Big Ten expansion is based on money, TV deals

Dec 4, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; The Big Ten logo displayed on the court before the game between the Western Carolina Catamounts and the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Kill forced athletic director Norwood Teague’s hand into backing out of a home-and-home series with the University of North Carolina.

The Tar Heels made $800,000.

Now it’s rumored UNC, the University of Virginia, Georgia Tech or even Florida State could join the Big Ten conference in a continuing expansion.

The Tar Heels, the most appealing of candidates, could stand to see $24.6 million from the Big Ten’s revenue sharing, a product of the conference’s boisterous television deals. That’s compared to $17 million annually from the ACC.

Conference realignment has dominated the NCAA landscape solely due to money grabs that programs like Maryland (ACC to Big Ten), Texas A&M and Missouri (Big 12 to SEC) have made in recent years.

The Terrapins, who recently cut seven sports to save face, announced they accepted the Big Ten’s invite in November. Rutgers followed to make it 14 teams in the conference.

Television deals will continue to dominate the judgments of the six major conferences, including the Big Ten. So it’s no surprise they’re looking to reach even further down the east coast.

If UNC accepted the Big Ten’s supposed invite, Kill would be forced to play UNC football every now and then – a deal the grizzled coach can’t buy out of.

The Big Ten, which hasn’t had 10 teams since Penn State joined in 1990, has continued to expand as one of the power conferences in the NCAA – planting its tentacles in farther and farther geographical distances.

November’s moves made sense to the budget. It was as much of a money grab for the Big Ten as it was for Maryland and Rutgers.

One of the country’s premiere conferences can now say it will broadcast games in the Washington D.C. and New York/New Jersey markets. You can see how that’s a little sweeter to networks like ESPN and CBS, who are used to seasonal trips to Bloomington, Ind. and only as far east as Happy Valley, Penn.

For Maryland and Rutgers, they get a seat at the Big Ten table resulting in a large chunk of revenue sharing pie – which is growing and growing every year.

Rumors that schools like UNC, UV, Georgia Tech and FSU are an even farther reach for Big Ten officials, who look to supplant games in as many markets as possible.

Those programs match the Big Ten’s academic blueprint well and also make the average fan salivate over the potential competition in one of the country’s top conferences.

UNC, ineligible to compete in a bowl game last year from NCAA sanctions, went 8-4 on the gridiron, while the Gophers finished 6-7. The Tarheels’ premiere basketball history can go without say as to what it would add to an already pristine basketball conference.

Florida State is one of the more farfetched of potential candidates, but their football resume is enough for an invite. The Seminoles went 12-2 last year under head coach Jimbo Fisher, splitting the ACC championship with Clemson and earning a 31-10 victory in January’s Orange Bowl over Northern Illinois.

Virginia (4-8) and Georgia Tech (7-7) are more on par with the Gophers when it comes to football, but both are top academic institutions that the Big Ten wouldn’t mind being represented by.

However, Georgia Tech provides an opportunity for the Big Ten to jump into the Atlanta market –- ranked the ninth largest by Nielsen in the U.S., compared to UNC’s Raleigh-Durham (24th), FSU’s Tallahassee-Thomasville (106th) and Virginia’s Charlottesville (183rd).

The move to 16 teams is inevitable, but don’t be surprised when the Big Ten chooses the TV market size over the teams it’ll broadcast.

It’s all about the Benjamins.

Topics: Basketball, Football, Minnesota Golden Gophers

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  • Leon Spencer

    The B1G should keep a contiguous footprint. Our conference has be known for stability and being the oldest conference in the nation. When you recklessly add schools outside of our footprint, you cause instability. For example, when Penn State was added without regional rivals, there was always the concern of Penn St jumping to the Big East or ACC. Some of their fans were wishing it. We have fixed that problem by rightfully adding Maryland and Rutgers to strengthen our footprint.

    Now there are rumors of breaking that contiguous footprint and adding UNC or GaTech. Not only did we not learn from the lesson of adding Penn St, we will destablize our conference by adding schools that could jump to the ACC, Big12, or SEC.

    This is a bad move.

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