One year before the Big Ten officially welcomes USC and UCLA, the Big Ten is again in the news talking expansion.
According to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, the Big Ten presidents have “started exploratory discussions on expansion in light of PAC 12 uncertainty”.
After the expansion of USC and UCLA, both Oregon and Washington were rumored to be in the next phase of expansion for the Big Ten.
Now, with Colorado officially leaving for the Big 12, the future of the PAC 12 is very uncertain and teams in the conference will be looking to jump off of the sinking ship before its too late.
While the Big Ten could potentially benefit from adding Oregon and Washington, a line must be drawn before the Big Ten expands too far.
Expanding to 20 schools seems to be the maximum number of schools sustainable for the conference at present, with the potential to eventually increase to a maximum of 24 schools.
With those limitations, the Big Ten conference should not jump at the first opportunity to expand and instead be selective in expansion to maximize the benefits to schools already in the conference.
How The Big Ten Should Handle Expansion
If the Big Ten expands to include Oregon and Washington, the conference would be bringing in the top two revenue drivers in the PAC 12 for 2022 (excluding USC and Stanford that do not publicly report revenue).
Both schools would add value to the Big Ten and could boost the already lucrative media deal that the Big Ten negotiated last fall. One of the biggest incentives for schools to enter the Big Ten or stay in the Big Ten has been that the conference has the highest conference payout per school from media revenue.
As reported by Dean Straka at CBS, the Big Ten’s potential payout per year is $58.8 million, followed by the SEC at $49.9 million per year. With annual payouts that far exceed other power conferences, the Big Ten must be selective in expansion to ensure that annual revenue per school does not drop.
Instead of quickly adding Cal and Stanford as the PAC 12 crumbles, the Big Ten should wait and make a play for schools with more upside for the conference.
With the landscape in college football increasingly looking like there will be a consolidation to two power conferences (the Big Ten and SEC), the Big Ten should look to poach desirable ACC schools and Notre Dame to fill out the few remaining spots in the conference.
Adding Notre Dame, Miami, North Carolina, and Florida State would be much more desirable and boost the media contract revenue with blue blood football schools. If the Big Ten too quickly expands in the chaos of the crumbling of the PAC 12, the conference may regret the expansion as it runs out of spots for bigger names as conference realignment continues in the coming years.