When rumors started circulating that Maryland and Rutgers were going to the Big Ten conference, I paid attention with great interest. I’ve been a Rutgers football fan since I was a kid in 1976 and the Scarlet Knights had a perfect 11-0 season.
As the process unfolded, and Rutgers announced a move to the Big Ten on November 20, 2012, I learned a lot about what the Big Ten is looking for when it decides to add new schools. If the Big Ten expands again, here is what it’s looking for, and here are the schools that best fit the criteria.
What Big Ten looks for in schools as it expands
- Large public research universities
The Big Ten is full of almost nothing but large public research universities. Only Northwestern is not a public university in the Big Ten. Both Maryland and Rutgers are large public research universities.
- New territory so the Big Ten Network, or BTN, can expand its base
The Big Ten Network is pretty much saturated in the areas where Big Ten schools are currently located. Adding Rutgers and Maryland can expand BTN into the New Jersey/New York market with Rutgers, and the Washington D.C. and Baltimore markets with Maryland.
- AAU member schools
The Association of American Universities, or AAU, is a group of 60 leading research universities in the United States that maintain high academic standards. If you do not maintain high enough standards, the AAU will vote you out.
Both Maryland and Rutgers are AAU members. The only school in the Big Ten that is not a AAU member is Nebraska. When the Big Ten added Nebraska, the school was a AAU member, but it was voted out of the organization in 2011.
- Colleges that are in contiguous states to existing Big Ten schools
The Big Ten has stated that it likes to add schools that are in states located next to existing states that contain a Big Ten school. Nebraska was added in 2011, and is contiguous to Iowa. Both Rutgers and Maryland are contiguous to Pennsylvania.
Colleges that meet Big Ten criteria for expansion
- University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a large public research college, located in a large population state, that is a AAU member school, and is contiguous to a state with a Big Ten school in Maryland. Virginia has everything the Big Ten looks for in a school.
- University of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina is a large public research school, located in a large and rapidly growing population state, that is a AAU member, and would be contiguous to Virginia if the University of Virginia joined the Big Ten.
- University of Pittsburgh
Pitt meets all the criteria, but it’s located in a state that already has a Big Ten member in Penn State. It’s debatable how much Pitt would help BTN bring in new viewers. It is a great school though.
- Duke University
Duke is a AAU member, and would be in a contiguous state if Virginia joined, but it’s a private school and its football program would probably not bring in many viewers for BTN. Like Pitt though, Duke is a great college.
- Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech is a AAU member and a public research university, but it’s not a particularly large college, and it does not border any states with a Big Ten school. Georgia Tech is in Atlanta though, so it could potentially bring in a large market for BTN. Another great school.
Missouri meets all the criteria, but the Tigers just moved to the SEC.
Kansas meets all the criteria, except it’s in a small population state.
Syracuse is an unlikely target for the Big Ten
For anyone thinking of Syracuse, it’s highly unlikely the Big Ten would want the school. Syracuse voluntarily withdrew from the AAU in 2011 because the college knew it was likely to be voted out. Syracuse is also a private school, and it does not bring in the NYC market.
Rutgers has been involved in four of the top five most viewed college football games in the NYC TV market. Syracuse has not even been in one of the top 10 most viewed college football games in NYC history.