Talk of the Big Ten’s expansion has swirled throughout the sport world in 2010 with names like Texas, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Missouri and others having been brought up on several occasions. While arguments can be made for a variety of schools to join the financially-attractive Big Ten with all of their tradition, Colin Cowherd said that UConn appears to be the front-runner. The more that I think about UConn in the Big Ten the more I like it. Let’s take a look at some brief details of why.
First of all, Connecticut brings the Northeastern U.S. to the Big Ten. The New England media market currently focuses on the Big East and by bringing in one of the top Big East programs in terms of media coverage (ESPN loves local UConn), the Big Ten is a big winner. That ESPN connection will continue to ensure that the worldwide leader in sports continues to talk Big Ten regularly, thus resulting in increased brand awareness, added Big Ten merchandise sales and more.
The second main point is the huge boost that Big Ten basketball would get from the addition of UConn. Not only would the Huskies move to a competitive, but much less top-heavy conference where they would surely finish in the Top 3-4 or better annually. The addition would also help attendance at every Big Ten school’s basketball games, especially in women’s basketball, due to the tradition of both the men’s and women’s basketball programs.
Overall, the UConn addition makes a ton of sense. If the Big Ten does indeed expand in 2010, and all signs point to expansion being inevitable, UConn may have the best argument. However, a few of the other teams mentioned in Cory McKnight’s July 2007 article “Big Ten to add a 12th team?” including Missouri, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers & Notre Dame. While Notre Dame does not appear to be a major option despite the geographic logic of their joining the Big Ten, I think the other schools make more sense.
Missouri adds a western presence to the Big Ten’s media market. Having a school two hours from St. Louis makes sense and they would even tap into the Kansas City market as well. Rutgers brings another upstanding academic institution to join Northwestern and Michigan in the Big Ten and they would help grow the New York & New Jersey markets. West Virginia is not a growing market and they are well-known for their fans’ disrespectful antics so I really do not see them getting into the prized Big Ten. Pittsburgh brings a solid media market and makes great sense geographically as well as solid football and a even better basketball program.
So overall there are several good cases and likely a few I have not mentioned. However, UConn, the more I think about it, seems the best candidate for Big Ten expansion. How will it play out? I guess we will find out in time!