Last year, when Texas and Oklahoma decided that the grass was greener in the SEC, everyone – including me – started jumping up and down and ranting about massive conference realignment.
And that was followed by the massive – or at least significant – realignment with the Big XII the big winner and, perhaps, the AAC a pretty big loser. If there are such things as winners and losers here. The ostensible reason schools moved, including Rutgers back in 2014 with the Big Ten, is money and branding and prestige.
But there is always the question of whether or not such a move really does help with finances. There were the reports that Rutgers Athletics is in huge debt. And we constantly hear that the only schools that are "profitable" are the uber-successful schools like Ohio State, Alabama, or Notre Dame.
To boost the idea that conference realignment isn’t a panacea, Stephanie Herbst-Lucke of Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, a doctoral candidate, researched what happened to schools that changed conferences in the quest for notoriety and big bucks.
Her findings don’t necessarily support the notion that playing with the bigger boys and girls leads to bigger bucks. Herbst-Lucke, who was herself an All American track athlete at Wisconsin, spent four year researching to see whether "shifting conferences actually does lead to a pot of gold of acclaim and revenue. In almost every instance during a period from 2009-2017, the answer was no."
You can go to the actual report I found in an online publication called University Business for the gory details. But there is a reason why I would write about this here in On the Banks. It’s because there were a couple of exceptions to the switiching-conferences-will-cost you data. Guess what school did okay in all of this?
Yeah, Rutgers, along with Missouri, were the outliers.
"Only two institutions during the 2009-2017 period managed to show positive gains. One was the University of Missouri, which joined the SEC and won three division titles during that stretch and saw a 321% rise in postseason revenue. After 2013, when its win-loss ratio declined, it showed no improvement. The other was Rutgers University, which joined the Big Ten and saw huge jumps in sponsorship and licensing. The rest did not. Those that make the switch are also not exactly welcomed with open arms by fans, who are confused and frustrated by conference realignments."
There’s a lot more to digest in the study, among them being a dilution of tradition, academic mission, and diversion of resources. And, certainly, those things can be pointed to in the case of Rutgers. But, it does tend to shoot down the idea that the move to the Big Ten was an utter disaster and a raid on the academic mission of the University. I think most Rutgers fans were delighted – ecstatic even – to get the invitation to the Big Ten. And most of us understood the benefits, even though there would also be costs and a few bumps in the road. This study, at least to a degree, supports the move.
Life is good!