Earlier today, @BTNLive sent out the following tweet:
— BTN Live (@BTNLive) May 6, 2014
I thought about answering them by participating in their poll with a simple #BTNNo, but 140 characters isn’t nearly enough space to properly convey why I think this is something that shouldn’t happen, but, quite simply, probably will.
Let’s face it; with today’s announcement that the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be played in Washington, D.C. in 2017, the precedent has already been set. The football title game will be played on the East Coast sometime in the relatively near future, and it could very possibly happen in Washington D.C. in the home of the NFL’s Redskins.
As an Illini fan that would pretty much amount to rubbing salt in an old wound, but the NCAA has already allowed games to be played at that facility such as the September 6, 2010 #3 Boise State vs. #10 Virginia Tech tilt that drew 86,587 fans. Don’t expect a Big Ten Title game to draw that many fans though.
Throughout the short 3 year history of the Big Ten Title game, the high water mark for attendance just happened this past season when #2 Ohio State squared off against #10 Michigan State drawing 66,002 fans to Indianapolis, which falls just short of Lucas Oil Stadium’s max capacity of 70,000. Not so bad, right?
Well, yes and no.
The previous year #12 Nebraska made their first appearance in the Big Ten Title game, yet the total attendance for the game was 41,260. To be fair, that game was played against an 8-5 Wisconsin Badger team so it probably didn’t quite have the luster of last year’s matchup of 2 top ten BCS teams, but it provides an interesting case and the perfect example why the Big Ten shouldn’t push its most important game further east.
What happens if the Big Ten gets saddled with an unranked team, or even a pair of unranked teams, in their title game the first year that it’s played on the East Coast? Unless one of those 2 unranked teams is Penn State, Maryland, or Rutgers the odds are pretty good that attendance wouldn’t be anywhere near the 41,260 number posted in that 2012 title game because many fans that might be on the fence about making the trip will probably just decide to stay home and watch the game in their living room rather than racking up the extra miles to head out east.
I understand that the conference is trying to increase their footprint, and I also understand why. Getting to more TV’s means getting more television ad revenue for the conference, and no one can blame them for trying to carve out more money for the bottom line. More money means better facilities, and in that scenario everyone in the conference wins.
In this case, though, the bottom line may also include a black eye on national television if the cameras capture far too many shots of vacant seats in an east coast venue that may otherwise be filled by fringe Big Ten fans in a venue closer to the center of the geographic footprint.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.