The Big Ten held a press conference on Tuesday at the Verizon Center to announce the Washington, D.C. venue would join the rotation for the Big Ten Tournament -- along with Chicago and Indianapolis.
As you might expect, this made a lot of people upset. But here's the thing: Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany doesn't care.
"I think that change is difficult for people," he said on Tuesday. "I think it's important to look forward, but also to look in the rearview mirror to see where you've been and where you want to go."
That might sound pompous or condescending, but Delany's right. This is what happens every time there's change, and eventually people stop caring, then protest when that change becomes commonplace and more change arrives. Adding Penn State was going to ruin the Big Ten's tradition. Adding Nebraska was going to ruin the league's academic reputation. Adding the Big Ten Network was going to be a financial disaster. And now, moving the Big Ten Tournament to Washington, D.C., is going to ruin the conference, too.
Part of that is just salty beat writers angry that, God forbid, they have to travel a little bit further to cover a league basketball tournament once every few years. Part of that is fans who would rather keep things the same than explore new horizons. But regardless of which group you fall in, I promise everything is going to be all right. Here's why:
D.C. is an extremely accessible city
Sure, Chicago and Indianapolis are more central, but it's not like going to the Big Ten Tournament was never a major commitment for other schools. Case in point:
B1G schools within 4 hour drive of - DC: 3 CHI: 5, INDY 5. END OF THE WORLD— Jonathan Foster (@FromTheBarn) May 6, 2014
And for all you people arguing that Nebraska fans can no longer attend the tournament: 1) Chicago is already about a nine-hour drive from Lincoln, and 2) Well ...
Are we really getting bent out of shape about the distance of Nebraska from DC? Nebrasketball fans wouldn't go to the BTT if it was in Omaha— RossWB (@RossWB) May 5, 2014
Fans in every Big Ten city except Lincoln and Minneapolis could feasibly drive to D.C. in a day if they really didn't want to fly. And once you're there, the Metro makes it very easy to get to the Verizon Center from anywhere in D.C. Sure, hotels in the district are expensive, but you can also stay in Virginia and Maryland for much more reasonable prices and take the Metro to the arena.
When it comes to getting around once you're in town, D.C. is better than Indianapolis and Chicago. And I'm not saying this as an East Coaster — I'm a born and raised Iowan who attends school right outside of Chicago. Objectively, getting around D.C. is easier than getting around the conference's two other major hubs.
People will come
For some reason, there's this idea that the Big Ten Tournament needs to be centrally located every year so fans from the schools' home regions can come watch. But there's a reason the attendance is always higher when the Big Ten Tournament is held in Chicago than when it's held in Indianapolis — many fans are local Big Ten transplants.
It's a rough estimate, sure, but SB Nation's Matt Brown calculated how many Big Ten fans live in each major Big Ten "hub," using their LinkedIn data. That excludes a lot of people, so the overall numbers are low, but it should show you, proportionately, the number of alumni each potential Big Ten Tournament site has.
And here are the percentages of those four cities compared to each other:
The Washington Post also reports that there are over 90,000 current Big Ten alumni — excluding Maryland and Rutgers — in the D.C. area.
There's no doubt Chicago has the best combination of bringing in traveling and local fans, but there's certainly reason to believe the Big Ten Tournament crowds in Indianapolis (with an advantage for traveling fans) and Washington, D.C. (with an advantage on local fans) will be relatively similar.
This is not permanent
Jim Delany reiterated on Tuesday that the Big Ten Tournament is not permanently moving to Washington, D.C., though that should come as no surprise. Will Madison Square Garden be added into the rotation? Who knows. But it's a safe bet that the tournament will be in the Midwest between two-thirds and half the time. If you're adamant about attending the Big Ten Tournament every year, it could be worse than having to go on a vacation to D.C. once every three years.
#B1G #Brand #Footprint
People make fun of it, and the dividends won't be obvious right away, but making Washington, D.C., Big Ten country is really important from both a fan base and recruiting perspective. Right now, there are Ohio State fans all around the Midwest — particularly in Chicagoland — not because they live close to Ohio, but because Ohio State is always on TV and kids fall in love with the mystique of the prominent Big Ten team.
Right now, Washington, D.C., is an ACC town, meaning young sports fans who don't want to cheer for Maryland adopt the Carolina teams, because that's who's on TV. The more kids who grow up with the Big Ten in D.C., the more fans the conference will add — and not just fans of Maryland.
The recruiting aspect is also important. D.C. and Baltimore are a major hub of talent. Big Ten schools will have a much better chance of landing top prospects from the area if recruits grew up watching the Big Ten on TV every week, which they certainly will now that the Big Ten Network is making its way into the region.
This will make your school a lot of money
Just moving the Big Ten Tournament to D.C. won't make much of a financial difference, but it's a major step in the conference's goal to "live in two regions," as Delany put it. The more integrated the Big Ten is into the East Coast sports scene, the more TV sets will get the Big Ten Network and the more money the Big Ten will get.
2015 national title
2015 national title
By 2017-18, each Big Ten school is projected to receive $44.5 million from the conference, much of that from TV revenue. That's up from $27 million this year, and an increase of more than $25 million over the course of a decade. That's money that can go to improving facilities, improving athlete welfare, and generally, making Big Ten teams more competitive on a national stage.
College athletics are changing, and the Big Ten is choosing to put its schools in the best position to reap the rewards of that change, rather than get left behind (see: Big 12, The American).
If that means you have to go to Washington, D.C., once every three years to watch your team play in the Big Ten Tournament, it's probably worth the price.