At some point [the Big Ten is] going to overreach and get a big negative reaction out of Congress or someone else. You have to eventually tie your television to people actually watching and not just to television subscribers added up and totaled.That's interesting on a number of levels. First, it's amusing to hear the NFL commissioner who presided over a bevy of NFL teams enriching themselves at the government teat through stadium subsidies, backed up by threats of relocation, complaining about another sports entity taking an unpopular action that might draw Congress's attention. Second, Tagliabue's statement is an indictment of his own conference. He's making the point that the Big Ten won't profit as much as it thinks by adding some combination of Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn, and Pitt because those teams might be proximate to large media markets, but they don't have a hold over meaningful numbers of households in those markets. Shorter version: don't recruit the members of my conference; they just aren't very valuable!
Third, Tagliabue's comment hits on a thought that I've been having about how expansion is going to expand the gap between the Big Ten and SEC. (Brian Cook is retching right now.) Let's say that the Big Ten strikes out on its two primary targets - Texas and Notre Dame - and then expands to 16 with Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Syracuse. What's the SEC's response? Mike Slive's comments last week indicated that the SEC is going to make a matching move in the event that there is a progression towards superconferences. The home run move for the Big Ten - and one that I think is quite plausible - would be to add Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Think about the advantages here:
1. The added teams come from states that are already contiguous with the SEC.
2. The added teams come from states that are culturally similar to the SEC states.
3. Texas and Texas A&M would be reunited with Arkansas.
4. The added teams are football schools and they would be joining the top football conference.
5. The new SEC would be easy to organize, as Alabama and Auburn would join the East, leaving the West with the added schools, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, and Arkansas.
Now, think about where the SEC and Big Ten would be after expansion. They would both have 16 teams, only the Big Ten would have added a bunch of decent, but nothing special football programs (assuming that Nebraska isn't headed back to their Osborne-Devaney levels) and the SEC would have added Oklahoma and Texas. Moreover, the Big Ten would have added TV markets that are large, but pro-oriented (this is Tagliabue's point as he is throwing his own conference under the SEPTA bus), whereas the SEC would have added TV markets that are large and college-obsessed. Finally, the Big Ten, which already struggles with a recruiting base that doesn't cut it, would have added states with mediocre talent levels, whereas the SEC would have added Texas.