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Where Should The Big Ten Expand Next? We Crunched The Numbers.


If it have been as much as me — and I grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, the place you might actually hear the roar of the group from Spartan Stadium in my yard on sport days — the Massive Ten would have stopped increasing after 12 groups. Penn State, added in 1990, and Nebraska, in 2011, have been natural-enough matches: huge, public Midwestern1 analysis universities with good teachers and glorious sports activities.

As a substitute, in 2014, we acquired … Rutgers,2 which was speculated to ship the New York metro market to the Massive Ten. I’m an enormous sports activities fan who’s been residing in New York since 2009, and I’ve had precisely zero conversations about Rutgers sports activities. Since becoming a member of the Massive Ten, the soccer workforce’s convention document is 12-58.

Having given up on the Massive Ten being a Midwestern convention, I’m truly on board with its latest additions: UCLA and USC. Not less than they’re faculties with nice soccer traditions — and historic connections to the Massive Ten via frequent Rose Bowl matchups.

So screw it. At this level, it’s a giant sport of “Danger” with two superconferences, and the Massive Ten is taking part in for retains in opposition to the Southeastern Convention. Which faculties ought to the Massive Ten add subsequent?

The Motion Community just lately reported that the Massive Ten is contemplating these seven applications: Notre Dame, Miami, Florida State and (maybe to a lesser extent) Oregon, Washington, Stanford and California. Is {that a} logical listing of faculties to need? Do different applications additionally belong on this tier? And are there good backup choices if the Massive Ten is spurned by this group?3 

Let’s contemplate a broad universe of prospects — just about each believable enlargement candidate. Particularly, we’ll consider:

That’s a complete of 38 faculties. We’ll measure them in three broad classes — sports activities, match and market — utilizing a sequence of quantitative metrics. I’ll describe the method beneath.4

Sports activities

Inside every main class, faculties can rating a most of 100 factors. For example, Notre Dame has the very best sports activities score amongst potential enlargement candidates with 77 factors, whereas Rice has the bottom, with 6. 

This rating is set by score every faculty from 0 to 10 in quite a lot of subcategories, every of which has a multiplier primarily based on its relative significance.5 These scores are calculated primarily based on the varsity’s placement relative to the nation’s highest and lowest values in every class.6

In sports activities, the subcategories are:

  • Current soccer efficiency (3x multiplier): The soccer program’s efficiency over the previous 20 years based on Sports’s SRS rankings, the place the newest season (2021) was assigned a weight of 20 and 20 seasons in the past (2002) is assigned a weight of 1. 
  • Historic soccer efficiency (3x multiplier): Historic finishes within the ultimate AP ballot of every season, the place a first-place end scores 25 factors, a 2nd-place end scores 24 factors, and so forth.
  • Historic males’s basketball efficiency (2x multiplier): Getting the steadiness proper between soccer and different sports activities was a bit of difficult. Males’s basketball brings in a good quantity of income, and sports activities like girls’s basketball, hockey and baseball additionally contribute to the underside line at some faculties. However it’s soccer that drives TV contracts. In any occasion, I gave some credit score for non-football sports activities within the sports activities class. To guage historic males’s basketball efficiency, I counted every NCAA match look, plus a 3x bonus for every Remaining 4 look and a 5x bonus for every nationwide championship.
  • Whole NCAA championships in all Division I workforce sports activities (2x multiplier). This varies drastically by faculty. For example, Stanford leads the pack with 131 NCAA championships throughout all workforce sports activities, whereas Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Kansas State have by no means gained a championship in something.

Right here, then, are the sports activities rankings for each attainable enlargement candidate.

Nobody completely maxes out this class. Though a number of present Massive Ten faculties (akin to Ohio State) have sturdy sports activities applications throughout the board, most enlargement candidates excel at both soccer or non-football sports activities, however not each. Nonetheless, Notre Dame comes the closest, scoring a 77. Oklahoma State, which has had glorious soccer outcomes in recent times and has additionally gained numerous championships in sports activities like wrestling and golf, is subsequent with 65 factors, adopted by North Carolina (61) and Oregon (60).


I already mentioned a number of the traits that describe present Massive Ten faculties. They’re principally public faculties7 with very giant enrollments and good analysis applications (all however Nebraska are members of the Affiliation of American Universities, or AAU). No present Massive Ten members have a spiritual affiliation. Most are flagship faculties of their states. They’re all at the very least respectable academically, and a few have good or nice teachers.

And geographically? Properly, they used to be Midwestern, however when your final 4 additions are Rutgers, Maryland, UCLA and USC, you’ve fairly clearly given up on that. As a result of I attempted to copy the Massive Ten’s considering somewhat than describe what I’d favor, there’s no class in my match index for geographic proximity to present Massive Ten members. Nevertheless, I did contemplate rivalries in opposition to present (and newly incoming) Massive Ten faculties, that are geographically pushed to a point.

Extra particularly, these elements make up the match element:

  • Educational rating (3x multiplier), from U.S. Information & World Report.
  • AAU membership (1x multiplier), The Massive Ten has generally spoken of AAU membership as a near-prerequisite for addition to the league. Maryland and Rutgers have been AAU members, as are UCLA and USC. Nevertheless, I believe we have to take this with a grain of salt. Nebraska was kicked out of the AAU after it had accepted a Massive Ten invitation however earlier than it formally joined the convention. The Massive Ten would clearly be head-over-heels for Notre Dame, which isn’t an AAU member. And rumored targets akin to Florida State and Miami are additionally not within the AAU. So I assigned this issue solely a 1x multiplier. Nonetheless, it has extra affect than you’d assume, as a result of I handled it as an absolute: a faculty acquired 10 factors for being within the AAU and 0 in any other case.
  • Enrollment (2x multiplier). Whole enrollment at a faculty’s foremost campus. Be aware that the present Massive Ten faculties8 have very giant enrollments, with a median of slightly below 44,000 college students (Northwestern is the smallest with about 22,000, which continues to be comparatively giant for a personal faculty). 
  • SPF: Secular, Public, Flagship (2x multiplier). This SPF isn’t about sunscreen: it’s a bunch of minor classes rolled into one. A college acquired 4 factors if it’s a public college, 3 factors if it’s a state flagship college and three factors if it has no spiritual affiliation. 
  • Rivalries (2x multiplier): Relatively than consider this subjectively, I merely added up the entire variety of soccer video games every faculty has performed in opposition to present Massive Ten members, plus incoming USC and UCLA. Notre Dame simply tops the listing with 460 all-time video games in opposition to Massive Ten opponents — that’s truly greater than Penn State, which has been within the Massive Ten for 29 seasons! 

The highest match rating belongs to Cal with 87 factors. It checks just about each field as a flagship state faculty and AAU member with a big enrollment and excellent teachers; it even does OK within the rivalries class due to its lengthy tenure of matchups in opposition to UCLA and USC. 

Different state flagship universities with sturdy teachers observe simply behind it: Washington (83 factors), North Carolina (73) and Virginia (73).


Whereas the Massive Ten offers loads of lip-service to educational and athletic “match,” right here’s what I believe it cares about most: a faculty’s market dimension, recognition and TV rankings. So any measure of convention candidacy should additionally give heavy consideration to these elements.

Earlier than we proceed additional, there’s a twist that impacts all the rankings on this class: They’re adjusted to account for projected inhabitants development via 2040.9 Convention-building is a very long-run course of: Although it doesn’t all the time work out that means, you’re hoping to maintain faculties collectively for many years (contemplate that the present Massive Ten was based in 1896). And totally different elements of the nation are anticipated to develop at a lot totally different charges. Inhabitants development within the Massive Ten’s conventional footprint, the Midwest, has stagnated, whereas states like Texas (35 p.c projected inhabitants development between 2020 and 2040, based on the College of Virginia’s Demographics Analysis Group), Florida (32 p.c) and Colorado (32 p.c) are anticipated to turn into significantly extra populous. Which will assist clarify the Massive Ten’s curiosity in increasing westward and southward.

With that caveat out of the best way, listed here are the elements of our market rankings: 

  • Faculty soccer TV rankings (3x multiplier). As listed right here and right here from the diligent work of sports activities journalist Zach Miller, this displays the varsity’s common TV viewership between 2015 and 2021, skipping the COVID-19-affected 12 months of 2020.10 This methodology could seem biased towards weak faculties in sturdy conferences since they’ll piggyback off matchups in opposition to stronger rivals, however that’s not likely the way it works. The SEC will not be going to waste a prime-time slot on Vanderbilt, even when the Commodores are taking part in the Crimson Tide. So contemplating how a lot TV contracts drive income and every part else in school sports activities, this is without doubt one of the extra strong classes.
  • Media market footprint (2x multiplier). This one’s difficult, however the thought is to guage which media markets the varsity is the dominant school soccer model in, utilizing The New York Instances’s school soccer fandom map from 2014.11 Nevertheless, I additionally gave credit score to varsities for his or her rapid metro areas even when they aren’t the dominant soccer model there, though with a penalty if the varsity is competing in opposition to different present Massive Ten members.12 In doing so, I attempted to copy the Massive Ten’s considering in including Rutgers (its nominal presence within the New York media market, regardless of faculties like Notre Dame having an even bigger following in NYC).
  • Reputation on Google Developments (3x multiplier). The mixed variety of searches for the varsity’s soccer, males’s basketball and girls’s basketball groups since 2015 utilizing Google Developments subjects knowledge.14 Soccer tends to dominate right here, though males’s basketball strikes the needle at faculties like Duke and UNC, and girls’s basketball makes some distinction for UConn.
Which Massive Ten enlargement candidates have the very best markets?

Market rankings amongst chosen Massive Ten enlargement candidates, based on weighted averages of complete income, TV rankings, recognition and media footprint

All market rankings are adjusted for projected inhabitants development via 2040. Reputation measured by Google Developments.

Sources: Zach Miller, Google Developments, The New York Instances,, College of Virginia Cooper Heart

The market class correlates fairly carefully with the faculties the Massive Ten is most enthusiastic about, based on the Motion Community’s report. Notre Dame dominates with 93 factors — almost an ideal rating. Florida State (82), Oregon (77), Clemson (75) , Miami (72) and UNC (71) are subsequent.

Subsequent up, let’s take a look at the composite rankings for all enlargement candidates, damaged down into 5 tiers. However earlier than we do this, let’s examine how present Massive Ten members would rating in all of those classes.

Scores for present and incoming Massive Ten faculties
College Sports activities Match Market Composite
Ohio State 86 94 98 93
Michigan 81 95 90 89
Penn State 67 87 93 82
Wisconsin 67 92 73 77
USC* 78 73 74 75
Michigan State 67 82 66 72
UCLA* 76 81 51 69
Iowa 60 80 57 66
Minnesota 42 91 49 61
Nebraska 55 53 64 57
Illinois 33 94 41 56
Indiana 36 89 43 56
Maryland 46 75 42 54
Purdue 30 86 38 51
Northwestern 30 72 31 44
Rutgers 8 79 38 42

*Incoming convention member.

As you’ll see once we get again to the enlargement candidates, these scores gained’t be simple to beat. It’s not simply Michigan and Ohio State, both: Faculty sports activities are a very huge deal all through the Midwest, so even middle-of-the-road Massive Ten members akin to Iowa and Minnesota are large, revenue-generating establishments.

However listed here are some numbers to bear in mind when fascinated with the candidate tiers: The typical composite score amongst present Massive Ten members — together with UCLA and USC — is 65. The bottom score (42) belongs to, after all, Rutgers, so we’ll name this the “Rutgers Line.” 

I additionally thought-about a score of fifty to mirror what the Massive Ten most likely thinks of as its “alternative degree.” All Massive Ten members besides Rutgers and Northwestern are above this line, and Northwestern was all the time type of a bizarre match (after all I’d say that as a graduate of the College of Chicago, Northwestern’s educational rival). Notably, the Massive Ten has beforehand spurned each Missouri and Pitt — logical, regional matches for the Massive Ten that fall beneath this 50-point threshold.

All proper, let’s break the candidates down into 5 tiers. You possibly can most likely guess the highest-ranked faculty:

Tier 1: Notre Dame
College Sports activities Match Market Composite
Notre Dame 77 49 93 73

Do I actually need to enter element right here? The Massive Ten would take Notre Dame in a heartbeat.

It’s price noting that Notre Dame’s composite rating isn’t that a lot larger than the 4 faculties within the subsequent tier. That’s as a result of it might be a fairly large outlier for the convention as a personal, spiritual, non-AAU faculty with a reasonably small enrollment — though it makes up for that within the match class with a powerful educational rating and by being a soccer rival to many present Massive Ten applications.

However it blows everybody else away out there class. There could be a lesson right here: With a large enough market, your match doesn’t must be excellent — somewhat, it simply must be adequate that you may squint and see it. Good teachers plus sturdy rivalries in opposition to many present Massive Ten members is probably going sufficient for Notre Dame to go the squint-and-see-it check within the convention’s eyes, regardless of its different oddities.

Tier 2: No-Brainers
College Sports activities Match Market Composite
North Carolina 61 73 71 68
Oregon 60 63 77 67
Florida State 55 58 82 65
Washington 49 83 64 65

North Carolina, Oregon, Florida State, Washington. I name these no-brainers as a result of all of them fee as at the very least common relative to present Massive Ten members.

Why does that matter? Properly, the Massive Ten faces considerably conflicting incentives. On the one hand, it desires to develop the pie as a lot as attainable. There’s no hurt in including a TV family in Seattle simply because you have already got one in Des Moines. However, it does generally must divide that pie. In fact, this may be topic to negotiation: whether or not new members get a full share when the convention indicators an enormous TV contract. However you run some danger of dilution if a faculty takes from the league greater than it brings in.

I don’t assume that’s a danger with these 4 faculties. For one factor, as I discussed, all of them have at the very least common total rankings relative to present Massive Ten members. They usually all have above common market rankings (the typical market score amongst present Massive Ten members, plus UCLA and USC, is 59). To some extent, the opposite classes would most likely additionally enhance over time.15

North Carolina, Oregon and Washington are additionally faculties that match the paradigmatic Massive Ten template of public flagship faculties that are AAU members and the dominant school manufacturers of their states. Past that, there are some variations on a theme. Oregon has the bottom U.S. Information rating and the smallest enrollment of those faculties, however the very best sports activities program. Washington brings the Seattle market and 47,400 college students. Each faculties would additionally present pure rivals to USC and UCLA.

North Carolina’s place could be extra shocking right here, on condition that it wasn’t on The Motion Community’s quick listing. However in some ways, it’s akin to Oregon and Washington, or even perhaps a superior possibility in some respects. North Carolina is a giant state and getting greater, UNC has improved on the gridiron to the purpose the place it’s at the very least often making bowl video games, and it’s glorious within the non-football sports activities.

Florida State isn’t within the AAU, but it surely has a fairly good educational rating and an enormous enrollment. I’d put it like this: in case you assume Notre Dame is an efficient sufficient match for the Massive Ten due to its different attributes, then Florida State has to qualify as properly; it has a greater match score than Notre Dame, actually. And it has the second-best market score after Notre Dame.

OK, now let’s talk about a number of the extra borderline circumstances:

Tier 3: How huge ought to the Massive Ten be?
College Sports activities Match Market Composite
Clemson 57 44 75 59
Utah 50 61 50 54
Miami 48 40 72 53
Stanford 59 64 35 53
Cal 44 87 24 52

All 5 faculties on this tier fee above alternative degree (a 50-point composite rating) however beneath the 65-point common of present members. Let’s briefly talk about their particular person strengths and weaknesses, since they every have a singular case.

Clemson hasn’t been mentioned a lot within the context of Massive Ten enlargement, most likely as a result of it’s a extra intuitive match for the SEC. If the Tigers have been within the Massive Ten, although, I’d assume the curiosity would most likely be mutual. Sure, there are some dangers; Clemson’s case rests closely on having been a dominant soccer workforce these days and getting excessive TV rankings in consequence. They haven’t been so nice traditionally, don’t supply a lot within the different sports activities and play in a small state in a small market. In addition they have a worse match score than Notre Dame, and you might argue that they don’t fairly go the squint-and-see it check. Nonetheless, they’ve the next composite score than different members of this tier — and extra to the purpose, stealing Clemson from the clutches of the SEC could be such a coup that I’ve to imagine the Massive Ten would do it.

Miami has been a rumored enlargement goal. Which will partially mirror that it’s a neater “get”; the College of Florida would reportedly object to its presence within the SEC. And maybe Miami feels extra “on model” for the Massive Ten, which has a presence in different huge city markets (New York, Chicago and now Los Angeles). Nonetheless, it’s a reasonably small non-public faculty that’s not an AAU member, albeit one with fairly good teachers. It truly has a decrease match score than Clemson. Then once more, its market score is properly above the present Massive Ten common, which most likely issues most for the league.

Stanford and Cal fee decrease than I might have anticipated. They’re nice matches — sure, Stanford is non-public, however its educational status and AAU membership are most likely sufficient to make up for that — and Stanford has a superb athletic program (that’s much less true for Cal).

However they simply aren’t very huge as sports activities manufacturers. There are a number of issues: The Bay Space has low curiosity in school soccer, and these applications have little following exterior that area, whilst in comparison with faculties like Fresno State and Oregon (to not point out incoming Massive Ten members USC and UCLA). Additionally, there are two of them. Possibly the Bay Space is price planting a flag in, however is it price doing so twice over? Cal does notably poorly out there class, with a rating of simply 24. Stanford at the very least will get a 35, which is properly beneath the present Massive Ten common however is at the very least larger than Northwestern’s, a peer faculty in lots of respects.

Then there’s Utah, which rated larger than I anticipated. It has a couple of issues going for it: The soccer program has turned from horrible to very aggressive in recent times; it just lately joined the AAU; and the state is rising prodigiously.

Now that we’ve coated all the groups the Massive Ten may realistically contemplate for enlargement, let’s zoom out to the faculties that clearly aren’t nice candidates however could be price at the very least fascinated with:

Tier 4: Strategic reaches
College Sports activities Match Market Composite
Virginia 32 73 42 49
Arizona State 45 54 46 48
Duke 44 56 43 48
Missouri 44 64 33 47
Pitt 44 71 25 47
Colorado 35 69 33 46
Oklahoma State 65 32 40 46
Arizona 32 71 32 45
TCU 46 22 66 45
Virginia Tech 38 50 47 45
Georgia Tech 39 62 31 44
Syracuse 35 49 44 43
Kansas 30 62 34 42
West Virginia 49 38 38 42

Would I be massively stunned to get up to the information that the Massive Ten had added Duke, Arizona and even Oklahoma State? No, not likely. I’d assume the Massive Ten had some type of strategic rationale. Possibly not a good rationale, however a rationale however. (Bear in mind, all of those candidates fee larger than Rutgers.)

For probably the most half, the schools on this tier fall into the “good match, mediocre sports activities and market” class. Virginia, Missouri, Pitt, Colorado, Arizona, Georgia Tech and Kansas all meet this description, as an illustration. The truth that the Massive Ten has traditionally spurned each Missouri and Pitt ought to make the opposite faculties on this class really feel worse about their probabilities, though I might asterisk Georgia Tech as a high-upside play as an AAU member within the Atlanta market that used to have fairly good soccer.

What in regards to the different applications? Arizona State is a well-rounded candidate in a state with a rising inhabitants; its case is fairly much like Utah’s, although it isn’t an AAU member or a flashship college (however does convey the Phoenix market). Duke’s case relies upon fully on how a lot you care about teachers and basketball. Oklahoma State has a superb sports activities score however is a giant stretch when it comes to each match (largely due to its poor educational score) and market (though, if the Massive Ten have been determined so as to add members within the South and couldn’t get the ACC to separate up, it’s one of many solely palatable choices). TCU is within the very fascinating Dallas market however has the worst match score of any of the 38 faculties I examined.

Lastly, there are some candidates in Tier 5 that fell beneath the Rutgers Line:

Tier 5: Let’s be trustworthy, there are higher selections
College Sports activities Match Market Composite
Baylor 38 24 60 41
NC State 33 54 35 41
Houston 39 38 36 38
Iowa State 27 52 33 37
Louisville 39 26 46 37
Texas Tech 27 33 48 36
Washington State 20 44 31 32
Cincinnati 35 43 14 31
UConn 24 51 17 31
Kansas State 37 37 20 31
Oregon State 25 47 15 29
Boston Faculty 29 34 22 28
Vanderbilt 12 50 20 27
Wake Forest 27 39 14 27
SMU 21 25 32 26
Rice 6 43 16 22

There’s not a lot to see right here. Stepping into New England might be fascinating for the Massive Ten, however the one Division I soccer applications within the area are Boston Faculty, Connecticut, and UMass, and BC and UConn rated poorly sufficient that I didn’t even hassle testing UMass.

And within the very long run, Houston — which is able to quickly be part of the Massive 12 — might be fascinating as a giant public college in a really huge market. Time to affix the AAU, Cougars!

Finally, that is all a query of how “huge” the Massive Ten desires to be, and I can’t actually reply that. Does the convention danger model dilution if it’s in each nook and cranny of the nation, or is that precisely what it desires?

However from a soccer perspective, my private view is that after you get previous the purpose the place each faculty can play each other in soccer yearly or at the very least most years — one thing that’s already exhausting when you’ve expanded to 16 groups — I don’t know that there are any notably brilliant dividing traces. For example, increasing to 24 faculties — say, by including everybody in Tiers 1, 2 and three — may even work higher than 20, since you might break up them into 4 pretty geographically balanced divisions:

Pacific: Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington

Nice Plains: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Nice Lakes: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue

Atlantic: Florida State, Maryland, Miami, Rutgers, North Carolina, Penn State

You possibly can additionally use a promotion-and-relegation system. Cut up right into a First Division and a Second Division. With the 24 faculties listed above, as an illustration, perhaps you’d begin with one thing like this, given every faculty’s current soccer efficiency:

Higher Division: Florida State, Iowa, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, USC, Wisconsin

Decrease Division: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, Stanford, UCLA, Washington

Get as artistic as you need; the dividing traces might be considerably porous. In a nine-game convention schedule, as an illustration, every workforce may play six members of its personal division, two members of the opposite division and one designated rivalry sport. You possibly can have a four-team convention playoff that includes the highest three finishers within the Higher Division and the first-place finisher within the Decrease Division. To facilitate promotion and relegation, the highest workforce within the Decrease Division might be promoted to the Higher Division, and you might have a one-game playoff for the second promotional slot. Some groups may additionally earn immunity from relegation if, say, they’d made the Faculty Soccer Playoff Prime 25 in two of the final three seasons.

Nevertheless the Massive Ten desires to strategy issues, it’s clear that its days as a concentrated group of Midwestern faculties are over. The SEC versus Massive Ten arms race is on. The one query is which aspect of the battle traces your faculty lands on — if it’s invited to the struggle in any respect.

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