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Posted on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:27 a.m.

University of Michigan administrators say Big Ten expansion makes financial sense

By Kellie Woodhouse

As the Big Ten expands, top University of Michigan administrators continue to praise the change as a practical move to stakeholders and longtime fans.

University of Maryland's entrance into the Big Ten was made official Nov. 19 and Rutgers University is also anticipated to join the formerly Midwestern conference, bringing conference membership to 14 programs.


Dave Brandon

Angela J. Cesere |

The expansion reflects a national shift among conferences by schools that are looking for sweeter media packages in order to subsidize bleeding athletic departments and by conferences that are looking to widen their scope and further increase revenue.

Maryland and Rutgers give the Big Ten an East Coast presence, exciting a relatively untapped fan base. Based on past performance, the two teams are likely to boost the win ratios for many of the Big Ten's existing members. Maryland football had a 2-10 record last year.

Earlier this week Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said conference expansion is far from over. In fact, Brandon is already predicting a sweet spot for growing conferences.

"I don't think it's over," Brandon said candidly during a Monday forum hosted by the Washtenaw Economic Club. "Large conferences are going to get larger; 16 seems to me to be a target for many conferences."

During a Monday meeting with faculty leaders, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman also said expansion was sensible, given the national conference shifting of late and a slowly changing Midwestern demographic.

The conference, Coleman said, would never "expand for expansion's sake."

"[If you consider] the 10- to 20-year time frame, the Midwest is shrinking, the coasts are expanding," Coleman said, continuing her outspoken support for the expansion. "It is about reaching our alums. We've got a huge number of alums on the East Coast."


Mary Sue Coleman file photo

Tapping into the coasts will further increase Big Ten media payouts, which were reportedly around $24 million per school last year.

Meanwhile Maryland will significantly increase its sports revenue, which has been declining in recent years. Revenue decreases prompted the school to cut seven varsity sports from its roster in late 2011. The Washington Post reported that, without a move to the Big Ten, Maryland's annual deficit was projected to hit $5 million this year and balloon to a possible $17 million by 2017. Sports Illustrated has called Maryland's athletic department one of the "most dysfunctional athletic departments in the country" in need of a big-time save.

"The reason behind it is very simple. The college athletics model is a very, very challenging one," Brandon said, further adding that expansion is often due to the bottom line: money and the need for more of it.

Sports Illustrated reported that, according to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, Maryland will earn an additional $100 million in media profit by 2020 because of its conference switch.

"Why would they need the money? Because these programs are very, very expensive. The amount of capital that this business consumes is just unbelievable," Brandon continued.

Expensive indeed. Division I athletic departments must pay to charter airplanes, fund hundreds of athletic scholarships, exponentially growing coaches' salaries, practice facilities, competition facilities, doctors and physical therapists, academic support and more.

"Presidents of universities and colleges today are under an enormous cost pressure and [they have] very few levers they can pull to immediately create new revenues," Brandon offered. "Well, what you can do is get a better media deal."


Big Ten Commissioner James Delany, left, speaks with Maryland football coach Randy Edsall after a news conference that was held to announce Maryland's decision to move to the Big Ten in College Park, Md., Nov. 19, 2012.

AP photo

Yet while administrators seem fully on board with expanding the Big Ten, it's clear that the fans and indirect stakeholders of the tradition-rich Big Ten are still adapting to the change, which begins to take effect in 2014.

Brandon's remarks came after a forum attendee asked him about the "change in the fabric" of college sports and the trend toward "potential super conferences going forward."

Coleman said she's heard concerns that Rutgers has a lackluster football following and tradition. "They might if they were playing us," Coleman said as a response. She also responded to a question about whether the expansion was solely about money by assuring that the Big Ten was "thoughtful and deliberate" in making the decision.

"Nobody does anything in isolation," Coleman offered.

"At the end of the day, the geography made sense, the demographics made sense, the quality of the institutions made sense."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Nov 30, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

This addition is only to provide some teams that Minnesota and Indiana actually have a chance to beat.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

For a few decades I loved Michigan sports because of the tradition. For some time tradition was held as a high standard. Not anymore, now its money. Looks like the Big Ten did this to save Maryland; fiscal problems not for the good of the conference. Good to have a patsy to kick around but we might as well rename the conference Mid American Conference 2.0.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

This expansion was driven solely by the expectation that the New York City and Washington media markets would add fees for the Big Ten Network. Nothing else. For that, we get two programs that have no traditional connection to the Midwest. We get two programs that are pretty much near the bottom of the Big Ten in just about every measure. They're not bad schools by any means. They're just not Big Ten schools. I don't like this trend heading toward the "superconference" of 16. Only one conference has tried 16 before. That was the WAC. Only a few years later, the top eight schools split off and formed the Mountain West. The WAC floundered for a while, and will discontinue football next year. With 14 teams and a protected cross-division rivalry, you will have schools in the other division visiting you only once every 12 years. At that point, they aren't really in your conference anyway. This was a panic move driven by current trends in television. It might be good in the short-term. But in the long-term, sacrificing tradition for a few pennies per household in a cable system 1,000 miles from here is not all that smart.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

Someone should inform the President that in 20 years time there won't be any East coast thanks to Global Climate Change. And the new rich homeless will be streaming back through the Midwest to cross over the new bridge into O Canada. At least the "Victors" song will remain valid - after Michigan stadium moves to Manhattan NYC- Hail to the victors valiant! Hail to the conq'ring heroes! Hail! Hail! to Michigan, The Champions of the WEST! ---- "...expansion is often due to the bottom line: money and the need for more of it". ---- "Show me the money! I need to feel you, Jerry! Show me the money! Jerry, you got to yell! [screaming] Show me the money! Show me the money! " [Jerry McGuire - 1996]


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

I made this comment a few days ago on another article about Big 10 expansion and I'll make it again. This move is all about MONEY for the Big 10. Attracting strong football programs to the Big 10 is not the reason Maryland and Rutgers are being added. $$$$$$$$$$$ "Presidents of universities and colleges today are under an enormous cost pressure and [they have] very few levers they can pull to immediately create new revenues," Brandon offered. "Well, what you can do is get a better media deal." "Maryland will earn an additional $100 million in media profit by 2020 because of its conference switch."


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

I still believe the end game for the B1G is to add the majority of the ACC and make a two division conference, with Notre Dame, consisting mostly of the original B1G and one consisting mostly of the ACC. If Florida State and Clemson leave the ACC and join other non-B1G conferences, the B1G will take the take Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Syracuse, perhaps others. They are all AAU schools aside from North Carolina and Syracuse [formerly AAU]). The national scope of the conference with the large television revenue could entice Notre Dame to join. Notre Dame could play in the ACC division and the teams. (See potential alignment below) B1G Division 1. Michigan 2. Michigan State 3. Ohio State 4. Indiana 5. Purdue 6. Illinois 7. Northwestern 8. Iowa 9. Nebraska 10. Wisconsin 11. Minnesota 12. Iowa State, Kansas, Mizzou ACC Division 1. Rutgers 2. Maryland 3. Penn State 4. Virginia 5. Duke 6. North Carolina 7. Georgia Tech 8. Pitt 9. Syracuse 10. Notre Dame 11 and 12. Boston College, Wake Forest, Miami (FL) Each division could play a 9-game division schedule, mostly consisting of traditional opponents, and, in place of non-cons, could play three cross divisional games or perhaps two and a lone non-con. Call it a stretch, but think of all the money (research and television) this could generate, which is what this whole thing is about, also the fans would be very happy, as their leagues would largely remain intact.

Ron Granger

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

Is this the same admin that decided they couldn't afford to load the band onto a bus for one distant game? It's all about profit now, with zero consideration to the educational mission.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

I disagree. All members of the B1G are also members of the CIC, a research consortium. This is from their website: "Headquartered in the Midwest, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) is a consortium of the Big Ten member universities plus the University of Chicago. For more than half a century, these world-class research institutions have advanced their academic missions, generated unique opportunities for students and faculty, and served the common good by sharing expertise, leveraging campus resources, and collaborating on innovative programs. Governed and funded by the Provosts of the member universities, CIC mandates are coordinated by a staff from its Champaign, Illinois headquarters." I would be very surprised if Rutgers and Maryland, both AAU schools and major research universities, will not join this group. I don't argue this isn't about money, but this is a win for academics and research.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

Hahaha Thanks for mentioning this! What a debacle for Brandon! No excuses now for not taking the band to early non-conference games! --Jim

Chase Ingersoll

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

Note that both the Rutgers (NJ/NY/Philly) and U of Maryland (DC metro) are Comcast markets as are Minneapolis, Chicago, Champaign, Penn State / Pittsburg. I think that Milwaukee /Madison, Indianapolis are also. Not certain about Nebraska. Last I checked, Columbus was not a Comcast market, but Cleveland is. Boston is Comcast market, so expect Boston College to be #15.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

I'm sure that if it didn't make financial sense, they wouldn't have done it. Neither Maryland nor Rutgers add much to the competition in the conference. Surely their records will suffer when they meet the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and even Columbus Community College. I know some fans who will travel to the away games in New Jersey and Maryland, but I suspect the fan numbers will be fewer.

Dog Guy

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Dave Brandon is a businessman and, thus, plans financially. What defines U of M for me is that in the last three decades I have not heard any faculty member discuss teaching students rather than getting money.

Steven Murphy

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Money is what makes the world go 'round, so they say. Maybe in that there's a lesson for the students, no?


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

I get a Columbus fan driving to East Lansing or Ann Arbor, but Maryland? Rutgers is where - New Jersey. Traveled to Maryland for a wedding, can you say a 12 hour drive each way. Not what you call a fun weekend event. I guess Nebraska falls into this group as well. Flying today is not much faster or cheaper, so thats out for the average fan (or should I say below average fan). I guess if you take your private Lear it not a problem. You can even leave from an expanded A2 Airport someday. How nice for them. In what way does this benefit the students and the Big Ten fans?


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Maybe Brandon will fly a few lucky fans in his Leer.......

Steven Murphy

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

I hope it all works out but human nature being what it is, I suspect that a lot of the big dough will be squandered, especially by those at or near the top of the totem pole being able to figure out ways to weasel-out fantastic wage increases for themselves because "they've earned it for a job well done" (while the janitors -- also members of the totem pole -- continue to barely get by on the crumbs the "administrators" give them).


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Does everything have to be class warfare?


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Ugh, SO GROSS! Good thing we are all a bunch of lemmings and will buy tickets and tune in on TV no matter what. Because it's pretty darn clear that no conference officials or school presidents/athletic directors care about ANYTHING EXCEPT MONEY. They all get richer while as fans, our experience gets diluted, polluted and corrupted. Lost our Notre Dame game... and annual Penn State/Wisconsin matchups... whats next...? Replace Michigan state with a Rutgers game? Whoopie doo.


Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

So when will the Big 10 finally change its name to reflect its real composition...Big 14...Big 20...Big ??.