s TV deals.  In contrast, Texas became the #1 revenue generating sports school in the country because it squeezes every penny out of its athletic department.  The Longhorns have every home football game sponsored by a major corporation (i.e. “Texas vs. Louisiana-Monroe is presented by JetBlue Airlines”) along with an electronic scoreboard that would make Jerry Jones proud.  It’s difficult for me to see Texas leaving any money on the table, which is why I’ve scoffed at the notion that an extra $10 million or more doesn’t mean anything to that school.  That’s not a criticism at all.  They’re just acting rationally in their economic self-interest in the same manner that almost every other school in the country would.

So, I fully acknowledge that Notre Dame is different from everyone else.  If you’ve been fortunate enough to attend a game in South Bend as I have (courtesy of Sully), it’s one of the most amazing settings that you’ll ever come across in sports.  The school’s self-image is intertwined with independence going back to the days when there was a horrible anti-Catholic sentiment across much of the country in the early 1900s, including within the Big Ten (who wouldn’t allow Notre Dame to join on those religious grounds).  Notre Dame became the team for Catholics across the country even if they didn’t have any direct connection to the school itself (AKA the Subway Alumni), which provided it a unique national fan base that has reinforced its independent nature.  That being said, it has been easy for Notre Dame to claim an adherence to independence over the past few decades when it was in its financial interests to do so.  When Notre Dame rejected an invitation from the Big Ten back in the 1990s, the Irish were making about twice as much TV money as every Big Ten school.  As of today, though, the positions are reversed.  I noted in the Big Ten Expansion Index post that Notre Dame is now #3 in TV money… in its own home state behind Purdue and Indiana.  Independence isn’t quite the no-brainer choice for Notre Dame that it used to be from the financial side of the ledger.

Here’s the other thing to consider and which I’ve alluded to before: whether the school wants to admit it or not, Notre Dame has the freedom to be independent only as long as it believes that it can join the Big Ten whenever it wants.  The Irish can proceed with independence with very little risk if the worst case scenario is having to join the Big Ten, which is the best case scenario from a financial standpoint for virtually every other school in the country.  When talk about Big Ten expansion centered on Rutgers and Missouri, that certainly didn’t give Notre Dame any pause at all.  Even if the Big Ten added Rutgers or Mizzou as school #12, Notre Dame could be confident that they could be added in a larger Big Ten if the Irish ever needed to join a conference 20 or 30 years down the road.  When Texas and Texas A&M entered the discussion, though, then that completely changed the story.  If the Big Ten added the Texas schools plus one other random school (i.e. Rutgers, Missouri, Alaska-Anchorage, Toronto, Little Sisters of the Poor, etc.) for a 14-school conference, that’s a scenario where Big Ten membership could very well be closed off to Notre Dame forever.  The Big Ten legitimately doesn’t need or even want Notre Dame if it adds a school like Texas.  That turns Notre Dame’s current worst case scenario from joining the Big Ten, with all of its academic and financial advantages, into having to join the Big East in all likelihood, whose ENTIRE football TV contract last year was worth $13 million to be split amongst 8 schools (compared to $22 million for every single Big Ten school).  Thus, Notre Dame faces a real risk of being completely screwed in the long-term if it passes up an invitation to the Big Ten in this round of conference realignment, which is something that it hasn’t faced before.

This leads to the key question: what change on the college sports landscape would be “seismic” enough to get Notre Dame to join a conference?  Swarbrick mentioned the notion of 16-school superconferences, although I have a hard time believing that those will come to fruition in the near future.  However, I would certainly consider the Big Ten adding Texas and Texas A&M to be a massive seismic shift in college sports.  Could Notre Dame seriously let someone else take the 14th spot in the Big Ten if that were to happen?  That would certainly satisfy the Irish need for a national schedule.  If the Big Ten couldn’t get the Texas schools, would simply adding 2 Big East schools be enough?  The scenario that I described as “JoePa’s Dream Conference” where the Big Ten would add Notre Dame, Rutgers and Syracuse could also represent a seismic shift.  That would effectively kill off the Big East while creating a massive East Coast presence for the Big Ten.  As much as Notre Dame might claim to not care about basketball and its non-revenue sports, I think that it still cares that those athletes are participating in a BCS power conference.  I have a feeling that the Atlantic-10 or even a league made up only of the Catholic members of the Big East wouldn’t suffice for Notre Dame if the Big East split apart.  Regardless, Notre Dame’s administration is starting to realize that it might not be an island that is immune to the greater market forces around them.  The alumni can continue to take a hardline stance regarding independence based on tradition and emotion, but Notre Dame’s leadership is going to be facing some extremely tough choices in the new economic paradigm in college sports.

Remember what I said at the end of my post on the Big Ten study that was leaked: “If the Big Ten doesn’t add Notre Dame, then it’s going to go after a school that’s even better (not secondary choices that are lower in terms of impact).  Call me naive, crazy or one-track minded, but money has a way of making ‘pipe dreams’ on paper  in sports fan terms become much more realistic.”  Jack Swarbrick just confirmed that at least one “pipe dream” might not be that far from becoming a reality.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from ESPN.com)