Big Ten expansion lacks big punchWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | email@example.com
A few weeks ago, a friend I hadn’t spoken to in awhile and I were talking and the topic of summer movies came up. One movie genre that both he and I are interested in are comic book movies, and this summer’s hottest comic-themed movie is “Iron Man 2.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the first “Iron Man” film, and I was excited to see the second film in the franchise. When my friend asked me for my amateur review of the flick, I summed up my thoughts, saying, “It was good, but it left me with a hollow feeling.”
A similar feeling washed over me this week, when it was announced that the Nebraska Cornhuskers were changing conferences to become the twelfth member of the mathematically challenged Big Ten.
Nebraska is a solid addition for the conference, and I am sure they will provide some initial excitement when they begin league play in the fall of 2011. But much like “Iron Man 2″, the Cornhuskers joining the Big Ten left me with something less than desired.
When Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany first hinted at a conference expansion, there was plenty of speculation as to which school the conference would court to be its newest member.
There were many schools that were thrown into the mix. Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, West Virginia and Notre Dame were thought to be the leading candidates to make the conference’s expansion dreams a reality.
But early last week there were rumblings that Nebraska was being courted by the Big Ten, and as the week wore on, reports surfaced that the deal was all but completed between the two sides.
On June 11, the Big Ten officially welcomed Nebraska as its twelfth member, and the school’s official start date on the conference company line is July 1, 2011.
If there was one word to sum up the move, it would be fast. That’s not to say that Nebraska was not on the Big Ten radar, but the likelihood that the school would join was middle of the road at best until last Monday.
The reason for the mediocre interest was a thought that the Big Ten needed a school that would make a big splash. It was thought that if the conference were to add any school to its league roster that it needed to be an elite school.
It is why the Big Ten was thought to be interested in the likes of Texas and Notre Dame. The Longhorns would add a powerhouse to the Big Ten that could compete in many different sports and would provide the conference with instant credibility.
For a long time the conference has had a perceived lack of competition for top schools like Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan. It was thought that adding an annual meeting with the Longhorns would stem that perception instantly for the three schools.
But the Texas scenario always seemed like a long shot or “Hail Mary” scenario for the Big Ten.
Notre Dame has long been thought to be the prize that the Big Ten coveted. The Irish have everything that the league would want. Instant brand recognition, a nationwide fan base (especially in the Midwest) for higher TV revenue and close proximity to other member schools are just to name a few of the perks that would come with such a union.
But with its own national television contract, that isn’t split 12 ways, Notre Dame has held firm in its stance to not join the Big Ten.
With the initial high aspirations, the Nebraska move lacks the gravitas that the other schools would.
Nebraska has a fine football tradition, and I don’t want to slight that. In my lifetime, I witnessed the Huskers dominate the college football landscape through the 1980s and 1990s. But recently Nebraska has not been the powerhouse it once was.
Plus with the Big Ten supposedly coveting a school that was a big TV draw, Lincoln, Nebraska, where the Cornhuskers are based, doesn’t exactly scream big TV market.
In the end, both sides are saying they got what they wanted. The Big Ten got its twelfth member, which is a respectable addition. Nebraska will get what it wants, which is higher TV dollars.
But the move begs the question, once the honeymoon between the two ends, will the Big Ten find itself in the same spot it did at the beginning of last week? With Nebraska lacking that earth moving punch that the conference so desperately wanted, it will be interesting to see what if the outlook is so rosy down the road.
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for the Toledo Free Press and the Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also can be heard every Tuesday at 11 AM on the Odd Couple Sports Show on Fox Sports Radio 1230 WCWA.