So it looks like it's going to happen. Maryland and Rutgers are coming to the Big Ten- or to put it more accurately, their potentially large TV markets are coming to the Big Ten Network. Not excited? Neither is anybody else except those standing to profit from the risky move.
Up until today, as a fan of a Big Ten school, I've had the luxury of scoffing at every other conference for the school's they've added in the past few years of realignment shenanigans. The PAC 12 tried to hit a home run with Texas and OU but settled (which is about as vast an understatement as you can get) for Utah and CU. Good for you. The ACC added Syracuse, Pitt, and all of Notre Dame's sports except the only one that matters. Whoop-tee-doo! The Big East is a joke that does not belong in the "major conference discussions" because schools have been leaping off their boat like the sinking Titanic while the Big 12 lost Texas A&M and Mizzou and replaced them with...TCU and West Virginia? Even the mighty SEC looked a tad shaky for including Mizzou, a team the Big Ten turned down, as a 14th member when they made the no-brainer to add Texas A&M. How desparate of you!
But the Big Ten? There was no scoffing to be done. Sure they had flirted with bigger names and grander plans, but the B1G finally choosing Nebraska and only Nebraska to get to 12 teams and ONLY 12 teams just showed their place in the market. Commissioner Jim Delaney and his now 12 school presidents could look down their noses at all these other scrambling conferences and their wild additions that made no sense competitively and perhaps only a little more fiancially (the SEC excluded, obviously) because they added a national brand in the Huskers that looked to fit both culturally and geographically, and oh-by-the-way most definitely financially too.
While adding Nebraska was certainly about the money, it was an easy sell to Big Ten fans because other than Notre Dame, it was the school out there that made sense to us for competition and geography and culture. It was certainly all about the money and enhancing the brand, but we as fans didn't care because everything else just seemed to fit so well. The Big Ten looked stable, prominent, and above it all, so, so far away from desperate greedy.
All of that changed today with the announcement that Maryland's Board of Regents voted unanimously for the Terrapins to move to the Big Ten. Rutgers should follow shortly. While the move makes a helluva lot of sense financially for Maryland, Rutgers, and potentially for the Big Ten, it makes zero sense from a perspective of the things fans care about: competition, geography, and culture. Unlike with the announcement of adding Nebraska, zero fans across the Big Ten were excited about this potential move. Nobody will be lining up to buy tickets when the Terps or Scarlet Knights come to town, and you won't see people excitedly planning road trips to College Park or freaking New Jersey like our own GoAUpher and many other Minnesota fans did this past weekend to Lincoln. The addition of both schools not only doesn't excite the masses, but it will actually take football games away from more rivalries and more schools that we currently DO care about.
And of course, that doesn't matter one bit to Delaney and the Big Ten. It helps that they're both strong academic schools, but even that doesn't matter at all: All that matters is the potential television markets the two schools could possibly bring with them, yet even that doesn't seem to be guaranteed.
During the last go-around for conference expansion Rutgers and the massive New York City TV market, as well as other northeast schools, were certainly mentioned quite a bit as potential expansion targets. In the end, it seemed the hurdles to get the Big Ten Network on basic cable in those large markets were too great to navigate. Apparently, the B1G feels confident enough that has changed that they're willing to go through with this, even though according to people like SI.com's Pete Thamel, it still looks to be a risky move. Getting BTN on basic cable in DC and Baltimore should be a little easier because Maryland basketball is huge in that area. Not so much Rutgers anything in New York. Word is the B1G is hoping to overcome that as Fox, which owns 49% of the BTN, is looking to purchase the YES Network with hopes of strong-arming the BTN into the basic cable tier along with it. Apparently even without the NYC market the Big Ten is still estimating an additional $100 million per year in TV revenue for its schools, and that includes a 13th and 14th member, meaning the schools could be looking at north of $30 million per year each.
To me, this still seems like a pretty large risk if they don't even have a spot in the New York market basic cable tier secured, but obviously Delaney hasn't made the Big Ten into the revenue juggernaut it is by taking uncalculated risks. Then again, the Longhorn Network was supposed to be a cash cow, and that hasn't been going so well thus far.
As it stands, it looks like this is going to happen, and it's going to happen soley for the money. I'm ashamed of the Big Ten today because while I know this ALWAYS been about the money, this move just seems to blatant and greedy and thumbs its nose (or maybe flips its middle finger) at the fans. Maybe I'm ashamed of myself because I wanted to believe all along that the B1G was bigger and better than this, and wouldn't expand again for the sake of expansion and a money grab, yet that's exactly what they're doing. The Big Ten might be richer today because of this, but by adding Maryland and Rutgers, they've just made themselves like every other conference who is choosing money over their fans.
ESPN.com is reporting that Maryland and Rutgers will join the
Leaders East division, moving Illinois to the Legends West division:
You'd really have to wonder about competitive balance, especially if Penn State takes a step backward when the NCAA sanctions fully kick in. On paper, at least, it looks as though Ohio State and Wisconsin would have a huge advantage over the rest of the Leaders Division.
I agree with that sentiment. Funny how they talked about wanting "competitive balance" in the divisional alignment, and yet they could have gotten it with a simple geographic split. But because of their insistence on keeping Michigan and Ohio State separated, that won't happen, and the divisions will continue to NOT be competitively balanced for the forseeable future.
Um...but welcome Maryland and Rutgers? Welcome Maryland and Rutgers.