Remember when we spent all summer pouring over TV contracts, football programs won/loss records, bowl games and playoff scenarios? These were the factors driving conference expansion. Well throw it out the window.
In one crazy weekend that might land Maryland in a new conference, the Big 10 may have changed the model for expansion. Forget what you know, and concentrate on where conferences can get new cable subscribers.
Maryland is terrible at football. They draw about 35,000 fans a football game and their basketball team hasn’t been relevant in years. What they do offer is the populous mid-Atlantic TV market. For that matter Rutgers, the 2nd Big 10 target, another middling athletics program has the New York media market. Now I’m certainly not a media television expert, but you can see the writing on the wall. The Big 10 gets additional carriage for their Big 10 network in new markets. That’s what it’s about… cable subscribers = more money.
This could open up another whole round of expansion rumors. As I did in the summer, I’ll largely be avoiding the speculative conversation on the blog here outside of this post where I’ll cover my thoughts on the topic. Most of the rumored information will be wrong anyways, but occasionally something will stick which may prompt a post. With this move I believe the Big 10 conference commissioner Jim Delany will set off a true arms race.
The Big 10 could move south, east and further west. The SEC will want more markets and can move north maybe west. The Pac 12 won’t get left out, and will move east. If you believe the $50 Million exit fee from the ACC can be negotiated, certainly any other exit deal fees can too in search of more cable subscribers. Maybe it ends with Maryland and Rutgers, but I doubt it. The weird part is now an NC State is far more valuable looking to the SEC than a Florida State is.
What would I do if I were the ACC and Maryland leaves? My first call would be to the ACC AD’s and presidents and formulate a quick offer to Notre Dame to join as a full member. They won’t join most likely and in some ways I admire their desire to carve their own independent path. Next decide who should replace Maryland. Louisville is my choice, because of their proximity to Notre Dame, and football stills matter some and I like the football program. The TV market is 50th. The other choice is UCONN. That TV market is 30th, but I’m not sure the football schools of the ACC would care for the Huskies. The basketball programs are a wash as they are both are solid in that department. At all costs you can’t afford any of the major football powers to leave. In any case all the remaining ACC schools need to be happy with the addition.
Once I’ve secured a 14th team, it’s time to do whatever it takes to build an ACC network. All things are negotiable and if that means buying content from ESPN so be it. You just got 30 – 50 Million from Maryland to get the process started. The ACC Digital Network already has much of the infrastructure for a network. There are announcers, a studio, and a video vault of old games to pull from already in place.
Here we go again…