Back in January, when UW-Madison announced plans to construct an "athletic village" at Camp Randall, consisting of a training center and academic facility on the north end of the stadium, associate athletic director Justin Doherty explained why in simple terms.
"We need to do it because it will help us remain competitive," he said.
The new facility, now nearly complete, is pretty slick. It might help land some recruits who are impressed by spacious weight rooms. It also might help athletes get stronger, faster and even smarter than they would have with outdated facilities. It's about winning games and races, right?
This is similar to the point offered by Jim Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten, in attempting to justify last week why the conference will expand to include Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. Expansion is needed to remain competitive with the other big conferences. More schools means a bigger "footprint" for the conference's cable TV network, which helps increase revenue needed to build those athletic villages. And at a time when all the major conferences are looking to expand, it's better to go after schools with ties to major metro areas than to wait and get stuck with the leftovers.
But it's hard to argue that expansion improves the typical fan's experience. Ticket prices aren't going down, and the schedule is less compelling without yearly games against true rivals like Iowa and Northwestern. Season ticket holders are bombarded with advertising at games and still hit up for "donations" to keep their seats each year.
It all makes sense on a competitive level. But where's the finish line for this college sports spending race? When do we find out who wins? Will it be the school with the biggest weight room, or the most luxury boxes?