The BT expansion conversation isn't new. In fact, it seems like officially, or unofficially, it's talked about every other year. A few years ago, seemingly, Delany spoke out of turn when he intimated that a twelfth team was going to happen. A week or so later, he drastically changed his tune.
During the last few times that expansion was a possibility, things didn't line up. The ACC and Big East were shifting and other conferences were reacting by wrapping up their members with large contracts. Atop that, Delany's crush on Notre Dame probably didn't help anything...But it's different in late 2009.
No other major conferences are looking to expand...and some of the non-BCS conferences are feeling the financial pinch of the near-depression-like economic conditions. Last year, Big East members members wondered aloud if their basketball conference's size was hurting its members' chances of making the tournament. And in the Big 12, a few athletic directors have openly expressed their disgruntlement with the way the conference is being run.
But the BTN, Jim Delany , Rotel and Velveeta have combined to create a (delicious) force that is making serious noise. And while we as BT fans might not appreciate the genius that is Tim Doyle or Glen Mason, Those outside the Midwest do.
The Comcast and Time Warner "dominoes" that fell in the last two years sent tremors through the sports television world, and EsPN reacted in kind by officially crawling into bed with the SEC last year (after years of flirting and innuendo).
There was a time, not long ago, when Fox Sports dedicated much of its talent to the Big 12, Big East and Pac-10. But, the success of the BTN caused them to shift while following the sponsorship dollars and Fox Sports regional coverage has gotten weaker in the process.
Joe Tiller weighed in on the talk of expansion this week in the J & C saying, "It's all money-driven." But really, regardless of the talk from Burke and other ADs, this is all about money. I'm not faulting it, mind you, but it always has been. Granted, it wasn't to this extent at the turn of the 1900s when conferences started to form. They were merely trying to save money by playing teams that were closer together. But the conferences yield power and generate revenue. Sure, it took the BT about 70 years to stop favoring UM and aOSU in its scheduling practices, but equity was eventually achieved and the conference is stronger for it.
But as much momentum as the BT has gained the last few years, the Big 12 might have lost that much...and this is another reason why the expansion talk is so different in '09. Missouri's athletic director, Mike Alden, has started talking publicly about why joining the BT might make sense. If Alden is merely applying pressure on his conference or is seriously considering the possibility of changing alliances hasn't yet been made obvious. But, it seems this move makes logistical sense.
Obviously if Mizzou comes in to the BT, the Big 12 will need a replacement team. TCU seems to be a school that would be a good fit due to its proximity and natural rivals within the conference. I would assume that it would be pretty easy for the Big 12 to poach the Horned Frogs from the Mountain West...especially in the wake of their BCS placement following yet another undefeated season by a team within the underappreciated MWC.
So will it happen? Who knows.
Is it all about money? Yes. And that money from big time football and basketball programs drives everything from less-profitable sports to near campus businesses. Plus, it generates more dough for these schools than any academic endeavor...and puts money back into the school for what's really important, education.
Big TV contracts, advertisements and the 24/7 online scrutiny of college athletics might be viewed as out of hand by many, and the system can easily help fuel bad actors like the guy in Lexington, or boosters from Los Angeles to Columbus to Gainsville...but like everything, there are plenty of positives within the imperfect system that is college sports.
I don't think the BT necessarily needs a conference championship game in football, but instead needs to make sure its season goes into the first week of December. But, I am a fan of having either 12 or 10 teams in the league simply because even numbers create a lot more possibilities in all sports...but since contraction isn't on the table, I hope we can soon welcome another gold and black team to the BT in 2011 or '12.