Magnifying the Expansion Part 1: KCCGD’s Series On The Big 10 Expansion Plan

It was bound to happen.  The discussion blew up late last December and now we have legitimate motions telling us that the Big 10, and college football, is about to run into some big changes. Ever vigilant, we here at the KCCGD Headquarters decided to toss our hat into the speculation ring and offer up our analysis as to just what the hell is going on.  It’s plenty to chew on so we will be breaking up into bite size chunks of creamy goodness.  At just the right time too, the Big 10’s athletic directors and coaches are meeting this week and the Big 12’s crew will do the same next week.  Why does the Big 12 matter? The conference is among some of the institutions affected by this move.  Strap it on, because we are about to ride the hottest off-season college football activity we haven’t seen in a long time.

So just what is going on?  The Big 10 Conference wants to expand its current number of schools from 11 to, well we don’t know how many.  In 2007, the conference, with Fox Sports as a partner, cut the ribbon on a conference only television network.  What seemed kind of crazy back then is raking in the cash today.  To help feed the frenzy, the Big 10 is looking to expand its TV viewing area.  That’s the main reason.  Other reasons include having a conference championship game, stamping out competition, and keeping the trend that they started about 16 years ago.

So the most recent incarnation of expansion talk started way back in December when Commissioner Jim Delany announced that the Big 10 hired a Chicago firm to explore how profitable an expansion could be for the conference.  Delany indicated that a 12-18 month timetable will frame their analysis, search, and any other discussion.  The conference expanded before and it sounds like it will most surely happen again.  The speculation blew up on the blogs, media outlets, and from every bar stool junkie about just what is going to happen since the announcement.  All of this will come to a head shortly and we will see who’s going where.

This most assuredly will change college football in a massive way.  Speculation created different scenarios including a 12, 14, or 16 team Big 10, a formation of 5 mega conferences, to other conference being blown to oblivion.  What we aren’t seeing is the background work of these conferences.  Alliances will be built and destroyed and we’re left to wonder how or why.  Not only that, but media contracts are running out soon and the conferences without the TV weight of the Big 10 must leverage some kind of strength to demand the kind of money the Big 10 or the SEC is getting.  One thing is for sure, Jim Delany is holding all of the cards, thanks to his TV network.

One of the conferences on the ‘blown up’ list is the Big 12.  Is it true what these weekend bloggers are saying about this young, scrappy conference?  That’s only part of the effect this expansion talk has on the Big 12.  They could lose 2 or more teams, or none.  We may see partnerships with other conferences.  Heck, we may even see some kind of redistribution of wealth.  The Big 12’s media contract is up in the next year so whatever happens, they need to be sure they can swing a massive media deal as well.  Chances are we will see less of the Big 12 in Kansas City.

Yes, Kansas City’s college athletic landscape is on the line as well, starting with the fans.  With some of the rumored schools like Nebraska and Missouri heading to the Big 10, the fan representation here in Kansas City will shift from Big 12 heavy to an even distribution of Big 12 and Big 10 fans.  Even more so, if the Big 12 falls apart, the fans of their respective teams may not have much to cheer for in the future.  State rivalries could go away.  Conference championships or tournaments could go away too.  Kansas City will take the brunt of negative change if some scenarios play out.

So the stage is set.  Kansas City, the Big 12, and college football is awaiting the chess moves by the Big 10 and Jim Delany.  Tomorrow we’ll talk about the history of the Big 10 and why a conference rooted in tradition started to buck it the last 20 years.  In the meantime, take a moment to reflect back on how awesome college football was in the last couple of years.  For better or for worse, it will most certainly not be the same.