More Conference Expansion?
While we're likely to spend the coming days/weeks trying to glean details about the new divisional alignment for the Big Ten. Perhaps we shouldn't get too concerned if the result is less than appealing. That's because it may be likely to change again if reports that North Carolina has been invited to join the conference along with perhaps Virginia or Georgia Tech turn out to be true.
If the move doesn't make intuitive sense based on the lack of historical success in football for the Tar Heels or Cavaliers, all you have to do is count heads. North Carolina is the tenth most populous state in the union (nipping at the heels of Michigan) while Virginia is twelfth. That's a lot of televisions. Georgia is eighth. New Jersey (home of Rutgers) is eleventh and Maryland a more distant nineteenth. Longer term Census projections have had Carolina rising to seventh nationally, surpassing both Ohio and Michigan by 2030. Maryland will climb to sixteenth by then.
As a nice bonus, it would raise the profile of the Big Ten as a basketball conference (which is already looking rather strong). Perhaps Nebraska was always doomed to play teams coached by Roy Williams.
It also might help explain why a ten-game conference season has been on the table for the B1G. It might not be essential for a fourteen-team league, but it could be necessary if the conference grows to sixteen teams or more.
Whether Carolina would accept the invitation is another question. Would their fans revolt if they saw an end to a home-and-home series annually with Duke? Is that worth giving up potentially millions in additional revenue each year? Virginia at least has a natural rival in Maryland. The Yellow Jackets have a richer football tradition but no real connection to the Big Ten footprint without Carolina. Would any of this make Notre Dame more interested in finally joining the B1G?
All will be revealed in time, but don't be surprised if conference expansion isn't over.