Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nebraska To The Big Ten? The First Domino To Fall

With the political landscape being so messy, the environmental disaster in the Gulf so depressing, and the pop culture news so tawdry, I wanted to shift gears a little and talk about events that will change the scope of college sports in America....and its starting to happen now. This may be a seismic shift; sometimes that term is thrown around casually, but in this case its appropriate.

According to ESPN and other sources the University of Nebraska will leave the Big 12 to join the Big Ten; and this will be the first of several moves that will send the Big 12 into extinction. Sources report that Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado will then leave the Big 12 for the PAC 10 to become a mega-conference, "The PAC 16". The remaining members of the Big 12- Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, and Missouri will be, at the moment in limbo. These five could try to keep the conference alive by adding new members (unlikely), or try to join other BCS conferences.

While the Big Ten had been exploring the possibility of adding members in the East- Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, or UCONN- in the future, the timetable could be moved up, or possibly scuttled altogether for that scenario. The Big Ten would have 12 members, six in each division, enough to sanction a championship game.

But the wild card in all of this is Notre Dame....the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten may force Notre Dame, an independent in football but an associate member of the Big East in other sports, to become a full member of a conference. In all likelihood, that conference would be the Big Ten.

But that would give the Big Ten 13 members....the uneven number might result in scheduling problems for the football and other sports. And the addition of Nebraska or possibly Notre Dame doesn't address the desire of the Big Ten to expand its Big Ten Network cable TV into the basic tier of the New York area cable spectrum; adding Rutgers and Syracuse, or possibly UCONN would do that.

And add this to the mix; Big Ten officials have stated over and over again that a large part of the criteria for adding new members would include a school's academic profile. In the latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) from the NCAA Rutgers football lead all FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) in the nation with a 992 (out of a possible 1,000) for the period 2005-09. This broke Stanford's record of 986 posted in 2008. The four schools that followed Rutgers were Air Force, Rice, Northwestern, and Duke- a service academy and three elite private universities. In the period of time Rutgers was achieving this high level in the classroom they were winning football games as well, going 34-17 during those years, being invited to four bowl games and winning three. In 2009-10 Rutgers was 9-3 and won another bowl game.

If the Big Ten does decide to expand even further and take as many as three- or possibly four- teams from the Big East to become a 16 team mega conference, what would become of the remnants of the Big East in both football and basketball, and how would the SEC and ACC react to the moves? Would West Virginia, Louisville, or South Florida move to one of those conferences? And where would that leave defending Big East football champion Cincinnati? Would Miami and Florida State move to the SEC from the ACC to compete with instate rival Florida?

The scenario is just beginning to unfold....and where its stops, so they say, no one knows.

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