Scott D. Pierce: Utah TV market no selling point

Published: Monday, Oct. 5 2015 9:19 p.m. MDT

A few days ago, the Deseret News ran a story headlined, "New markets, TV driving Big Ten expansion talks."

I'm tempted to say something like, "Well, duh." Except that so many people out there speculating on possible expansion of the Big Ten and/or Pac-10, as well as all the fallout that would result, don't seem to get it.

For the most part, this is all about money. And TV deals — which are fueled by population centers and viewers — are where the money is.

I've been telling you this since 1993, before the TV prompted the Big 8 to become the Big 12, when BYU and Utah were in the WAC and USU was in the Big West.

Expansion is not about geography. If that was true, why would Texas be mentioned in Big Ten expansion talk? The addition of Penn State took the league beyond its traditional Midwestern makeup, but the 11 current teams are in eight contiguous states.

Texas is three states away, about 850 miles away from the nearest current Big Ten members, Illinois and Iowa.

But there are about 25 million people in Texas. The Dallas-Fort Worth TV market alone is the nation's fifth largest.

(I know, UT isn't in Dallas-Fort Worth. But the Longhorns are a huge draw there.)

If you're looking to expand the market for the Big Ten Network or get more money out of ESPN, you could hardly do better than adding Texas. Unless maybe you go into the No. 1 market, New York. And that's why nearby Rutgers is getting talked up.

Which brings us to the local schools. What are the odds that Utah or BYU would be invited to join, say, the Pac-10 or the Big 12?

Based purely on population — more specifically, on TV sets — neither school is particularly attractive as a primary target. The Salt Lake market (which includes all of Utah and parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada) has grown. And moved up the rankings — we're now No. 31.

But the estimated 944,060 TV-equipped homes here constitute only .822 percent of the national total. That doesn't make a Utah-based school particularly attractive.

That's not to say that neither school has a chance of joining a bigger league. Maybe the Pac-10 needs Utah as a 12th team so that it can play a football championship game. Maybe the Big 12 needs BYU to fill openings left when current members leave for the Big Ten.

The one thing that would help the Utes and the Cougars the most is beyond their control. Unless they know a way to get a couple million more people to move here. Quick.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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