In 2014, the Big Ten, or B1G as others prefer, is going to be a 14 team conference, wit Maryland (from the ACC) and Rutgers (from the Big East) joining the conference that’s mostly been about the Midwest for so many years, but in its own attempt to become a Super Conference, is leaning South, trying to break up the ACC.
It’s all about the money, obviously, and after Chicago has been the central market for the Big Ten for so many years, it seems that after bringing in Maryland, a move for Virginia won’t only strengthen the B1G’s hold further South on its way to creating some sort of Super Conference (18 teams?), but also get control of the very valuable Washington DC TV market, even if it isn’t obsessed with College Football as other parts of the country are.
So Virginia are definitely in the mix, despite not being such a prominent school in recent years. Still, it’s importance in terms of geographical location and being a foothold in what is perceived by some as the beginning of the South seems to be important.
Virginia’s former biggest rival, North Carolina, is another big school the Big Ten are trying to get. The Tar Heels are a national brand, at least in basketball, can deliver its entire home state all on its own, is at or near the top of the list of both the Big Ten and the SEC, although it’s probably going to be quite hard to draw UNC away from the ACC. They’re possibly the most important school in the conference, just like Texas is in the Big 12, and as long as it stays in the ACC, where culture and heritage matter, possibly, just as much as money to some of the schools, that conference is going to be hard to tear apart.
Another one on the radar is Georgia Tech, which isn’t a athletics powerhouse at the moment, but holds other virtues besides its footballing history. A great academic school in a top TV market and football recruiting area that is one of the largest destinations for Big Ten grads outside of the Midwest. Atlanta is SEC country, always will be, but getting a foothold, even as the #2 conference through the Yellow Jackets.
And then comes Florida State, which is the big prize in the ACC, because of the Florida recruiting potential and TV markets, but also because the Seminoles are still one of the biggest names in College Football. After all, realignment is about money, and it’s about College Football more than anything else. Despite the need for bigger TV markets and better research facilities, using that as a factor for the realignment choices, picking schools that will help improve ratings among College Football fans is just as important.
Some make sense due to the economics, like Virginia and Georgia Tech, but there’s no arguing that brand names like Florida State and North Carolina are much more appealing, because they make sense on a wider scale than just the local one.