Big 10 commissioners are meeting this week in Chicago, discussing Indiana’s women’s softball attendance and the price of Paterno milkshakes in Happy Valley.
One may also assume (correctly), there’s plenty of side chatter on impending expansion.
It’s a forgone conclusion: The Big 10 will expand. The only question is by how much.
While the love letters penned with fluttering eyelashes toward Rutgers are nauseating, let’s clarify one aspect of the decision-making: basketball matters.
Now, let’s be realistic. A conference television network with 12-16 football teams, and a Big 10 Championship Game featuring Ohio State against Penn State at Soldier Field or Cleveland Browns Stadium makes cash. Lots of it.
A television schedule with four to five preeminent clashes on Saturdays, draws viewers, subscribers and moolah (ya know, think… oh… the SEC).
But that’s still a mere twelve Saturdays a year worth of draw. What happens the rest of the calendar?
From a Cleveland Plain-Dealer story:
“The Big Ten Network shows about 35 to 40 football games each year, compared to about 105 men’s basketball games.
Live programming is the lifeblood of any network, and with most of the best football matchups taken by ABC and ESPN, the most high-profile BTN games of the year are often basketball games.
While Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers and Notre Dame were the schools mentioned as the main targets of the Big Ten, don’t dismiss Connecticut, Syracuse and Kansas, with their basketball success playing a part.
“TV networks buy content, and sometimes they overpay for content,” CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell said. “The Big Ten Network has some nice programming, but let’s not kid ourselves. The games are the candy, and basketball is a great content provider.”
Rovell agrees that basketball hasn’t been mentioned enough in the expansion discussion. In particular, it could matter in the chase for the New York market, seemingly an obvious goal in Big Ten expansion.
While Rutgers is a larger school, with 26,000 students compared to 16,000 for Connecticut and 12,600 for Syracuse, the Connecticut and Syracuse basketball teams might be the best bets to attract viewers and subscribers in the New York area.”
Exactly. Hell, I’m not even sure I’m stumping for inclusion into the potential Midwestern Godzilla conference. But I know this: While everyone plays footsie with Rutgers, Knights basketball is a farce. No tournament appearances in almost twenty years. Constant turnover. Apathetic fan base.
Syracuse fans show up everywhere for hoops. Forget the Garden for the Big East Tourney. That’s a joke. We sell that bitch out in 12 minutes. Can’t get a seat for the second round. You know Orange Nation would show up at the United Center or Conseco Field House too for the conference tourney. We’d own the joint. Or you could see how many dozen Rutgers fans occupy the upper left corner of section 388 when it plays Iowa in the first round.
So while Rutgers may give Illinois a game on the gridiron, go try programming 25-30 Knights hoops games per season and let me know how that tastes.