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B1G Expansion Candidates Part 2: the Big(ish) Dogs

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Some general notes and my beliefs

  • No program is viewed as part of a package. For 2 programs to get an invite, each must merit an invitation on their own.
  • Expansion is a sports financial decision. Having good academics, etc. wouldn't elevate a program that is financially below the bar.
  • Broadcast revenue, best reflected in viewership, is the main financial factor.
  • FB shared revenue + BB shared revenue ≈ FB shared revenue. I give it zero chance you could show a program that could reliably contribute shared revenue from BB sufficient to make up for contributing little in football. Deal with it hoopty fans.
  • While they're included in the discussions, I do not believe any SEC program would be interested in changing conference affiliation, have my doubts about ACC interest, think the B12 programs asked after UT and Oklahoma announced and have already been told no, believe the rest of the PAC has inquired since USC-UCLA announced (or at least plan to after they get some preliminary info on the PAC broadcast contract negotiations), and don't believe any G-5 programs outside the academies are candidates.
  • The B1G isn't expanding just for the sake of expansion because they want to expand. Each candidate can be expected not just to be close to the conference average, but large enough to have a notable positive impact on conference shared revenue. Programs considered over the bar might also be considered marginal or a longshot in the final breakdown because they wouldn't move the bar much higher.
  • I don't think expansion is locked into adding programs in pairs now, the conference is leaning toward eliminating divisions to allow top brands to play each other more often.
  • I consider almost every rumor to be garbage.

The table below is a reference for the discussion. A less mathy way to view the conference multiplier is that when looking at a program changing conferences, it is mostly the same team with the same fan base and same university culture, the major change is the opponents and the broadcast coverage. The conference multiplier seems to catch the bulk of these adjustments.

For a detailed mathy description of the table, reference B1G Expansion Candidates Part 1 - Quantifying Candidates

Big Dog Candidates

B1G top expansion candidates

Notre Dame, Army, Navy, Air Force: candidates

ND is an announced candidate from the B1Gs perspective. I don't think any conference would decline a request to join from the academies.

Florida State, Texas, Georgia, Florida: candidates

They check off all my boxes. To explain how the metrics are applied:

  • Adjusted Viewership projected to be more than 115% the average B1G program, they would be projected to notably add to shared revenue.

The following 3 criteria are flags, not requirements, not having at least 1 of the 1st 3 will draw more scrutiny.

  • Raw Program Footprint They come from states with a population larger than the B1G average per program.
  • Adjusted Program Footprint reflects how much of the state population likely follows the program. Florida is more than 85% the B1G average Adjusted Program Footprint, the others are more than 115% the B1G average.
  • Campus Enrollment The B1G has some massive campuses, providing a strong reliable alumni fan base, and likely some similarities in the campus cultures: I suspect there is a big difference in operations between a college of 50K and a college of 15K. All of these programs have enrollments at least 85% that of the average B1G program.

If a program's academic ranking isn't within 15% of the B1G's lowest member, I won't consider them more than a marginal candidate (and usually less).

  • Academics is more than a standard, academics can give a hint into the campus administration's culture, pure football factories need not apply. Viewed as a bar to clear with little concern for how far a program clears the bar, there's 2 path over this hurdle: Texas and Florida follow the easy analysis with AAU membership, Florida State and Georgia academic rankings are 55 and 48, above at least ½ of the B1G universities.

Stanford, Miami, Washington: candidates

Adjusted Viewership Projected to be more than 115% the average B1G program.

Academics All have AAU membership and are highly ranked in academics.

All have at least 2 of the other 3 criteria I have a concern with programs not reaching any of these 3 criteria is their ability to recover if they have an extended period of poor performance, easy to do if you are in a large state, have a large part of your state's population as your fan base, and/or have a large alumni base, but not easy without these.

  • Campus Enrollment Both Stanford and Miami have small campuses, which could be a culture issue for the college Presidents.
  • Adjusted Program Footprint Washington is below the B1G average, the result of sharing their state fan base with Washington State. I don't think this would really be a concern, if 2 or all 3 of the most viewed PAC programs leave, Washington State will no longer be viewed as a power conference member, Washington would scoop up a lot of their fans.

Side note The B1G heads have frequently noted similarities in priorities with the PAC universities. I give all of the PAC teams an academic and culture pass except Oregon State and Washington State (who aren't candidates anyway). I am not as certain about how they would view Miami.

Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma: candidates

The B1G conference loves the word "Brand." When you're as big a brand as Alabama and Oklahoma, and to a lesser extent Clemson, the rest isn't as important. Alabama would replace Nebraska as the lowest ranked academics in the B1G, but I believe the conference would call reporters for a noon announcement, cherry pick Alabama's better academic programs and research as talking points, then offer reporters access to a free taco bar as a distraction.

LSU: not a candidate

Other than viewership, LSU misses on all of the other criteria I look at. The B1G can excuse Bama for being ranked 12 spots below the B1G's lowest, but I don't think they will drop their standards 36 slots to invite a program ranked 172nd in academics.

Auburn: marginal candidate

My concern isn't their metrics, but how the B1G university heads view Auburn. Do they see Auburn as a similar University culture or a football factory, a top brand with broad fan interest, or a program riding the coattails of the SEC audience.

Oregon: candidate

A lot of similarities to Auburn in the metrics, but AAU affiliation and PAC association gets them a pass on academics and University culture. 8 NY6 appearances and 6 PAC championships in 13 years, under 3 coaches, will give a program a lot of credibility.

Side Note As an example of not differentiating similar numbers: Stanford, Oregon, Miami, Washington can be considered to have the same adjusted viewership, separated by about 8%.

That's the top candidates, part 3 will look at the more difficult ones to predict: candidates that are projected to fall 15% above or below the B1G average, and scour the lower candidates for possible surprises.

"I forgot what I just read" summary

if I were to rank their real order (which doesn't really matter if they're a candidate):

Candidates:

1. Notre Dame

2, 3, 4. Navy, Army, Air Force (no interest)

5. Texas (SEC has no interest), they were heavily pursued when Nebraska was added.

6. Alabama (SEC has no interest)

7. Oklahoma (SEC has no interest)

8. Clemson

9. Georgia (SEC has no interest)

10. Florida State

11. Florida (SEC has no interest)

12, 13, 14. Stanford, Oregon, Washington

15. (*)Miami

Marginal Candidate

16. Auburn (SEC has no interest)

If you remove candidates for their lack of interest, the top 17 candidates are already down to 7.

(*) Miami has some concerns not detailed here, I will detail them more in part 3 where there is a better example.

Can't Stay on Topic: "Waiting for ND" Rumor

Dennis Dodd, July 1st 10:58AM: "Sources: Oregon and Washington have been told by @bigten that it is standing pat for now. Waiting on a decision by Notre Dame."

60 seconds on the clock and... go!

  • The only mentions in the B1G of this is that there are no ongoing discussions.
  • ND has said they are in no rush and plan to wait a couple of years to decide.
  • This was the day after USC and UCLA joining the B1G became known, I doubt 2 programs made the decision to request to change conferences that fast.
  • These programs aren't the easy decision that USC and UCLA were, the B1G would open discussions and request information while they continued discussions with others, not tell them to go away for a while.
  • If there's a delay, it will be from the PAC programs side as they wait for the preliminary information from their accelerated broadcast contract negotiations (changing conferences isn't a quick decision for P-5 programs).
  • The B1G would want to finish negotiations quickly with any interested programs, ahead of their broadcast contract, not stall them.
  • This is a CBS Sports "Source," an outlet that cites source claims like the B1G planning to invite Colorado with their average of 610K views per game to join the B1G.

It does bring up a notable talking point. To get an invite, a program not only has to be above the B1G average, they need to be far enough above to make a difference in shared revenue.

With each program added that is above the B1G average, the bar is elevated, decreasing the number of programs who are above the bar. For example, I would have the SEC 115% x average in the Stanford to Washington range.

ND is B1G enough to move the bar notably. For example, if they were projected to have just 4.5% more viewership in the B1G than THE Ohio State (I think it would be more), the 115% of B1G average viewership would move from UCLA to Stanford, leaving only 12 programs above this mark, and elevating shared revenue and membership size so much there might not be any candidates below this mark.

Verdict: It's a bogus rumor that inadvertently makes a valid point.