The discussion about the Big Ten's decision to move the 2017 Men's Basketball tournament to D.C. continues among fans, especially after Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany reiterated his desire for the league to "live in two places", the midwest, and the East Coast. By now, you've probably read (or at least seen) lots of articles debating the merits of this strategy. That is not this post.
One point that has been continually mentioned in the debate over the various merits of event cities is the amount of Big Ten alumni in each metro region. Washington D.C. does, in fact, have tens of thousands of graduates of Big Ten schools, buoyed by the recent inclusion of Maryland. If the Big Ten decides to look at other cities in their footprint, like say, New York, are there other possible candidates with a bevy of Big Ten graduates? What schools might derive a particular advantage from each city? And could Columbus, or maybe Cleveland, emerge as a compromise site? Lori Schmidt asked Gene Smith about it, and this is what he said:
"I would be very open to working with the [Greater Columbus Sports Commission] or something of that nature to put a bid in to host the conference championship game in basketball," said Smith.
I mean hey, Columbus got the Big Ten Rugby Tournament, so it could happen, right? Right?! Well, let's look at some data.
Tracking alumni data by city is tricky and time consuming. One broad way to sample it is to use LinkedIn, which can calculate sort every user account of a current or former student at a school, and track it by metro. These numbers obviously undercount total figures (alumni who don't have LinkedIn accounts aren't represented), but they should also undercount the data by a similar proportion amongst member schools. A school that reports 400 alumni in a city probably doesn't actually have 8,000. This is good enough to show general trendlines, and where certain schools have more graduates than others.
Another quick caveat: LinkedIn tracks metro areas, not city limits. So if you have LinkedIn, and you live/work in Dublin, or Granville, or Lancaster, you're showing up as Columbus. If you're in Naperville or Rosemont, you're in Chicago, etc. For our purposes, that's fine.
Here is the data for Big Ten Schools, picked for cities in the rotation, and cities that may be of interest to Big Ten fans:
And your totals:
New York: 216,065
Washington D.C.: 140,146
Okay, so what are some takeaways from all this?
1) On the surface, the alumni numbers of Columbus seem in the neighborhood needed for hosting contention. The problem is that almost all of these are Ohio State grads, which, as Lori herself noted in her article, could be seen as providing an undue competitive advantage – although it's not like Maryland's campus is all that unreasonably far from the Verizon Center.
Unlike Indianapolis, Columbus actually hosts a Big Ten team, and while it has a downtown arena district that's comparable to anything you'd find in Indy, it isn't quite as close to other schools. Ohio State fans would obviously be thrilled if Columbus somehow finagled one of these, but you shouldn't expect it.
2) Cleveland doesn't have many Big Ten grads (I'd guess it has less than a place like Detroit or the Twin Cities), is a little less reachable by car than Indianapolis, and, while many Ohioans are fond of the area, it may not even near the top of out of state folks' wish lists for travel destinations in March.
3) I would be shocked if the Big Ten doesn't make a play to add New York City into the rotation in the near future, given their overall goals, and the even larger number of Big Ten graduates. The tricky thing is to find a venue, since MSG is locked into the Big East longterm, and the Barclays Center has a contract with the ACC until 2018. I'd expect the Big Ten to make a play at locking down Brooklyn for 2019 or 2020 (and adding it into the rotation thereafter). Failing that, the Prudential Center in Newark is probably not impossible, but nowhere near as attractive of one and likely unrealistic.
4) The wild card might be Philadelphia, which has the same strong appeal to the eastern side of the conference, while also being in a bit more "neutral" location. I personally don't think this is as attractive as D.C. or NYC, given the somewhat smaller number of graduates and overall appeal, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Big Ten kicks the tires on using Philly as a venue for other events.
5) Perhaps the fanbase that complained the most online about the move to D.C. was Nebraska, and if you look at the numbers, you can see why they would be upset. Not only is Nebraska the farthest school from the East Coast, but they have the least alumni in those cities as well, and it isn't super close. Typically, after their home city and the major metros in their state, either Chicago, D.C. or NYC are the biggest centers for alumni for a Big Ten school. Per this data, Nebraska has more grads in Denver and Kansas City than Chicago, and D.C. is 10th, behind places like the Twin Cities, Phoenix, and the Bay Area. It's possible that Nebraska East Coast grads are substantially undercounted compared to their grads in places like Denver, but the point remains, they're unlikely to swamp the East Coast locations.
The counter argument, of course, is that Nebraska didn't travel that well to Indy or Chicago anyway. Since the league has not yet decided what to do about the 2017 Women's Basketball Tournament, perhaps the Big Ten could move one of the women's tournaments to Omaha.
Any surprises in the data? Questions? Think Columbus should host a basketball tournament? Let us know in the comments below.