Affable Barry Alvarez is back coaching the Wisconsin Badgers football team, and we're all better for it.
Speaking the university's athletic board Friday, he revealed another motivation for the Big Ten to go after Maryland and Rutgers: keeping Penn State.
The fear was that shifting conference footprints might leave Penn State feeling alienated on the East Coast and tempted to join another conference. With Pitt to the west and Syracuse to the north, it doesn't take much imagination to see that Penn State could have looked at the ACC.
“That northeast corridor, all the way to the south, continues to grow…[Big Ten commissioner] Jim [Delany] felt that someday, if we didn’t have anyone else in that corridor, someday it wouldn’t make sense maybe for Penn State to be in our league.
“That they would go into a league somewhere on the east coast. By doing that, it keeps us in the northeast corridor.”
Interestingly, Alvarez speaks in fairly blunt terms about why Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers have value. It's purely about location. That has become the whole point of expansion, as leagues try to ensure they will be able to generate revenue through television deals and other business matters.
One reason The Big Ten has done a better job making money for its schools is its relationships in the Northeast. It already had a strong presence in major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Cleveland but can now claim, to some degree, New York City, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The SEC is the far better football conference, and there are no fans more rabid than SEC fans. But the Big Ten, thanks to Delany, has taken a sophisticated approach to wrenching money from a group of alums who are passionate but more spread out and distracted by professional sports. Keeping the Northeast is a key to that.
It's also interesting that Delaney is looking so far ahead. The Big Ten has a huge advantage with the Big Ten Network, but that might not always be the case. Other conferences will catch up. So The Big Ten needs to establish its ground now.
Finally, Alvarez mentioned a school that expressed interest in joining the Big Ten but didn't meet academic standards. Any guesses?