Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: If the Big Ten were to expand to 24 teams, what six schools would you want to add?
With the Pac-12 as we know it on the brink of complete collapse as Pac-12 teams scramble to join the Big Ten or Big 12, it seems the era of superconferences has finally arrived. The writing has been on the wall for a while, and with the playoff expansion, it seems likely that decades of tradition are on their way out the door.
So far, UCLA and USC have committed to joining the Big Ten in 2024, with Washington and Oregon to follow suit as the conference expands westward. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah, for their part, have scurried to the Big 12, leaving behind just four teams.
But the Pac-12 isn’t the only conference that could dissolve. The ACC could look to expand themselves down the road, but at the moment, schools like FSU are threatening to walk, and the SEC could bite if this happens, sending the ACC the way of the Pac-12.
Much of this realignment is — as are most things — motivated by money (in this case, the media rights deals and payouts of the respective conferences), and as it stands, the ACC is locked into a long-term rights deal with a steep, nine-figure exit fee. But if schools stand to make more money in the long run, we could see some schools buying themselves out, especially given the fact that the Big Ten and SEC deals come with higher annual payouts.
Alternatively, schools and conferences could be thinking ahead as far as 2036 when the ACC deal ends. If the likes of Clemson are willing to jump ship, the Big Ten and SEC would be waiting to take that call.
If superconferences are the way of the future, it seems unlikely the Big Ten is done adding teams, so Matt and I are dreaming big and each picking the six teams we’d like to see join the Big Ten (Big 24?). Since we’re adding teams in pairs, I’ve chosen three duos I’d love to make regular conference opponents.
Cal and Stanford
We’ve already netted Oregon, whose duck mascot is legendary. Let’s add the most chaotic mascot to the mix (the Stanford Tree. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do yourself a favor and google this most delightful, cursed icon).
Don’t worry though, anthropomorphic trees aren’t the only thing these teams would bring to the Big Ten. Stanford brings a competitive football program that has the potential to be a sleeper team. It’s unlikely they’ll win the conference in their current iterations, but they have the potential to add some chaos. This is not a team you can look past when you play them. They could go on to become what Tennessee is to the SEC (full respect to Tennessee, Go Vols): Not always given the respect of an Alabama or Georgia, but almost always good enough to ruin a few seasons. It keeps things interesting, and I like the idea of having them in the fold.
Cal, for its part, tends to be more middle-to-bottom-of-the-pack, but in a superconference, they would certainly be competitive with the likes of the Purdues, Indianas, and Northwesterns of the world, and again, none of these are teams we can truly look past. On a good day, these are all still teams that have the potential to hand even the most dominant team a big L. Also, not for nothing, it is good for fandoms when teams have more games in which they are competitive, and Cal does that for a lot of the teams in the Big Ten. There’s a reason to buy in, and it would be fun to have this in the Big Ten (and selfishly, it would give me more excuses to get to the Bay Area as your California LGHL rep).
This duo also brings non-mainstream sports into the fold, adding some feathers to the Big Ten’s cap in sports like golf, swimming, and tennis. It could be extremely fun across the board to see this additional competition in other sports, and it would serve us well to remember the benefits of superconferences that can go far beyond football season for all parties involved.
One final note: We’ve already added four West Coast teams. That is a BRUTAL time change for teams in both directions. Adding Cal and Stanford would give West Coast teams more games on their coast, which does feel like an important consideration in the interest of fairness.
FSU and Clemson
This is a dream world. I might be an idiot, but I’m not that much of an idiot — I know the most likely scenario if these teams move to dissolve the ACC as we know it would be a leap to the SEC.
But hear me out — these teams both have a clearer path to the playoffs in the Big Ten. Even in an expanded playoff, the SEC has enough top-dog teams in any given season that FSU and even Clemson would have to work for their playoff spot. In the Big Ten, Clemson’s spot would almost surely be locked in, and FSU has a clear path. From a more selfish standpoint, having these teams would force OSU, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State (or any other team making a run for the playoff) and would give them a better taste of what they’ll face in a potential playoff opponent. Adding some heavy-hitting competition makes everyone better, and that’s a win for the Big Ten as much as it’s a clear playoff path for Clemson and FSU.
UNC and Duke
Superconference realignment has ramifications that go beyond football season, and UNC and Duke as a pairing would add some additional basketball dominance to the Big Ten. As in-state rivals in North Carolina, they’d also bring that rivalry energy to a conference that, as we all know, thrives on rivalries. I respect the disdain these programs and fanbases have for each other, born out of proximity and pettiness (fueled by Art Heyman’s decision to renege on his commitment to play basketball at UNC and play for Duke instead in the early 1960s). That’s got Bo and Woody energy, and I’d like to see it make its way to the Big Ten.
I think that Jami’s picks are all logical and solid, however, I’ve got a different vision for the Big Ten than she does. While I don’t think the B1G would be able to pillage any notable team from the SEC, I believe that — should the league want to expand to 24 teams — it should be looking to claim every other significant college football team.
So, while I can appreciate the academics and Olympic-sport prowess of Cal and Stanford — and who doesn’t love The Big Game and reliving “The band is on the field!” every year — these conference realignment moves are solely about football, so the decisions should be made with that in mind. While getting the San Francisco market in the media mix would be nice, I would venture to guess that having UCLA and USC to the south and Washington and Oregon to the north would go a long way in that region anyway.
So, what I am proposing is to grab every non-SEC football school of note and make the Big Ten the Captain Planet of football conferences:
“MIDWEST! SO CAL! PACIFIC NORTHWEST! ATLANTIC OCEAN! GREAT PLAINS! By your powers combined... I AM THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE!”
Do all of these potential additions make logistical sense? Not at all, travel partners be damned. Do they fit in with the history and tradition of the conference? Of course not, but tradition doesn’t matter in college football anymore apparently. But will they help the
1) Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish have been the Big Ten’s white whale for generations. I understand that the powers that be at ND would prefer to remain independent, and I actually kind of get that, it’s important to them, it’s part of their identity. It’s like how the Sprouse kids’ character in “Big Daddy” wanted to be called Frankenstein, there’s no real value or reason to it, but it was important for them, so Adam Sandler (a.k.a. the rest of the college football world) just has to go along with it.
But here’s the thing, it can’t stay like that forever. Eventually, the money that they could be making in a conference is going to be so much more substantial than what they can make in a solo deal with NBC that they will have no choice but to sign up for a league. Even notable Notre Dame alum and legacy Mike Golic Jr. told me that on the podcast earlier this week.
The other option to get ND into the B1G is if the way that college football reorganizes itself makes it more difficult for the Domers to make the College Football Playoff and win a national title. The elimination of the Pac-12 from an auto-berth might make it easier for them to get a bye or host a game, but if they eliminate automatic bids, a flood of SEC and B1G teams could make it harder for the Irish to get in, which could lead the school to finally slumming it with us conference members.
2) Florida State
Does adding a team from Florida into the Big Ten make sense? Nope, but we’ve got California, Washington, and Oregon, so at least they are in the Eastern timezone. The Seminoles have made it clear that they are not super happy with their current arrangement with the ACC. While the grant of rights agreement with ESPN might make it difficult for them to leave, they don’t want to be there anymore, and there would be a big old cushion of money for the ‘Noles to fall back on in the Big Ten whenever they decided to leave.
While the SEC might make more geographical sense for Florida State, we all know that there has always been a healthy competition between the UF and FSU, so how do you beat them? Not by joining their conference
Despite all of the decades of NCAA violations and illegal activity (who amongst us, amirite?), in many ways, the Hurricanes are more of a Big Ten school than an SEC school. This year, Miami accepted an invitation to join the Association of American Universities (AAU), which had long been required for Big Ten membership. So from an academic standpoint, they would fit perfectly.
From a football perspective, they have an impressive history and still aspire to championship levels, but are more often than not left to cling to the glories of the past. What’s more Big Ten than that?
Look, there’s no football program that I despise more than Clemson — including TTUN and the Nits — but if you are going to build an anti-SEC Death Star, you can’t not take Dabo. So, grudgingly,
Here’s where I start to venture a wee bit outside of the normal train of thought. I know that Utah isn’t exactly a traditional national title contender, but under Kyle Whittingham, the Utes have become one of the most consistently competitive teams in the country. With the disillusion of the Pac-12, Utah has instantly become one of the best programs in the Big 12 and their profile will likely only increase because of it. Also, adding a quality team between Nebraska and the West Coast would be nice not only for travel purposes but for geographical domination, it helps to lock up that part of the country.
6) Boise State
Ok, now hear me out. I know that the blue turf is offputting, but don’t discount the Broncos just because of that. Boise State would easily be a mid-tier SEC program competing with the Arkansases, Vanderbilts, Missouris, Mississippi States, and Auburns of that part of the world.
Don’t believe me? Pop quiz, hot shot; which college football program has the most wins since 2000? That’s right, it’s Boise with 112, with traditional SEC teams Texas and Oklahoma tied with 110, then long-time Big Ten rivals Ohio State and USC tied at 102. So, adding a third B1G squad to that list would be pretty helpful in our Captain Planet plan.
Also, this would mean that save for the strip of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, there would be a path of Big Ten states from the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific. So, if Coach Prime can get the Buffs back to respectability, maybe we can fit in that last puzzle piece when the B1G goes to 26!
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed