Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has made it clear that the Big Ten would be looking for a 12th member over the next year, to pump up the revenues of the fledgling Big Ten Network (BTN). A 12-team league, which could be organized into two divisions with a playoff game for the championship, would add a major TV market and one more big game, and that means big bucks.
Never mind that the existing 12 game schedule is already onerous for the players, some of whom actually do have to save time for academics. Nah, it’s all about the money. Why kid ourselves about academics not taking a back seat?
Hey, we’re not far from paying players to compete. With these sorts of big money machinations going on at the conference level, why bother with the charade about the players being amateur athletes? Might as well cut them some million dollar contracts and stop taking advantage of their indentured servitude.
How’s this for an academic paradigm just for football players. Earning a letter in football would exempt so-called student-athletes from classes for the entire academic year. Contracted lettermen would receive at least a C grade for the 36 credit-hour course called Football Seminar 3951. Those who wish to take real classes could do so, only they wouldn’t receive an actual degree in Football and they could potentially void their contract, which could prove detrimental to their NFL careers. Although they would be prudently planning on a life after football, who wants to think that the fun and games will ever end, anyway?
But I digress.
So, the Big Ten wants an extra team. Delaney did not mention any specifics, and this Turkey believes that none have as yet been considered. So, let’s take a look at likely candidates.
First, we must understand that the league belongs to Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, and its home is in the Midwest. This was never clearer than when Penn State joined the party and Bobby Knight, then of Indiana, balked at traveling to Happy Valley, which he regarded as the BFE of the Big Ten. We’re the easternmost of the existing Big Ten campuses, and chances are that we’ll remain so. So, take your compass and draw an arc with about a 400 mile radius from Chicago and therein you will find Big Ten Country. (We’re obviously an outlier.) Ohio, with only one competitor in the league, seems to be a likely location for #12. You can pick from Akron, Cincinnati, Miami, Ohio University, and Toledo. Another bright idea is Southern Illinois. The Salukis could pull in the St. Louis TV market and that means mo’ money.
But does it really matter? The best way to satisfy us football fans would be to grab Notre Dame, and that ain’t going to happen. First of all, ND has a huge TV deal all to themselves, and secondly, they would risk getting their asses kicked every year by the top-tier teams in the Big Ten. The Big Ten tried to rope in Notre Dame in 1999, but failed. So, we’re not really looking for great competitive quality, anyway—just the added revenue. To this end, a major TV market is desirable above all else. (There again, ND with its national TV audience consisting of every Irishman and everyone even remotely connected to the Roman Catholic Church would be a huge victory for Delany. But it ain’t going to happen.)
OK, so add X University to the league and split it into Eastern and Western divisions. We’d have Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois, and Michigan in the west; Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, XU, and Penn State in the east. The division winners would meet at a neutral site, the new Soldier Field in Chicago, for a windblown, Arctic championship game. TV revenues would soar.
But what of the poor team who loses the conference championship game? Would this loss knock them out of the BCS picture? Somehow, Delany and company will have to surmount some pretty strenuous objections along these lines from the universities in order to implement this scenario.
This Turkey is always happy to see changes. However, being a traditionalist, I am good at kidding myself that college football is still what it was 40 years ago in the face of overwhelming evidence that it’s now all about television and greed.