It could happen: Missouri should jump if Big Ten comes calling

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Missouri to the Big Ten. If you’d asked me that two months ago, I’d say the odds were about 10,000-to-1. Last week, 100-to-1. But if the following report http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/chi-15-big-ten-foot-dec15,0,2684882.story is true and the conference looks to expand, Missouri needs to aggressively pursue an invite.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the advantages and disadvantages of a potential move to the Big Ten.

Advantages

1. TV revenue/exposure: Missouri isn’t the only Big 12 team frustrated by the conference’s current contract. The conference signed an extension with ABC/ESPN in 2007 that lasts through the 2016 season. It also has a deal with FSN through 2012. The former is worth $480 million, the latter $78 million, for a total of about $560 million. Obviously, that’s big-time money. BUT, the Big Ten’s TV contracts with ESPN (10 years) and the Big Ten Network (25 years) is worth, get this, $3.8 billion.

And here’s the kicker … the Big Ten’s package guarantees that nearly every home game for a conference team is televised. The Columbia Daily Tribune’s Dave Matter breaks down the contracts/MU’s frustration here http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2009/sep/18/big-12-tv-contract-frustrates-missouri/.

In addition to the money, TV exposure is an important recruiting tool. In 2008, a year in which Missouri ranked in the top five at one point and was in the top 25 all season, two of its games, vs. Buffalo and at Baylor, were not televised.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten has a 10-year, $1 billion package with ESPN, which, coupled with its 25-year, $2.8 billion deal with the Big Ten Network, guarantees that nearly every home Big Ten game is televised. In 2009, the Tigers’ games against Furman, Bowling Green, Baylor and Iowa State were not on the networks. That’s not good for recruiting.

2. Equality: Maybe it’s not true, and Missouri officials would never admit  it, but the perception is that a handful of schools (Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Oklahoma) receive favorable treatment within the conference. The conference headquarters moved to Dallas, and there have been whispers that conference officials would like to keep the football championship game in Texas (it currently rotates, though the 2009 and 2010 games were/will be in Irving, Texas). The Kansas City Star’s Mike DeArmond, who covers MU, even refers to the conference as the New Southwest Conference here http://campuscorner.kansascity.com/node/571

3. Competitiveness: While it’s true Missouri, and pretty much every team in the North, has a decent shot at playing for the Big 12 championship every season, the Big Ten does not have a championship game. Playing Ohio State and Penn State occasionally seems a bit easier than getting hammered by Texas or Oklahoma every year. Of course, the Big 12 North teams could actually man up and beat said teams for the conference title.

In basketball, the Big Ten rarely is as good as the Big 12, and there is no Kansas, which Missouri is never going to be, in the Big Ten.

4. Bowls: The Big Ten talk picked up steam a few weeks ago when Missouri was not chosen to play in the Insight Bowl, even though it was slotted for the No. 6 team in the conference. The bowl committee opted instead for Iowa State, which finished 6-6. Why? Because the committee believed Iowa State would travel better.

Anybody who thinks the bowls pick based on merit is delusional. Still, some conferences, including the Big Ten, have clauses that prevent bowls from such conduct as mentioned above. At 8-4, Missouri would be in the higher-slotted bowl (Tiger fans should be happy with the Texas Bowl, which is actually a better bowl, but that’s a blog for another day).

This is the third straight season in which Missouri has been bypassed by a bowl for a team lower in the standings. in 2007, Kansas went to the Orange Bowl despite losing to the Tigers. In 2008, the Gator Bowl opted for Nebraska, which Missouri defeated 52-17 and finished second to the Tigers in the Big 12 North. The Tigers fell to the Alamo Bowl. In 2009, Missouri fell to the last (eighth) slot in the bowl pecking order. See a trend here?

Disadvantages

This is getting far too long, so here’s a quick look at the downside of going to the Big Ten: 1. Rivalries. Forget about playing Kansas twice a year in basketball, something any Tiger fan would miss. You can keep the football rivalry, but it likely moves to the first month of the season, which just doesn’t seem right. You’d also lose rivalries with Nebraska in football, Kansas State and Iowa State. 2. The weak North: There aren’t many divisions easier to win in major college football. Honestly, I can’t think of much else. The move makes sense to me.

The new “Big Ten”

West Division: Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Missouri.

East Division: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue.

Or

North: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State

South: Missouri, Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue

There you have. A lot of copy on something that probably won’t happen. But it’s a lot more likely today than it was yesterday.

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6 thoughts on “It could happen: Missouri should jump if Big Ten comes calling

  1. scarletarrow

    I don’t think you can have Penn St., Ohio State, and Michigan in the same division. It hurts the competitive balance and some longstanding rivalries.

    • Ernie Webb III

      I like the second division proposal more, but you’d probably lose some of the pop in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Big Ten is in a win-win here. Lots of good schools/programs to choose from. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Ernie,

    I came across your posts about Mizzou to the Big Ten and enjoyed them. I’m an Illinois alum that has written extensively about Big Ten expansion issues. Here’s my evaluation of the candidates (and the post also includes links to my 3 follow-up posts at the bottom that address common questions and comments):

    http://frankthetank.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/the-big-ten-expansion-index-a-different-shade-of-orange/

    You might be very surprised and probably even skeptical about my conclusion as to who is the #1 target school for the Big Ten (and it’s not Notre Dame). However, please take note of all of the comments and discussions on various blogs and message boards that have been provided by the alums of that target school along with the TV revenue figures and you’ll realize that any offer from the Big Ten to such school will be taken extremely seriously. Let’s put it this way: Mizzou needs to be careful because the main complaint many Big 12 schools have about the conference happens to be the major thing that’s keeping it afloat (and it can easily walk away to the Big Ten and leave Mizzou behind).

    • Ernie Webb III

      I skimmed your blog. It has a lot of great information, but I do think it greatly undervalues Missouri across the board, with the exception of academics, which is a pretty big piece of this puzzle. While not an elite power, Missouri has become a top 25 football program with no sign of that changing. The same can be said of the basketball program. I think both your ratings in those sports are low. And I think it’s a stretch to call the school a minnow. If Texas wants to leave and the Big 8 schools want to go back to what they had, hey, I’m all for that. Texas rules the conference, literally, and I think several of the schools are tired of that, especially considering the Big 8 conference bailed UT out in the 1990s. It’ll be interesting to see if the Big Ten actually does expand.

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