Expansion could have ripple effects

Published 3:22 pm Friday, May 7, 2010

If ever there was a reminder that college athletics, particularly college football is a business it is the hoopla surrounding the potential restructuring of the Big Ten.

The NCAA, or athletic supporters as I like to call them, would try to tell you that college athletics is about providing an opportunity for Americas young men and women to showcase “Learning, Balance, Spirit, Community, Fair play, and Character”. This may even be true in regards to some of the sports included in college athletics.

The more popular sports however, football particularly, has become such a phenomenon in regards to it’s popularity that the focus has moved away from the student athlete and onto the mighty dollar. This has become painfully obvious in recent weeks.

From the moment the Big Ten announced in mid December it’s intentions to explore conference expansion the buzz regarding it and the potential ripple effects it might have on other conferences has been non-stop.

Some have wondered that if they expanded to 12 teams whether they may consider changing their name (people forget that they actually expanded to 11 teams in 1990 with the addition of Penn State).

Others speculated over who the new team might be, debated who it should be and wondered if their favorite conference might be affected.

What nobody asked was why. I can only assume it was because the answer was so obvious…money. With a 12th teams the Big Ten could hold a conference championship football game. This would not only provide an extra game (extra game = lots of money) but it would keep the Big Ten, usually finished by late November, on the minds of sports writers and bowl selection committees.

If they do expand you can be certain that they will have considered the most important factor regarding conference expansion in the Big Ten, marketability. The Big Ten, unlike most conferences has their own television network.

While I’m sure Big Ten officials will tell you that tradition and academics are the priority regarding possible inclusion in their conference, don’t be surprised if it’s also a team in a big television market.

Don’t think for a second that if you are an ACC fan that this may not change the landscape of college athletics here in the south as well.

There mere talk of Big Ten expansion forced every major conference in the country to form committees and discuss what might happen to their conference. The SEC chose to be proactive and began discussing an expansion to 16 teams. Care to guess what teams might be attractive to the SEC should they decide to expand?

I’m willing to bet that should the SEC decide to become a 16 team conference that they would take a long and hard look at teams like Florida State, Miami and Clemson.

Some have even suggested that the ripple effect expansion will have on several conferences may leave the Big East with few teams and doomed to fail. Before you consider such talk ridiculous, consider that the Big East recently hired Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a special advisor. The Big East is scared and you know what…they should be.

The looting of college football teams that is conference expansion will begin shortly and it’s going to get interesting.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School

graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at