Quick Slants: Expansion talk takes the year off

Give Iowa $110 million and Barta says he will add hockey

Published: May 14 2013 | 4:25 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 3:22 pm in

CHICAGO - These Big Ten May meetings took on a life of their own in 2010 when the conference was in the midst of expansion.

The meetings are still going strong as far as news cycles go, with the B1G's bowl lineup and future schedules being among the topics on Tuesday. Expansion wasn't a topic. At least not a lively one.

"No," Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said when asked about this subject. No elaboration.

The only wave in expansion land came when Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the Big Ten dropping FCS schools from future schedules beginning in 2016. Saban said he would like to see five conferences that lead up to a national tournament.

Asked if a BCS-level subdivision would be a topic at this week's meetings, Alvarez said, "No."

-- Penn State athletics director Dave Joyner said the school is working on a neutral site game in Ireland. There has been talk about this for awhile. The Nittany Lions face a postseason ban for another three years, so it would be looked at as a bowl trip of sorts. The game would be 2014 against UCF.

Penn State begins next season against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

"Neutral sites are a very, very interesting proposition," Joyner said. "It's good for everybody. From a monetary standpoint, it's a very satisfactory thing to do, but it also engages people in other parts of the country to perhaps come to games."

-- Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke used the term "chickening out" when discussing the dissolution of the school's rivalry with Notre Dame.

Notre Dame athletics director Dave Swarbrick told UM in September that the Irish would use the three-year notification to end the series, which will now see its last game in 2014. From the sounds of UM athletics director Dave Brandon, the series will remain cold.

"The night game we have at Michigan Stadium this September, and then our last trip down to South Bend [2014] next year are going to be really exciting because it's going to be the end of the rivalry, at least for a considerable period of time," Brandon said.

-- Big Ten hockey begins this fall.

The league was able to do this when Penn State, through a $110 million gift was able to make the jump to Division I. The Nittany Lions inclusion gave the conference the six teams it needed to secure an NCAA tournament bid.

The Big Ten isn't twisting other schools arms to add hockey. The conference can't really do that.

Is six teams -- Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State -- enough to make a viable league?

"All of us have natural rivalries," UW athletics director Barry Alvarez said. "The BTN adds more excitement. I think us having our league with our own network will promote college hockey."

With the inclusion of Maryland into the Big Ten, the league has discussed adding lacrosse as a sport. This would require the B1G to explore "affiliate" status. Johns Hopkins has been mentioned in this regard.

With six hockey teams, there's no need for that, but to grow the brand, are hockey affiliates on the table?

"I don't know, we haven't discussed that," Alvarez said.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are the only two B1G schools that made money in 2013. No, Iowa isn't thinking about adding hockey or any other sport.

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta is a hockey fan. He grew up in Minnesota and played the sport. That won't help hockey's case with Iowa, a move that also would carry Title IX implications.

"The process of adding a sport, any sport I don't care what it is, in this environment, it's a difficult decision to make and not one that I spend a lot of time on," Barta said. "I get a great deal of external advice, pressure -- not from the Big Ten, but from fans or parents -- to add men's soccer.

"Men's soccer would be a geographically good decision, but that would require dropping other sports or adding more. You don't just add one sport and call it good. We certainly have some teams that aren't yet winning championships and until I have teams clicking on all cylinders, it doesn't make sense for me to water down my resources for the teams I already have. It doesn't seem fair."

But hey, if someone has $110 million . . .

"If someone brought me a check for $110 million and wanted me to add a particular sport, my guess is I could find a way to add that sport," Barta joked.

-- The mantra on football scheduling was making schedules stronger. The sub-headline was proximity. That was perhaps summed up best in this quote from Alvarez, who was asked about losing Michigan State off the schedule on a regular basis (MSU is in the East):

"I was more concerned with losing Iowa than Michigan State," Alvarez said, which happened with Legends and Leaders in 2010. "We've had great games with Michigan State, but the proximity, the three-hour drive to Iowa City, for our fans and their fans, it's very convenient.

"That was very difficult for us to lose. Same for Northwestern, a two-hour drive, more so than Michigan State."

-- Of course you know that Iowa, coming off 4-8 in 2012, has been scheduled for zero night games this fall.

Barta said Iowa always is open to one or two night games a year. He also knows you have to earn those.

"It is what it is. I like where we sit," Barta said. "As Kirk [Ferentz] told his players, we know one thing, they're going to put in that time slot the teams they believe will generate the best television rating, which translates into the teams having the most success."

Michigan --$2,866,947 (revenue); $2,984,366 (expenses)

Michigan State -- $1,957,042;    $3,052,757

Minnesota -- $7,067,372;   $2,194,858

Ohio State -- $534,647;   $1,780,285

Penn State – none;   none

Wisconsin -- $6,721,233;   $5,541,828


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