The Wolverine

June-July 2014

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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enue and opportunities for corporate sponsorship. At least with Maryland, it was also a recruiting decision. Populations in the Midwest are shrinking, and the Big Ten wants to have a presence in the Southeastern states where a greater percentage of recruits are emerging. In that vein, do not be surprised if the Big Ten adds a Carolina, Georgia or Florida school when it eventu‑ ally goes to 16 teams (a Texas‑based school would also be in high de‑ mand). On the surface, it doesn't appear there's a lot to gain from putting the Big Ten Tournament in Washington, D.C. With BTN televising the first two rounds and CBS the semifinals and final, the tournament is already aired nationally, and ratings are not about venue but matchups. There are 13 top‑100 basketball recruits in the class of 2014 from Maryland and Virginia. There are 11 four‑stars from Indiana and Illinois, and those recruits are just as impor‑ tant and in play if the tournament is in Chicago or Indianapolis. Delany likely considered those factors, but made the decision anyway because, in his words, he wants to "plant a flag and be real in two regions." And the crux of the argument is that — branding. By taking the tournament to D.C., a geographical region that may have tuned in on TV can now see the prod‑ uct in person, becoming familiar with the Big Ten and developing loyalty to the conference. Markets that may produce decent TV ratings will be buoyed by greater media coverage, boosting the Big Ten's reach and leverage, helping push its BTN cover‑ age into more and more homes, and aiding negotiations with CBS and ESPN for broadcast rights. Even though Delany recently said he expects the the Big Ten's football championship game to remain in the Midwest, do not be surprised if it eventually ends up at MetLife Sta‑ dium, home of the NFL's New York Giants and Jets. The Big Ten will do everything in its power to guarantee every cable operator in New York and New Jersey carries BTN and might need to flatter those markets with its most coveted commodity. There is also a little bit of an ex‑ periment going on, especially with Maryland. Located in ACC territory, the Terrapins provide the Big Ten an opportunity to see if it can win over ACC loyalists, creating a new genera‑ tion of Big Ten fans. If the conference succeeds, it will have confidence it could pull off a similar coup in other ACC hotbeds and potentially in SEC or Big 12 strongholds. Moving the basketball tournament to D.C. may be a travel nightmare for the rest of the league, and will almost certainly irk fans, but it's also a signal of what's to come, and when the Big Ten starts moving, it's like an avalanche. Nothing will stop its mo‑ mentum. ❑ Associate Editor Michael Spath has been with The Wolverine since 2002. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Spath_Wolverine.

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