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Report to the Big 10: “Just say yes to expansion.”

2010 March 2
by Phil Miller

In an earlier post, I wrote about Big 10 expansion and argued that if the Big 10 decided to expand, it would look east before it would look west. That was under the assumption the Big 10 would add one team. If it decides to add more than one team, then westward expansion makes more sense.

Now comes word that the Big 10 has received a report it asked to have done that says that expansion is a good thing for the Big 10. I don’t think many will argue with that.

A source inside the league told the Chicago Tribune that the report, prepared by the Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Company, analyzed whether five different schools would add enough revenue to justify expanding the league beyond 11 teams.

“The point was: We can all get richer if we bring in the right team or teams,” the source said.

The five analyzed were Missouri, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers. The source, though, called those five “the obvious suspects” and cautioned that other universities could earn consideration.

Like Texas or Nebraska?

In that earlier post, I mentioned that college expansion, unlike that in the pros, doesn’t occur with an expansion fee. I may be wrong in that respect this time around:

“You just don’t jump into the league and get a full share of what everyone else in this league has established over time,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told The Associated Press. “I think someone has to buy their way into the league.”

I love how the world of “non-profit” “amateur” sports resembles the world of the pros.

So, just like in the pros, expansion generates value for the entrant, value the incumbents partially want to capture for themselves. It’s not that Alvarez doesn’t have a point, but I would hope that expansion would increase the size of the Big 10 pie enough to more-than-offset having to share the pie over more schools. Otherwise they shouldn’t be expanding.

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