Photo courtesy of University of Toronto Athletics
With the Big 10’s current TV contract expiring at the end of the 2022-23 school year, speculation has began to grow about conference realignment. With the most recent expansion bringing in Rutgers and Maryland due to their robust television markets, the question remains whether the conference will look to grow their reach yet again.
While many fans within the conference would love to see the inclusion of national powers Cincinnati and Notre Dame or the rekindling of old rivalries by inviting Pitt and West Virginia, there may be a third, less conventional option.
Though this rumor first picked up steam in 2012, the notion that the University of Toronto could become the first Canadian team in the FBS has resurfaced as the conference makes its decision on how to move forward.
The pros of this decision are pretty straightforward in my eyes, and make a strong case for their inclusion. The New York/New jersey television market was the belle of the ball for former Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany, so imagine the upside of bringing in an entire country’s sports viewer-base. With more than 50% of Canada’s population living within Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal, there’s reason to believe that this could make the Big 10 far and away the most viewed conference in college athletics.
Even despite the money that would undoubtedly come with this move, the downside leaves a very important question to ponder. Could the University of Toronto be competitive within the Big 10?
The short answer to this is likely not, however we will take a look at the longer, more complicated answer nonetheless.
The University of Toronto Varsity Blues are one of the most historically successful programs in U Sports (Canadian NCAA). Unfortunately, they are closer to being the Yale of Canada than they are to being the Alabama Crimson Tide. By this of course, I mean that their historical success takes a fair bit of deep diving, with their last winning season coming more than 2 decades ago.
In terms of winning games, there’s really no question of whether the Varsity Blues can compete with the top of the conference, because they can’t. Toronto would have as much of a hand in deciding the Big 10 Champion as Rutgers or Maryland, but does the expanded audience make up for the lack of instant competitiveness?
The answer to that question, I believe, is a resounding yes. Would I love to see Notre Dame and Cincinnati taking on the big dogs of the conference every season? Sure, but this would be something we’ve never seen before, and therefore it’s essentially a no-brainer for me.
We’ll have to wait and see what the Big 10 will do as this is just hearsay after all, but whatever decision is made should heavily consider all options, including the Toronto Varsity Blues.