Conference Realignment and Market Size- Who Wins?

The conference shuffle has begun. Colorado kicked things off with a jump to the Pac-10. Shortly after, Nebraska ran into the open arms of the Big Ten and Boise State finally consummated things with the MWC. What happens next is still a mystery, but we have a pretty good picture. With all the talk of expansion, you know money is going to come up. What does the money mean exactly? It means which school has a big enough following that putting them on TV actually makes us money? To answer the question, let’s look at how the new conferences will probably shake out and who will control which markets.

First, let’s see which teams are likely ending up where. First, the new Pac-16. After all is said and done, there will be an east division of Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arizona and Arizona State. There will be a west division of Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. Here is what their presence will look like by state:

This essentially gives them control of several major media markets. The markets they would now mostly control would be Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, Oklahoma, Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. We’ll take a look at those numbers and see about how many people that will be in a minute. First, let’s look at the other conferences.

The MWC is making some big moves. They picked up Boise State and it is no secret they would love to grab Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri while they’re at it. Should they do this, I’m guessing they’ll grab Tulsa as well to make it an even 14 teams. This gives them two divisions of 7 teams. East division is TCU, Tulsa, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, New Mexico and Colorado State. West division is Air Force, Wyoming, BYU, Utah, Boise State, UNLV and San Diego State. This is what their presence would look like graphically.

This will give them control of some decent markets, including all of Utah, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, and Wyoming as well as Albuquerque, Las Vegas, San Diego, Dallas and parts of Colorado. These are substantial markets, as Salt Lake City, Dallas, St. Louis and Kansas City are among the largest. Probably not quite the reach of the new Pac-16, but we’ll see numbers later and tally everything up for sure and see who is really winning here.

Next we’ll look at the Big Ten. They just picked up Nebraska and with the Pac-10 moving, it’s no surprise they will go after 4 more teams to get to 16 as well. Who are the four candidates? Let’s assume Notre Dame can get their act together. The next 3 picks are easy: Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse. This gives the Big Ten a lot of market penetration. Their two divisions would have to be east and west. The 8 west teams are Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Purdue. The 8 east teams are Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers. Here we go with the graphics again.

This gives them control of several markets, including all of Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and upstate New York. That’s a lot of people. As many as the new Pac-16? We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

The next conference to naturally make some moves is the ACC. The Big East is obviously over for football, so the ACC would pick up the scraps, including West Virginia, Uconn, Louisville and Cincinnati. That gives them a north and south division. The north 8 teams are Uconn, Boston College, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Louisville, Maryland, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. The south 8 teams are North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Miami and Florida State. Looks like they would cover a lot of ground on this map.

This gives them control over Boston, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. That’s pretty good coverage. There are some major media markets on the east coast to be sure.

This brings us to the lowly SEC. I think they would love to pick up Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but realize it probably won’t happen. I think they are stuck at 12 teams to be honest. Who could they pick up? There’s South Florida from the Big East, maybe Memphis, Houston, SMU or East Carolina? Perhaps Marshall or Tulane? Nothing really works for them. They might be willing to take Louisville and South Florida, but I doubt they could get more than that. So I’m guessing they pretty much stay the same exactly as they are. Here is their map.

This gives them control of the South basically. A lot of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky as well as basically all over Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. That’s pretty decent, but probably nowhere near as good as some of these new super conferences will have it. Still, the big edge they have going for them is that the South is growing in population. People are leaving what is essentially Big Ten country and headed to SEC territory. The population shift could be a blessing headed into the future.

So what about a map that shows them all? Here is a probable of who would control which states, with the assumption that Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are pretty much a perfect split.

From the looks of it, they all cover quite a bit of good territory. There is still Montana, the Dakotas, Maine, Delaware, Vermont and New Hampshire that are opportunities, but they don’t have any FBS teams to my knowledge, so we’ll assume their fans of their respective teams geographically and not of any of these conferences.

So who wins? Who controls the most viewers? Here is a list of the top markets in the United States, along with how many household TV’s there are and which conference controls most of them:

New York, NY 7,493,530 Big Ten
Los Angeles, CA 5,659,170 Pac 10
Chicago, IL 3,501,010 Big Ten
Philadelphia, PA 2,955,190 Big Ten
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX 2,544,410 Pac 10
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA 2,503,400 Pac 10
Boston, MA (Manchester, NH) 2,410,180 ACC
Atlanta, GA 2,387,520 SEC
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) 2,335,040 ACC
Houston, TX 2,123,460 Pac 10
Detroit, MI 1,890,220 Big Ten
Phoenix, AZ 1,873,930 Pac 10
Seattle-Tacoma, WA 1,833,990 Pac 10
Tampa-St. Petersburg (Sarasota), FL 1,805,810 SEC/ACC
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN 1,732,050 Big Ten
Denver, CO 1,539,380 Pac 10
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL 1,538,090 ACC
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH 1,520,750 Big Ten
Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL 1,455,620 SEC/ACC
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA 1,404,580 Pac 10
St. Louis, MO 1,249,450 MWC
Portland, OR 1,188,770 Pac 10
Pittsburgh, PA 1,154,950 Big Ten
Charlotte, NC 1,147,910 ACC
Indianapolis, IN 1,119,760 Big Ten
Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC 1,107,820 ACC
Baltimore, MD 1,093,170 ACC
San Diego, CA 1,073,390 MWC
Nashville, TN 1,019,010 SEC
Hartford and New Haven, CT 1,010,630 ACC
Salt Lake City, UT 944,060 MWC
Kansas City, MO 941,360 MWC
Cincinnati, OH 918,670 ACC
Columbus, OH 904,030 Big Ten
Milwaukee, WI 901,790 Big Ten
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC-Asheville, NC-Anderson,SC 865,810 SEC/ACC
San Antonio, TX 830,000 Pac 10
West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL 776,080 SEC/ACC
Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, PA 743,420 Big Ten
Birmingham (Anniston and Tuscaloosa), AL 742,140 SEC
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, MI 740,430 Big Ten
Las Vegas, NV 721,780 MWC
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, VA 709,880 ACC
Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM 694,040 MWC
Oklahoma City, OK 694,030 Pac 10
Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, NC 691,380 ACC
Jacksonville, FL 679,120 SEC/ACC
Austin, TX 678,730 Pac 10
Louisville, KY 668,310 ACC
Memphis, TN 667,660 SEC
New Orleans, LA 633,930 SEC
Buffalo, NY 633,220 Big Ten
Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA 619,610 ACC
Wilkes Barre-Scranton, PA 593,480 Big Ten
Fresno-Visalia, CA 579,180 WAC
Little Rock-Pine Bluff, AR 564,490 SEC
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 554,070 Big Ten
Richmond-Petersburg, VA 553,950 ACC
Knoxville, TN 552,380 SEC
Mobile, AL-Pensacola (Ft. Walton Beach), FL 534,730 SEC
Tulsa, OK 528,070 MWC
Lexington, KY 506,340 SEC
Charleston-Huntington, WV 501,530 ACC
Ft. Myers-Naples, Fl 500,110 SEC/ACC
Dayton, OH 482,590 Big Ten
Tucson (Sierra Vista), AZ 465,100 Pac 10
Roanoke-Lynchburg, VA 461,220 ACC
Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, MI 458,020 Big Ten
Wichita-Hutchinson, KS Plus 452,710 MWC
Green Bay-Appleton, WI 443,420 Big Ten
Honolulu, HI 433,240 WAC
Des Moines-Ames, IA 432,310 Big Ten
Toledo, OH 423,100 Big Ten
Springfield, MO 422,740 MWC
Spokane, WA 419,350 Pac 10
Omaha, NE 410,350 Big Ten
Columbia, SC 398,620 SEC/ACC
Rochester, NY 392,190 Big Ten
Huntsville-Decatur (Florence), AL 390,900 SEC
Shreveport, LA 386,180 SEC
Syracuse, NY 385,440 Big Ten
Champaign and Springfield-Decatur, IL 384,620 Big Ten
Madison, WI 377,260 Big Ten
Chattanooga, TN 365,400 SEC
Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, TX 354,150 Pac 10
Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City and Dubuque, IA 346,030 Big Ten
Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX 339,570 Pac 10
Jackson, MS 336,520 SEC
South Bend-Elkhart, IN 336,130 Big Ten
Colorado Springs-Pueblo, CO 334,710 MWC
Tri-Cities, TN-VA 334,620 ACC
Baton Rouge, LA 326,890 SEC
Savannah, GA 322,030 SEC/ACC
Charleston, SC 311,190 SEC/ACC
El Paso, TX 310,760 Pac 10
Davenport, IA-Rock Island-Moline, IL 308,910 Big Ten
Ft. Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR 298,330 SEC

By my estimates, New York goes to the Big Ten, but that really isn’t the case. I mean, there is no true New York school. The Big Ten would control all nearby schools, but that’s about it. So it’s up to you how you want to figure it out. At any rate, with the top 100 markets or so above, here is how it all shakes out:

Big Ten – 31,618,270
Pac 10 – 24,762,780
ACC – 20,852,965
SEC – 12,075,855
MWC – 7,362,310

Of course, these are rough estimates based on market size, but based on the best guesses I can make, if the conferences shake out like I have outlined above, the Big Ten stands to control the most fans and viewers of college football. The Pac-10 is pretty darn close behind for sure, and the difference was in the 7 million from New York market. The surprise is the ACC- turns out they can get quite a following. Of course, depends how you “share” Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The SEC may have a bigger following than that. And of course, the MWC will still be the “little guy” compared to the Big 4 conferences. I think they would certainly be taken seriously though.

What do you think?

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