Sunday, May 16, 2010

Big Ten Expansion, Seeing The Forest

So Big Ten expansion is in and out of the news with rumor this and rumor that and every other week or so sportstalk radio gets fired up with the latest "news". Every time the topic comes up I feel that the most important issue gets overlooked; this isn't an expansion for this year or this decade or ever the next 20 years. This is forever.

The Big Ten was formed in 1895 with 7 schools, 3 more were added over the next 17 years with Ohio State the last. When the University of Chicago dropped sports in 1946, Michigan State College replaced them. My point here is that the Big Ten is not only an exclusive membership, it is a permanent one. No school has ever left the conference for another, no school has ever been dropped by the conference.

So the spot where I am leading this should be pretty obvious. The Big Ten has to be really careful who they invite to join, and they have to be just as careful with who they omit (I'm looking at you, Notre Dame). Any argument for the inclusion of a school must consider the quality and history of an institution beyond any immediacy or ego.

There have been a lot of proposals that the Big Ten issue an ultimatum to Notre Dame: join now or never participate with our member schools in athletics again. This would be a stupid ultimatum because it only addresses current politics, not the history of the institutions involved. Any expansion of the Big Ten beyond 14 teams absolutely must include Notre Dame. I believe the Council of Presidents understands this, I believe that Notre Dame understands this. This goes beyond regionality, natural rivalries or history - all of which heavily support the inclusion of Notre Dame in the Big Ten. Notre Dame is so like the Big Ten schools in culture, quality of education and academic and athletic goals that the idea of excluding this institution "forever" is ludicrous.

In addition to Notre Dame, schools that are the most natural additions are Pittsburgh (230 years old and top 25 in annual research dollars), Missouri (180 years old, major land grant university, overwhelming leader in research dollars in Missouri). Rutgers predates the United States and is a major chemistry and medical research university. At 50,000 students they would be one of the larger schools in the Big Ten. At 19,000 students Nebraska represents the smallest of the currently proposed invitees - other than Notre Dame, however they are a Carnegie Research institution and a member of the Association of American Universities, both prestigious and both make a strong argument for inclusion in the Big Ten.

At $80M Notre Dame wouldn't be considered a top research school by Big Ten standards. Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State (in that order) each outspend Notre Dame by about ten times annually. Pittsburgh spends over $600M. Nebraska a relative lightweight ~ $110M. What Notre Dame provides is quality, character and branding. These are not insignificant, but Notre Dame needs to realize - and likely does - that they are not big dogs when it comes to the things that the Big Ten member institutions do best - things that are not demonstrated on athletic fields.


Post a Comment

About This Blog

Twitter: oblong_spheroid

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP