Tag: Conference Alignment
For years after the ACC first raided the Big East for Miami and Virginia Tech, Pitt partisans dreamed of a move to the Big Ten. TV markets, however, dictated that Pitt would/will never get an invite. The Big Ten Network is already in the Pittsburgh area because of Pennstate. Ratings themselves don’t necessarily matter. If you have expanded cable, you get the BTN whether you watch it or not. So you’re paying for it no matter what. The B1G gets paid, period. I still prefer the ACC.
In football, we can still maintain a strong northeastern and mid-atlantic presence against former Big East schools Syracuse, BC and VT. We get a better toehold in Florida with the additions of games against FSU and resumption of games against Miami-FL. We can expand our recruiting south to places like the Carolinas. And historically, Pitt hasn’t needed a rivalry presence to recruit Ohio; the River City Rivalry with Cincinnati stretches back less than a decade. Moving to the B1G would open up the midwest more but that’s about it.
There’s no doubt that Big Ten schools have more aggregate football success and tradition at the top than the ACC. OSU, Michigan, Nebraska and Pennstate are among the blue-bloods of collge football. But the ACC still has two blue-blood brands of its own in FSU and Miami-FL and two barons (so to speak) in Clemson and VT.
In basketball, the advantage is clear. In either scenario, B1G or ACC, Pitt loses the access to Madison Square Garden that the Big East provided. But one of the biggest false narratives about Pitt basketball is our supposed reliance on NYC talent. In Ben Howland’s early days, that was certainly true but Jamie Dixon has broadening our recruiting during his tenure, expanding into DC/MD area. The best Pitt team of the past two decades, the 2008-2009 Elite Eight team, had only two players from NYC prep schools (three if you count Don Bosco Prep, which I don’t). Sam Young, one of the most dynamic players on that Pitt team, came from Maryland. As Pitt’s talent level has slowly improved, Dixon’s need to rely on under-talented grinders from NYC has diminished.
Institutionally, Pitt fits equally well in the ACC and Big Ten. We’re a major research university. We’re part of the AAU. Our endowment of $2.5 billion would be the third highest in the B1G, fourth highest in the ACC (if you include ND).
In terms of our enrollment, Pitt would be one of the smallest schools in the Big Ten, third from the bottom. In the ACC, we’re right in the middle. Don’t think that enrollment doesn’t factor into a school’s ability to fill its stadia. When it wins, Pitt can/will fill Heinz Field because the city is also along for the ride. When it loses, well, it looks like Byrd Stadium at Maryland.
Ultimately, money talks. For Rutgers, this move absolutely makes sense when the alternative is staying in a sinking Big East ship. But for Maryland, outside of the money, it’s a bad, bad decision. The same would have gone for Pitt.
- SEC vs SEC title game scenario. Because you know it’s going to happen.
- ND loses to USC.
- Alabama, Georgia and Florida win their last respective games to finish at 11-1.
- SEC Title game: 11-1 Alabama vs 11-1 UGA.
- BCS National Championship: 12-1 SEC title game winner vs 11-1 Florida.
- Bam. Done. You’re welcome, CFB nation.
- Does this mean I have to root for ND to beat USC just so that we have some variety? Yikes. ND is already a lock for a BCS bowl game and deservedly so but they’re going to get waxed by any of the other contenders.
- Brian Kelly is a dbag but man, can he coach. I said it when he left Cincinnati that he would reawaken the echoes. Looks like he has done that.
- Maryland and Rutgers to the B1G. Makes financial sense for both but athletically, they’ll be whipping boys going up against those huge schools.
- I don’t regret one bit that Maryland and Rutgers might be going to the B1G while Pitt is going to the ACC. The B1G was a pipedream of Pitt fans for many years but we fit better athletically within the ACC.
- If ever you doubt that college football is more innovative and interesting than pro football, check out Chris Brown’s site, Smart Football.
Or… Why Joe Paterno is Laughing Himself Silly Down in Heaven
In the wake of Big East Commissioner John Marinatto’s (forced) resignation, there’s been a lot of revisionist history about what should have been done to strengthen the league. I don’t think anything substantive could have been done post-2004; certainly nothing that would have prevented further defections.
It’s been written that the conference dithered too much in the wake of the 2004 ACC defections. The additions of Louisville, Cincinnati and USF stabilized the league but that was it. UCF or Memphis might have been decent additions at the time but no available school would have radically shifted the balance of power nor provided the anchoring presence that the University of Miami once did.
A league needs an anchor tenant (or two) around which to build its brand. The ACC already had a high mid-level brand in Clemson and got an anchor tenant when they admitted Florida State in 1992. Prior to 2004, the Big East wasn’t the clear-cut worst BCS conference; it was relatively on par with the ACC in football and could have even tried to poach FSU and maybe UMD and UVA, two decent mid-level brands. But instead, the ACC acted boldly and snagged the Big East’s anchor tenant (Miami), a high mid-level brand (Virginia Tech) and a large market (Boston College).
So I would contend that the Big East as a major football league has been doomed to die a slow death since losing the Hurricanes. I, for one, am very relieved that Pitt is off that sinking ship.
In all this expansion-palooza talk, I have to ask myself why PA legislators seem so silent? And why were they silent years ago when PSU was still an independent searching for a home? It’s possible (though I think improbable) that Pitt could get left out in the cold in expansion talks… no Big Ten or ACC or even Big East, if the conference implodes. That would leave the state’s second largest university system without a tangible sports home. That our politicans would remain silent when we all know how much money and recognition sports brings is unfortunate… to put it mildly.
Everywhere I read, other state legislatures are pulling up stakes in expansion-palooza. We all remember how UVA was pressured into supporting Va Tech’s ACC candidacy at the expense of Syracuse back in 2003. It’s widely known that the upwards of four of the Big XII’s Texas schools are joined at the hip via politics. OU probably can’t make a move without Okie State. And KU is also likely tied to K-State.
But not Pitt to PSU or PSU to Pitt? Is there any collective loyalty in PA college sports? We all know that years ago, when both schools were independents, when it was viable for a school to be independent, Joe Paterno wanted to form an all-sports eastern conference. It would likely have consisted of Pitt, PSU, WVU, BC, Rutgers, Syracuse, UVA, VT, UMD and Temple. Paterno’s first domino would have been Pitt, whose partnership would have given enough steam to the idea to lure the rest. Pitt spurned PSU and joined the fledgling Big East conference, which then only had basketball. At one point PSU was considered for inclusion into the Big East, right around the time that the conference was looking into adding football to its docket. To my utter disbelief now years afterward, the conference commissioners rejected PSU because of its weak basketball program. PSU later joined the Big Ten.
Apparently PA legislators didn’t get involved in assuring PSU would join the Big East. It wasn’t a given in the late 1980′s that PSU would be admitted into the Big Ten so assuring that PSU would have a sports home should have been an important issue to them. Perhaps the politicians were working behind the scenes to get PSU into the Big Ten but if that was the case, I’m sure I would have read about it by now.
Fast forward to today and in all the talk of the Big East getting fleeced and possibly disbanding, I’ve heard no rumblings from the folks in Harrisburg that Pitt ‘should’ be included in the Big Ten’s expansion plans. Now I’m not saying that all this political maneuvering in other states is a good thing. But one would think that the fate of the second largest university in the state should at least pique their curiosity.
… or How to Silence Orrin Hatch
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the Big Ten will take Mizzou if they fail to land Texas. Mizzou isn’t a slam-dunk addition like Texas but it does meet the Big Ten’s academic requirements and it’s a large flagship school which brings the St. Louis and KC markets into the Big Ten footprint. The other major candidate, Pitt, clinches the rest of the Pittsburgh market and brings a decent added presence in the northeast but PSU already has strong market coverage in the northeast. Forget about Syracuse and Rutgers, which don’t guarantee NYC, which is a Pro town anyway. And Nebraska and OU don’t add enough market presence.
Let’s also think about the musical chairs in a collective sense. If the Big Ten took Pitt (or Syracuse or Rutgers), it could very well wreck the Big East as a football conference. What people fail to take into account when criticizing the Big East’s BCS status (which btw we’ve quite well enough to maintain our standing) is that it is to the BCS’ advantage to have the Big East included. Politically, you can’t shut out that many northeastern FBS schools, especially tradition-rich schools like Pitt, WVU and Syracuse as well as up-and-comers like Rutgers and UConn. You want a slight majority of FBS universities in the BCS; thus, the less likely it is to fall prey to anti-trust action. That’s not an argument for the BCS to expand by adding the MWC – that would be overkill. But just a few more teams will suffice.
Let’s follow the dominoes:
1) Big Ten takes Mizzou from the Big XII.
2) PAC-10 takes Colorado and Utah from the Big XII and MWC, respectively.
3) Big XII takes TCU and BYU from the MWC to fill the gaps left by Colorado’s & Mizzou’s departures.
Bam, there go the three strongest long-term football-playing institutions. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will shut up about a playoff once his state’s two biggest schools are part of the big dawg’s club. TCU is currently the strongest school in Texas that’s not in a BCS conference. The lone wolf left out in the cold is Boise State, which I’m convinced will fall into disrepair anyway in a few years once Chris Peterson leaves. In fact, I’d posit that Boise State not getting into a BCS conference will hasten his departure and Boise State’s demise. Plus, Idaho doesn’t have enough political clout to bring down the BCS; the Mormon state is the key because they have two strong FBS schools.
The paths of BCS teams leaving one conference or another is irrelevant. Texas to the Big Ten or PAC-10 – Texas A&M following big-brother Texas or not – Colorado leaving for the PAC-10 – Mizzou going to the Big Ten – all that matters is to make just enough room for BYU, Utah and TCU to move up. (Personally, I feel that Houston is a stronger long-term prospect than TCU because of enrollment and potential market size but they’re only just starting their revival under Kevin Sumlin, who may leave soon anyway. But I digress…)
The end result is that the gravy train is expanded just a smidge to include a couple relatively deserving FBS schools (as compared to the likes of Wazzu & Miss St, at least) and the BCS rolls on, still scorned but stronger than ever. A plus-one/four-team playoff may eventually happen but it’ll never get larger than that.
Shellfishly, us old-time northeasterners want the Keystone State rivalry to be renewed, which drives a lot of people around here who want Pitt in the Big Ten. Fair enough, but if FSU/UF and UGA/GT can play OOC every year, the same can happen for Pitt/Pennstate. We just need some time for JoePa to finally retire and then a couple years afterwards for scheduling to get worked out. It will happen by the latter half of the decade. Patience, my friends, patience.
In the meantime, remember that moreso than cultural or historical fit, conference expansion is about market size, market size, market size.
So we’re all reading tons and tons about the Big Ten candidacies of Pitt, RU, Syracuse, Mizzou, Nebraska, Texas and its little lonestar sisters. And then there’s the PAC-10 possibly poaching from a list that includes Texas, Colorado or Utah. And then the Big XII turning around and choosing from a list that includes Utah, BYU, TCU and Houston. And the Big East fighting for survival with a list that includes UCF, Memphis & Temple or dream-gets like UMD or BC.
That’s five of the six BcS conferences looking to shake up the college sports landscape with resultant repercussions for Conference USA, the WAC and MWC.
In all this discussion, why do we not mention the reigning behemoth – the SEC? What’s to prevent the SEC from going after … TEXAS? And why not? 12 is only the minimum for a conf title game. Adding Texas and either OU, Texas A&M or Texas Tech would be beyond blockbuster. It would shatter everything in college sports.
I recognize that the Big Ten makes more money than even the SEC and the SEC is probably pretty content at 12 teams, which makes the Big Ten and PAC-10 far more likely moves for the Longhorns. Still, it’s worth pondering though in the final analysis, I can’t see Texas moving; the Texas legislature just wouldn’t allow a move that could harm its Lonestar little sisters.
Photo Credit: burntorangenation.com