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Posted on Mon, May 17, 2010 : 2:46 p.m.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon: 'Change is in the wind'

By Dave Birkett

CHICAGO - The expansion rumor mill has been running rampant for months, ever since the Big Ten announced in December it was looking into adding additional teams.

But what if the conference doesn’t expand?

It seems unlikely, but Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon left open that possibility Monday when talking to reporters at the Big Ten’s spring meetings.

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Dave Brandon

“I have no idea what kind of timetable to put on this and again one of the possible outcomes is nothing, so it’s hard to put a timetable on something when you don’t even know for sure it’s going to happen,” Brandon said. Expansion talk has been driving the college football news cycle almost since the season ended, but Robert Tuchman, the founder of sports marketing firm TSE Sports and Entertainment and executive vice president of, said the Big Ten won’t suffer any appreciable damage if it decides to stay at 11 schools.

The conference could add one, three or five new members, with Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame most prominently mentioned as possibilities.

“If they don’t expand they’re not going to grow their revenue base and they’re going to give an opportunity to a lot of other schools to join other conferences and really create more strength for them,” Tuchman said. “I think the damage comes from other conferences getting stronger, not so much from them losing anything.”

In its current incarnation, the Big Ten already stands as the envy of most conferences. The league distributed an estimated $22 million in rights fees to each member school last year, a number that dwarfs most of its rivals.

With the potential to grow its revenue streams on the powerhouse Big Ten Network, of which the conference owns 51 percent, most think expansion is inevitable.

Neil Pilson, the ex-president of CBS Sports who now runs the consulting firm Pilson Communications, said the Big Ten Network will become considerably more prosperous if the conference expands its traditional Midwestern footprint to include a school like Rutgers in New Jersey.

That, Pilson said, would almost guarantee the Big Ten Network a spot on basic cable packages in the saturated New York and Philadelphia television markets.

With the network pulling in an estimated 87 cents per subscriber per month in its current eight-state footprint according to research firm SNL Kagan, that could be an enormous windfall for the conference.

“New York has 7.5 million homes, Philadelphia has close to 3 million homes,” Nilson said. “So if you add over 10 million homes, times 80 cents a home, times 12, you get to some real numbers.”

Brandon said he’s heard nothing firm on expansion and has had only a few conversations with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany about the topic and one orientation meeting in March when he saw “some very, very general data.”

Still, his sense is more teams are coming.

“I think there’s a general feeling that change is in the wind,” Brandon said. “And obviously the prospects for change are out there or there wouldn’t so much time spent (discussing) it. There’s clearly energy around change, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to manifest itself in an outcome that’s either immediate or as significant as some of the things that are being rumored. We’ll see.”

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.


Robbie Webb

Sat, May 22, 2010 : 1:15 p.m.

I am very aware of that, but because we are young, wouldn't you think that the more experience you get the better you will get? As with any coaching staff and school it's a learning experience for them as well.


Fri, May 21, 2010 : 7:46 p.m.

Because until they win, all they have is their past record. That's why they play the games. And the games they've played so far, haven't been very good.

Robbie Webb

Thu, May 20, 2010 : 1:28 p.m.

But why are you comparing this year to last year when the team is moving forward and gaining more experience?


Wed, May 19, 2010 : 8:49 p.m.

...based on Michigan not being able to beat a winning team. These teams all have winning records. On ND last year...the better team does not always win the game. Last year, Mich proved that by losing almost every game the rest of the way through their season.

Robbie Webb

Tue, May 18, 2010 : 10:03 p.m.

Lose everyone of them? Based on what? I hope you realize Michigan beat Notre Dame last year and Notre Dame is not as good as they were last year, this year.


Tue, May 18, 2010 : 8:51 p.m.

Responding to True... UMich will have a very, very difficult time competing with the likes of Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. If played right now, M would lose every one of them. And, success is not winning against 2 of these 5 teams which is what many fans have come to accept as a "good" showing. Adding these teams to the Big Ten right now would only move UMich down further in the conference standings.


Tue, May 18, 2010 : 8:45 p.m.

Keeping on topic... the timing is terrible for Michigan football. They are losing big time in the rivalry with OSU and now the rivalry is somewhat threatened by Big Ten expansion. They may not be able to play OSU every year. UM will be like all the other teams - no distinction. It M doesn't have the OSU rivalry - what do they have? They have a great non-conference schedule with the likes of UMass, Delaware St, etc.

Robbie Webb

Tue, May 18, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

I agree, Truemaize. What you have to realize is that fans are just frustrated with the past two seasons. Winning will quiet all of the nay-sayers. I'm not sure I like the idea of expanding, however, I would like to add just one more decent team so there would be a championship game in December, which would be fun.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

(Jaxon5) How can you honestly say Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska, Pitt, or Notre Dame would beat UM "soundly" on a regular basis. The last time I checked we beat ND last year with an extremely young team that is still learning new systems on both defense and offense. I'm sure we can compete with the other 4 you mentioned without getting beat "soundly" on a regular basis. It's not like any of these teams are challenging for the National Title every year. C'mon Man! Go Blue!


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 7:07 p.m.

I hope the Big Ten does not expand because right now Rutgers, Missouri, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame would beat UM soundly on a regular basis. Syracuse would be a competitive game. The timing is not right for Big Ten expansion and Michigan football.