Last month, what looked to be a quiet holiday season went boom when the Big Ten surprisingly swiped Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East. The Big East responded by inviting Tulane into the family. At that point most of the Big East’s biggest basketball schools said, “That’s enough,” and announced just days ago that they would be breaking away from their football-playin’ brothers to create a new hoops-first conference of their own.
Instead of a season of peace, presidents, commissioners, coaches and fans are back to nervously holding their breath as they wait for the next big move. Silent nights will be replaced with anxious nights for many.
With expansion and realignment in the air once more, we’re taking a numbers-based look at how things might shake out. Yesterday, we showed you the total revenue numbers — gross not net — for each school currently scheduled to be playing FBS football by 2015. Follow the money and it becomes clear that about 76 FBS schools — those not in the Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC — might be willing to flip-flop conferences if it meant more cash in their coffers.
Meanwhile, the biggest conferences are keeping their eyes on the ACC, the Big East, Notre Dame, and a select number of schools that might actually be worth nabbing. That’s what we’ll examine today:
1. Which schools would be appealing to the biggest leagues thanks to the number of cable households they can influence/provide? With several leagues launching their own networks, the more cable households gained, the higher the subscriber fees those conferences can try to charge.
2. Which schools have “big brand” appeal? Location isn’t everything. East Carolina — for example — might be located in the Tarheel State, but ECU doesn’t draw North Carolina-type ratings on television. Just grabbing San Diego State in California wouldn’t allow a league to claim it has drawing power across the entire Golden State. Stealing a Southern Cal or a California, on the other hand…
3. Which schools have the best academic reputations? As we noted yesterday, academics are playing a smaller and smaller role in expansion and realignment (see: Louisville to the ACC) as dollars and survival instinct become the real drivers behind many leagues’ decisions. The Big Ten and SEC, however, are in the most powerful positions moving forward. Their schools currently bring in the most revenue. If push came to shove, there would be few schools willing to turn down an invite from either conference. The Big Ten has always been very picky about trying to add AAU member institutions with big research budgets. The SEC can be choosy, too, at this point. The league’s presidents are tired of having the pointy-heads from Up North making inferences about the “dumb jocks” in the league Down South. In addition to growing it’s geographic and media footprint, the SEC’s last round of expansion allowed it to add two AAU schools to its roster. If forced to expand further, expect Mike Slive to try and land more big name brands with reputations for being solid research-based universities.
So let’s start by looking at the 25 schools we identified yesterday as having at least some hope of landing in a bigger conference: Boise State, Boston College, BYU, Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, SMU, South Florida, Syracuse, UCF, UNLV, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
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