The Big 10 football conference has been behind the eight ball lately in the "chic" ratings of college football. Proof? The once proud mantra of "three yards and a cloud of dust" has been left in the dust, while the Midwest's Best lack a championship game with the added capacity for more publicity and greater profits. The Big 10 Network has been called a boring profit killer and the conference leans awkwardly with its prime number of 11 teams; radically balanced, unclear, and unlike the split SEC and Big 12.
So in the spirit of clearing up the Big 10's problems and inequities, I begin this two part article by discussing the possibility of the Big 10 adding a 12th member.
Should the Big 10 add another team in its football conference? Let's start with the positives.
- If the Big 10 adds another team, we can split the conference in two (i.e. the SEC) and pave the way for each team playing 8 conference games...AND a conference championship game. Imagine, the Coca Cola Big 10 Championship Game, coming to you live from Ford Field or the RCA Dome! (That's the sound of Jim Delany drooling madly).
- The Big 10 12 will give more teams a chance to prove their mettle, instead of this "one or two losses and you're done" idea. Not since 2000 has a two loss team won a Big 10 title. A bad performance here, a dropped ball there...and a 6-2 Michigan State team is removed from Big 10 contention faster than you can say "Plaxico Burress." Not so in the SEC, where last year's Volunteers almost made it to a top BCS bowl thanks to the SEC Championship game. After suffering two early losses to Florida and ‘Bama, Tennessee found its second wind and won five straight games to win the SEC East. In the Big 10, the Vols would have been quickly relegated to the Outback Bowl. In the SEC, the Phillip Fulmer was one quarter away from playing in a major BCS Bowl.
- The Big 10 is so congested, essentially concentrated around Chicago (see map). To see the positives of one more team, all we need to do is look at the enormous hype and money generated by the successful Penn State move, a Penn State football team that is not even in the Midwest, according to most PSU fans.
The negatives to adding a team:
- What a tradition killer. The Big 10 football conference has had 11 teams for...16 years! Nevermind.
- Who cares if the conference is imbalanced and only two teams get chances for a conference title? This could become like the MLB, which used to have a tried and true AL East v AL West showdown for the AL pennant, but which has now devolved into Wild Card loving format that kills dynasties and ratings. The Big 10 puts a huge onus on being prepared for conference play - deal with it.
I spent way too much time on this, compliments of Paint.
- THIS IS THE BIG ONE...Who would the Big 10 ask to be its 12th team? There just aren't any that many options. Let's go over some of them... (my thanks to Estrada)
Pittsburgh Panthers: Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, one of the greatest college defensive lineman of all time in Hugh Green...I'd say the tradition is there. The football hasn't been spectacular, but the recruiting ground is fertile (Pittsburgh Catholic Central) and the Stache has fashioned himself a hard-hitting team that slammed into Iowa's bullies and came away with a win. Geographically and economically, Pitt is a true Midwestern city with its roots deep in blue collar work. Is it a real possibility? Not yet - Pitt loves its Big East basketball rivalries, but the Big East football conference always feels like its on the edge of imploding and Delaney could sweep Pitt into his money making venture called Big 10, Inc.
West Virginia Mountaineers: Unfortunately, this was a perfect fit before Ann Arbor stripmined the Mountaineers of its head coaching stars. Not only is Morgantown between State College and Columbus, the Big 10 would have inherited viciously loyal fans, sell out crowds, and that certain Midwest/Appalachian flavor which has been referred to as "hick." WVU has been a legit football program for years, always able to bring in good talent. Pat White v Terrelle Pryor...we can only dream. Now the hate runs too deep for the State of West Virginia to allow Delany anywhere near this program.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Millions of dollars from NBC have made this idea impossible, at least for now. But if you really want Notre Dame in the Big 10 football conference, just pray that ND has about five straight losing years. A streak of losing Irish seasons could inspire the Rooster to drop the Irish, who would presumably crawl over to the Big 10. God knows, no campus fits better geographically, no team has more rivalries, no colors inspire more emotion (hate) and no team's coach can recruit so well after a 3-9 losing season.
Ball State: Just kidding! Someone go revive Paterno's Grandaughter...
Stay tuned for Part 2: How would a restructured Big 10 look?