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The Expansion Game - How Much Are The Candidates Really Worth?


Exactly one month ago, I calculated the value of each of the eleven current members of the Big Ten using the same variables that are in play in conference expansion: 1. Revenue, 2. Demographics, 3. Competitiveness, and 4. Academics.  The methodology I used (and the results I arrived at) were not without controversy.  (You can read the criticisms and my response to them in the comments section of the original feature).

When I wrote the first article I promised we'd return to the formula to explore how expansion candidates compare to the current conference roster.  It's time to do just that.  Here is a quantitative look at the eight most popular expansion candidates, as seen through the eyes of a university president.  Should the Big Ten go to 12, 14, or even 16 teams?  Read on.


Category 1: Revenue

The way I see it, the two factors that most directly affect a conference's balance sheet are 1. Athletic Department total revenues (as determined by the Orlando Sentinel's 2007-08 survey), and 2. Total league attendance (as determined by the NCAA in 2009).  I've set up this category so that total revenues comprise 75% of the ranking composite, while attendance makes up the other 25%.  Here's how the nine top expansion candidates stack up:

Rank Program Revenue Attendance
1 Texas $120,288,370 101,175
2 Notre Dame $83,352,439 80,795
T-3 Kansas $86,009,257 50,581
T-3 Nebraska $75,492,884 85,888
4 Texas A&M $74,781,640 76,800
5 Rutgers $50,181,300 49,113
6 Missouri $49,113,786 64,120
T-7 Pittsburgh $39,741,621 53,446
T-7 Syracuse $44,702,831 


Category 2: Demographics

Here I'm looking for native television audience, so I've taken the population of the state the school is located in (as determined by the 2009 estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau), and weighed it against the size of the nearest metropolitian area (as measured by this list of the most populus incorporated areas in the United States).  Both factors are considered equally at this step in the analysis.

Rank Program State Population Metro Population
T-1 Texas 24,782,302 757,688
T-1 Texas A&M 24,782,302 757,688
2 Rutgers 8,707,739 8,363,710
3 Notre Dame 6,423,113
4 Syracuse 19,541,453 &0000000000206886.0000j         2  2w22206,886
5 Pittsburgh 12,604,767 310,037
T-6 Kansas 2,818,747 480,129
T-6 Missouri &0000000005987580.0000005,987,580
7 Nebraska 1,796,619 &0000000000438646.0438,646


Category 3: Competitiveness

To determine a program's historical competitiveness, I've used ESPN's Prestige Rankings.

Rank Program Prestige Ranking
1 Notre Dame 4
2 Nebraska 5
3 Texas 7
4 Texas A&M 20
5 Pittsburgh 27
6 Syracuse 29
7 Missouri 36
8 Kansas 69
9 Rutgers 101


Category 4: Academics

Again, I've used U.S News and World Report's Best Colleges rankings.

Rank Program National Rank
1 Notre Dame 20
2 Texas 47
3 Pittsburgh 56
4 Syracuse 58
5 Texas A&M 61
6 Rutgers 66
T-7 Nebraska 96
T-7 Kansas 96
8 Missouri 102

It's finally time to look at the candidate rankings, as determined by weighing all four categories equally and averaging each school's rank.  In reverse order:

8. The University of Missouri (6.75 Average)

7. The University of Kansas (6.00 Average)

6. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (5.5 Average)

5. Syracuse University (5.25 Average)

4. University of Pittsburgh (5 Average)

3. University of Nebraska (4.75 Average)

2. Texas A&M University (3.5 Average)

T-1. University of Notre Dame (1.75 Average)

T-1. University of Texas (1.75 Average)

If you're anything like me, you're shocked to see Texas A&M as high as it is on the list.  Don't get me wrong, the only way the Aggies get an offer to join the Big Ten is if it's in tandem with Texas.  But the truth is Mike Sherman's team isn't as far back as you might imagine.  Even if we remove Category 2 and take away Texas' sweeping statewide population, the Aggies still average a 4.33, which is good enough to keep them in the Top 3.  That means you can officially stop comparing the Texas/Texas A&M compromise to the Keenan Allen/Zach Maynard situation.

On the other hand, I'm surprised to see Missouri in dead last place.  After all, the Tigers have generated an extraordinary amount of attention in expansion circles.  But despite the complimentary geographic cohesion, Mizzou has the least to offer the conference of any popular candidate.

What does all this mean?  Well, on paper, it means that Jim Delaney's pitch to the COP/C should be as follows:

+ 1...

If the Big Ten decides to add only one team, it's Texas, Notre Dame, or bust.  The difference between these two programs and the rest of the pack is dramatic.  While it's possible that the conference could take only a Nebraska, or Pittsburgh and still realize a positive gain, neither has near the cachet of the Longhorns and the Irish.

+ 3...

Although Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says a fourteen team Big Ten is the least likely of all scenarios, if the league chooses to add three teams, it should consider the following strategies in order:

1. Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M

2. Notre Dame, Nebraska, Pittsburgh

3. Notre Dame, Nebraska, Syracuse

4. Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska

+ 5...

If a superconference is in our future, we can make the most waves by offering: Texas, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Pittsburgh.  If the Longhorns and the Aggies stay put, the Big Ten should go for:

1. Notre Dame, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Rutgers

Then again, my gut tells me that the following scenario might be in play:

2. Notre Dame, Syracuse, Rutgers, Kansas, and Missouri

Are you noticing a pattern?  Expansion in any form must include either Texas or Notre Dame.  Drop either of these two mainstays and we're in the bottom half of the candidate pool pretty quickly.