The following e-mail conversation took place organically earlier this week and was in no way staged for a truly original format for a sports column:
From: Matt Sussman
To: Nicolas Lewis
Subject: Big Ten.2
So Nicolas, did you hear about the news that the Big Ten is thinking of expanding from 11 teams to 12? Isn't that a ridiculous idea? What's the added advantage?
Subject: Re: Big Ten.2
Well, Almighty Bearded One, I most certainly did hear about it, and it is of utmost interest to me having grown up in State College under Joe Paterno's watchful nose — er… eye. I don't know that I would call it ridiculous as much as cumbersome. Anyone who has kept up with the topic thus far has read that that the primary motivation is about keeping up with the Joneses.
The Ohio State-Michigan game typically rounds out the Big Ten season, and that takes places a couple of weeks before everyone else is done playing. Maybe it's irrelevant, since undefeated is undefeated no matter when you finish.
On the other hand, that's two extra weeks for other teams outside the Big Ten to stay in the forefront for voting (on both polls and awards) and that extra game would give the two best teams one last shot to work their way back up the rankings. To some people that doesn't matter, but to Barry Alvarez and Joe Paterno it probably does, and… well, they're kind of a big deal in that conference. I get this sinking sense that you are not going to storm this castle with the rest of the Big Ten faithful.
Is that because you're upset over your Bowling Green boys traveling to Idaho for a road bowl game, or do you have legitimate beef?
Subject: Re: Re: Big Ten.2
You leave the legendary Humanitarian Bowl out of this. Do you realize that people would kill for an Idahoan excursion in December?
Well, yeah. Out of sight, out of mind. Finish before Thanksgiving, and when conference championships roll forth with excitement in the wee advent days of December, people aren't exactly thinking of Ohio State and Iowa.
But … people WERE thinking of them! Well, the people that matter, at least. The Eyes of Buck and Hawk both got BCS games, despite resting on their cranberries and doorbuster sales. And, quite honestly, neither deserved anything more than what they received. Iowa was lucky to sneak into the Orange Bowl simply because the next best option was Virginia Tech, and at that point, why split hairs?
What solution are they trying to solve? Not being seen late into the season? Then just build in some damn bye weeks into the season and then you've got your Thanksgiving weekend festivities. This is what Purdue AD Morgan Burke proposed this week and it makes a ton of sense.
Subject: [FW: Re: Re: Big Ten.2]
Who are these people that would kill to go to Idaho in December, and why is nobody killing THEM?
You're indeed correct, it's not as though OSU and Iowa would have vaulted to much higher BCS games with another win in a conference championship game. However, there is one thing that most if the Big Ten teams might like: additional revenue. That was the primary selling point foisted at Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick (the Irish would more than double their annual TV revenue — never mind that it would make much more sense for them to join the Big East, since they're already a member for almost every other sport).
Perhaps a good way to look at this is how the last shift worked. Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College jumped from the Big East to the ACC. This more or less made the ACC stronger (except perhaps in basketball), and it initially weakened an already diminutive Big East for a while, but it then gave UConn a chance to bring their progression through the football rankings full circle, and also gave a national audience to a South Florida team that has played some pretty good football (no matter how they may struggle to swallow their food).
So what happens here? I know you dislike the idea, but do you think any of the possible moves — stealing Missouri from the Big 12, Pitt or Rutgers from the Big East — even make any sense? I have my own ideas, but I'll wait for your three cents.
Subject: Re: [FW: Re: Re: Big Ten.2]
I'm still waiting for my own Blogcritics check to be cashed. HUZZAH!
I hope they realize that conference championships are notorious for playing national contenders OUT of the hunt. Remember two years, ago, Missouri beat Kansas, then lost to Oklahoma in the Big XII title game. But it was Kansas, not Mizzou, who got a BCS game. And if the SEC didn't have a title game, how much do you want to bet that Florida and Alabama would both be in Pasadena? If Ohio State played Iowa in a title game this year, you can almost bet your Granddaddy that one of them, with three losses, would be enjoying the Capital One Bowl fruit basket.
Right now, with no championship, they — along with the Pac-10 — share a decided schematic advantage by not bringing in Notre Dame or anyone else into their group. In ancient Rome, the emperor increased the number of senators to amplify disagreement among the group and ultimately weaken the body. If Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney does this, he'll be sacrificing BCS games for money.
Now, IF they were to expand, Pittsburgh is the one I keep hearing. Iowa State, West Virginia, Cincinnati … I've heard it all. Even Texas. (Texas!)
You raise an interesting point about UConn and USF becoming legitimate football programs by giving time to shine in the Big East. It makes me think: no matter who you bring into the Big Ten conference, in five years it will be worth their while.
And that's why my pick is going to come right out of the blue. Deep blue, even.
Bring in Navy as a football only school. They're an independent team, they don't cause trouble and they're pretty good.
Subject: Re: [FW: Re: Re: Big Ten.2]
Great, now we're going to have Big Ten conference commercials that splice in clichéd clips from 300. Way to go, Matt.
I don't disagree with bringing in EITHER service academy (Army or Navy). They're respectable programs who deserve a chance to shine more often than just the Army/Navy game. I'm not sure about the convolution theory – they're adding one team, not five. But I have a much more streamlined idea for their addition hopes.
What is the Big Ten? A Midwestern league – Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and all those other cornfed states. So what could make more sense than moving a team from the MAC? The conference currently has a lopsided 13 members since Temple joined anyway. I wouldn't move Temple since they just joined, or Eastern Michigan since they're already terrible and would only get worse if they move to a BCS conference. However, why not let Central Michigan continue their move up the food chain, or another deserving team? You could choose just about any other team, depending on which geographical rivalries you would like to encourage, and the move gives both leagues a balanced 12 members.
Or, another more daring idea — snag an FCS school! Several teams (Montana, Villanova, Richmond, and Appalachian State) have been at the top of the former I-AA pecking order for a solid stretch of time and may be interested in coming to the next level. I wouldn't put any of them into the Big Ten (and Montana doesn't really fit in anywhere — except maybe the Humanitarian Bowl?), but perhaps put Villanova into the Big East so you can shift Rutgers, or App State into Conference USA so you can shift Marshall.
This is perhaps a move that isn't necessary and is once again just idle banter that Delaney will let die, but I have no objection to seeing something new and different and, as you said, having at least one school benefit from this move. Go Chippewas?
Subject: Fwd: Re: [FW: Re: Re: Big Ten.2]
If ANY team in the MAC is Big Ten worthy, it'd be Miami University, because of their academics and their historic ability to produce coaches. They're Northwestern's fraternal twin, really. And why not snag Temple right away? C-USA took away Central Florida after two seasons in the MAC. Large city. Large stadium (Lincoln Financial Field). And the best basketball they're going to get of any MAC school, since they play in the Atlantic 10.
We could have fun day and night, examining schools in the Midwest all the way down to Mount Union, and why it could work. But the fact remains that a 12th team is not necessary, and simpler, less intricate plans such as bye weeks are way more cost effective.
Although! If they did go to twelve teams, they gotta do something about that name. Great Lakes Conference?