Meant to post this earlier, but I spoke to Fred Glass last week at the Huber Farms Winery on his thoughts on Big Ten expansion. his remarks follow.
Q:What are your thoughts on the idea of expansion?
A: Because of the financial position of the conference led primarily by the Big Ten Network, we don’t have to expand. Any time you go into an evaluation or a potential transaction and it’s a viable option to do nothing, that’s good. Because if you do do something, it will only be because it makes sense for the conference and its members. If we do do it, I think Indiana University will have the same benefits as the other teams have in terms of it driving more revenue. Money isn’t important by itself, it’s important with what you can do with it, which is maintain your viability for the next 20, 30, 40 years. Be in a position where we can choose our partners rather than have our partners chosen for us because other conferences get in front and pick people that would be partners more naturally connected with the Big Ten. There could be some additional rivalries, expand our footprint, help us as a conference and as a school get into some recruiting areas that maybe we’re not as strong in now. I think our interest would be pretty much aligned with the balance of the conference in terms of why it would make sense for Indiana University.
Q: How much is the Big Ten Network driving this?
It’s sort of two sides. Because it’s been so successful with the 11-team conference now, it’s assured us that we have a pretty good future going forward and probably don’t need to do expansion to try to generate additional revenue. So on the one hand, it’s given us more independence that we don’t have to do something like expand. On the other hand, if we do expand, the nature of the conference allows us to leverage that thing like crazy because it adds eyeballs and subscribers and enables us to grow the business even more than we would if we did not have the Big Ten Network. It’s clearly a good asset whether it enables us to stand pat or whether it enables us to better leverage potential expansion.
Q: How much can you know about the costs or benefits of expansion to IU before you know the schools that will be involved?
A: We’ll just have to see. Who knows what region? Who knows what tradition? Those are a lot of unknowns. I think one thing the Big Ten has a great tradition in putting conference above the individual schools. Ironically but perhaps predictably, that ends up benefiting the individual schools when you look out for the whole. Indiana, we take essentially an equal share of the different pieces of revenue. We’re one of the smallest football stadiums and we unfortunately now don’t fill it. Hopefully soon we will. We probably don’t draw as many eyeballs as some of the other teams in the conference. I think maybe being a member of the Big Ten is a double-blessing for Indiana because we’re able to affiliate with programs that probably generate more revenue than we do, yet we take a share of that to help us with our own programs. If we expand, I would expect that that would continue on, that if we were in a conference that has a broader base, even as a school that traditionally maybe didn’t generate as much revenue, we’d take a bigger proportional share, which is helpful to our programs and our student athletes.