Thoughts on Big Ten Expansion

Thoughts on Big Ten Expansion

August 4, 2023

First of all, I’m not a college football writer. I hate talking about the business side of the sport, NIL, TV rights deals, etc. I’m a kid at heart who loves sports and hates the business aspect.

But I do love the games. The tradition. The uniforms. The clashes of playing styles. Air Raid vs. smash-mouth. Option vs. pro style. David vs. Goliath.

So if you want a discussion of how this opens up the Seattle TV market and increases the payout for the people in Piscataway, go somewhere else.

Otherwise, hit the jump.

What I do know is that the Big Ten in 2024 will consist of the following schools (new additions at the end):

  1. Illinois (1896)
  2. Indiana (1899)
  3. Iowa (1899)
  4. Maryland (2014)
  5. Michigan (1917)
  6. Michigan State (1950)
  7. Minnesota (1896)
  8. Nebraska (2011)
  9. Northwestern (1896)
  10. Ohio State (1912)
  11. Penn State (1990)
  12. Purdue (1896)
  13. Rutgers (2014)
  14. Wisconsin (1896)
  15. Oregon (2024)
  16. UCLA (2024)
  17. USC (2024)
  18. Washington (2024)

Luckily, WordPress did the counting for me and totaled up eighteen teams. Yeah, the Big Ten moniker went kaput back in 1990, but it gets even sillier by the decade. Now there are going to be 18 teams in the conference, and even if you play zero non-conference games in a regular season, there are still going to be four teams you can’t possibly play in a given year. What’s the point of being in a conference with a team you never play? Realistically, a nine-game conference schedule will leave even the Big Ten championship game participants playing a maximum of ten opponents, and that’s if the BTCG opponents didn’t already play in the regular season.

I like Oregon. I don’t care much for USC or Washington. I’m indifferent toward UCLA. I don’t have much animosity toward any of them because you have to go back several years to find a time when they played Michigan, and the most recent was a 2021 drubbing of Washington. Most of my dislike of Washington probably stems from the Rose Bowl thirty-plus years ago, but that’s a reach. I don’t know a single Washington or UCLA fan. I know a couple USC and Oregon fans, but they’re fleeting. When it comes to talking trash in the workplace, game weeks against those teams – which might not be very often – will be pretty quiet.

As far as competition goes, I . . . hate it. I’m selfish. You can say, “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best” all you want, but there’s something to be said for “Hey, we’re Pac-10/Pac-12 conference champs.” Every year one out of ten teams could say that. For the past two seasons, Michigan was the one out of fourteen teams who could claim a Big Ten championship. Michigan now has 44 conference championships.

But if you pass around the Big Ten championship baton in a circle – which obviously doesn’t happen – a team can only be a conference champion every eighteen years. That’s basically a generation. Imagine being a storied Michigan, Ohio State, or USC team and only winning a championship in football once every eighteen years.

Or, worse yet, imagine being Northwestern right now and expecting to get your ass beaten on a weekly basis, even by the newcomers to the conference.

One reason it’s frustrating being a Detroit Lions fans – where the league has 32 teams – is that even with the way the NFL draft is set up to allow parity, a fair dispersal of the Lombardi Trophy means a team is only winning one Super Bowl every 32 years. The way it’s worked out with the Lions is, they haven’t won it. They haven’t even played for it.

And now that’s coming closer and closer to the reality for the likes of Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan State, maybe UCLA, etc., not to mention Northwestern, Indiana, and others. It’s one thing to be the worst out of ten teams. Or twelve. It’s another thing to be the worst out of eighteen. And unlike in the NFL draft, where the worst team gets the rights to the first pick, there’s no path for Northwestern to climb out of the dungeon.

I get why the Big Ten has to expand. It’s an attempt to stay ahead of the SEC, or stay even with the SEC, or at least not turn into the ACC or . . . the Pac-12. But something is wrong with the sport when the big conferences are gobbling up the little ones and making these unwieldy super-conferences.

Brian Cook of MGoBlog was on the “MGoBlog Roundtable” session on WTKA yesterday, and he was royally pissed. His idea for the Big Ten was to make two divisions in the conference (and I’m paraphrasing):

“Make a west division and call it the Pac-10 and make an east division and call it the Big Ten.”

I don’t know what this will look like for Michigan fans (or other, more traditional, Big Ten fans). I don’t particularly want to watch Michigan play at UCLA at 10:45 p.m. EST. Nor do I think it’s fair to the student-athletes to expect them to fly all over the country, play games at odd hours, and keep up with their health and schoolwork.

Will it be fun to see Oregon play Michigan? To see USC play Ohio State? To see UCLA play Rutgers? Yes, yes, and no.

Yeah. I like fun.

But everything else about it sucks.

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