Michigan And the Big-10

Yesterday afternoon, I got an email from a friend; he is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the recipient of a graduate degree there.  I lead off this rant with that information because it is important to recognize that he is an intelligent person.  At the same time, he is a huge fan of Michigan Wolverine sports – – and this being early November, Michigan football is his passion.

The email had a lengthy exposition about how the Big 10 and the NCAA and the Illuminati and the Elders of Zion and the United Nations were all in cahoots to “take down Michigan football and Jim Harbaugh specifically”.  That was the easy stuff to deal with.  After about 250 words on that topic, the email veered into orbit.  He said that he had been reading on some Michigan fanboy sites the idea that Michigan should resign from the Big-10 and join the Big-12 where it would dominate even more than it now dominates in the Big 10.  My response to him was that I would use that idea as the topic for today’s rant – – so here goes …

There have been bad decisions made in human history:

  • Napoleon invading Russia with winter impending
  • Shelly Long leaving Cheers to take her career into other venues
  • The Raiders drafting JaMarcus Russell with the overall #1 pick.

I think the idea of Michigan bolting from the Big-10 would be a decision that would be a worthy addition to the list above.  Let me explain.

First, there must be some sort of agreement among all the schools in the Big-10 which creates the conference in the first place, and which spells out things like how a new school might be admitted to the conference and what the penalty would be for a team to leave the conference.  I am not privy to such a document, but it must exist – – AND – – it cannot allow any school to leave the conference simply by saying “three, six, nine, I resign.”  A quick Google search did not give me an answer to the Big-10 exit fee, but it did tell me that the exit fee from the SEC is $45M.

That being the case, I would assume the Big-10 exit fee is of similar magnitude – – meaning that Michigan would have to pay that money to leave the conference with no guarantee that the Big-12 – – or any other conference – – would admit them immediately.  Michigan’s endowment is in the neighborhood of $18B, so it can afford the exit fee almost out of “petty cash” but in addition Michigan would be giving away its share of more than $1B annually in broadcast rights for football alone.

Moreover, I happen to think that college football in general and Big-10 football in specific are going to increase in value significantly over the next 5-10 years:

  • First, the CFP will expand from 4 teams to 12 teams.  The rights fees for those additional 8 playoff games will be huge.  Plus, that addition will increase interest in games played in the regular season because teams with two and possibly three losses could still be in the running for a slot in the CFP.  So, that expansion will provide a new pool of media money to divide up as well as adding interest in the regular season games which would imply a bigger deal next time they all go to the negotiating table with the networks.
  • And on top of that …  The Big-10 expansion puts them in a unique position.  The conference has teams from coast to coast – – as does the Big-12 – – and the Big-10 footprint is squarely in the biggest TV markets in its time zones.  The Big-10 will have a team in or near, NY, Philly, DC, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, LA, Seattle and Portland.  That list is 10 of the 23 largest TV markets in the US.  Big-10 football has loads of room to grow its brand and its value.

So, even if I were to believe that this sign-stealing affair is being used as a wedge to get Jim Harbaugh out of Ann Arbor – – and for the record, I do not believe that at all – – it would be in Michigan’s financial interest to stay in the Big-10 and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune while continuing to enjoy the conferences’ financial fruits.

There is an ad campaign ongoing for Capital One bank where the spokesthing says that deciding to open an account at Capital One is the easiest decision in the history of decisions.  In my opinion, any decision by Michigan to resign from the Big-10 would merit consideration as the dumbest decision in the history of decisions.  But that’s just me.

Finally, today’s rant centers on the stupidity of one overreaction to the ongoing situation involving Michigan football and Jim Harbaugh.  So, let me close with this remark from satirist, Karl Kraus:

“Stupidity is an elemental force for which no earthquake is a match.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………