April 21, 2014

Midwest Expansion: Maryland and Rutgers Will Make 14 in ’14 for B1G

You’ve heard the news by now: The University of Maryland has officially been approved to become the 13th member of the Big Ten Conference on July 1st, 2014. Rutgers University will soon follow (the Big Ten has a 1pm press conference scheduled today). With this expansion to the East Coast, the wealthiest conference looks to tap the Baltimore, D.C., New York, and New Jersey markets and add to its coffers. Money drives this deal first and foremost, but what does it mean for the rest of the Big Ten, and in particular, Ohio State? Let’s discuss.

Let me start by saying that I’m not in total agreement with this particular expansion at this particular time. To me, Nebraska was a natural fit. It was a geographic and demographic fit that kept the Big Ten’s focus in the Midwest and the heartland. It brought the conference up to 12 teams, the standard at the time. It added a respected football power to balance the two divisions created as a result. As for this expansion, neither is a athletic juggernaut. Sure, Rutgers has had football success with six bowl games since 2005 and Maryland had some tough and entertaining teams under Gary Williams in basketball, but neither strikes fear into the opposing conferences. I detect a tinge of fear driving this move, trying to stay out ahead of the superconference storm that nearly consumed the Big 12 and has relegated the Big East to a non-AQ conference starting in 2014 after the loss of West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh recently.

One tweet from someone I follow1 mentioned the Big Ten consequently making the ACC even tougher in basketball with the potential addition of Connecticut to replace Maryland. He added that the Big Ten is neither the class of football (SEC) or basketball (ACC). While I certainly agree with that assessment, I would argue that the Big Ten may not be the best in either, but it does have great balance, being consistently relevant in both sports. Has anyone cared about ACC football for nearly a decade? And sure, Kentucky’s a Top 3 program and Florida had their run with Noah and Horford, but there isn’t a whole lot else holding up that conference basketball-wise.

Back to football, the sport where this move has the most impact. If the rumored proposal of the two new schools entering the Leaders Division and Illinois sliding over to the Legends comes to fruition, it will have a drastic effect on Ohio State football. With the current 8-game schedule, the rest of the Legends minus M*ch*g*n2 becomes merely a rumor to OSU. As Doug Lesmirises from The Plain Dealer so clearly pointed out, that means seeing Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Illinois once out of every SIX YEARS. One Nebraska game in the ‘Shoe every dozen years. The Illibuck being played for once every six years. All to play a mediocre Maryland program and a Rutgers program that has been successful but would likely take a step back after entering the B1G.

It begs for a 9-game conference schedule, which is reportedly on the table, and perhaps additional divisional realignment. Sure, this means that Ohio State and others will likely have to fill the schedule with only one cupcake instead of two (or three). But, from the Buckeye perspective, one hopes that a 9-game conference schedule coupled with the high-profile matchups of Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas in the coming years and paired with other AQ conference opponents such as North Carolina and Boston College along with Big East members TCU and Cincinnati will stop the weak schedule discussion.

If the divisions do realign, I think I’m still in favor of keeping Ohio State and Michigan in separate divisions with the protected matchup. These two are the class of the conference, and it makes no sense to prevent your two most high-profile programs from being able to collect division trophies and meet in the Big Ten Championship game. I think the easiest thing to do to spread around the expansion burden is to toss either Maryland or Rutgers in the Legends and have their protected cross-division rivalry game be with the other. That keeps Illinois in the Leaders. As for basketball, it makes sense to go from 18 to 19 games, split into the same divisions as football and play each division opponent twice and everyone else once. I can tell you from the experience of going to a Big Ten basketball game against each team that guaranteeing home games each year against Indiana, Purdue, and Wisconsin would be a very good thing.

If we’re heading towards 16 teams eventually, maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the Big Ten does eventually get that big fish in Texas, Oklahoma, or Notre Dame3 that everyone has been clamoring for since expanasion talk began. Even if it doesn’t, I think the demise of the Big Ten is greatly exaggerated. The buzz for Big Ten basketball is overwhelming with three top five teams and five ranked teams at the start of the season. With football, I believe Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin will all be back to consistent prominence soon. It can be argued that Ohio State barely even left that category. One down year doesn’t doom a conference4 Still, no matter how large you get or how wealthy the schools become, it will take bowl wins on the highest stage to call off the critics and lessen the SEC love affair.

(Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP)

 

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Footnotes:

  1. @BenAxelrod []
  2. Sorry, it is Beat Michigan week, after all. []
  3. Hey, stranger things have happened. []
  4. I know most will point back to the 2006 BCS National Championship Game as the beginning of the conference’s downfall. That may be true, but the regular season bashing has obviously been taken to another level this season when the Big Ten had no one ranked in the Coaches’ Poll for one week. []

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    As a Notre Dame fan, one of these teams should have been the Irish.

    For the life of me I have no clue how being a half member of the ACC is somehow better than a full time member of the Big Ten. I get that they’re raking in cash that they don’t have to share with a conference but they’re ultimately hurting themselves in the long run by dropping Michigan and other rivalry games from the schedule to play the mandatory ACC teams.

  • Natedawg86

    Still room for you ND. We could go to 16. Talk Louisville into coming with you.

  • Steve

    Being half a member in the ACC lets ND keep it’s football independence, while aligning them with schools more like them. ND isn’t a land-grant, AAU, state school. It’s only a fit based on geography. And I just see no way right now for ND and the Big Ten to resolve their differences on TV.

  • Ritz

    “Has anyone cared about ACC football for nearly a decade? And sure,
    Kentucky’s a Top 3 program and Florida had their run with Noah and
    Horford, but there isn’t a whole lot else holding up that conference
    basketball-wise.”

    Umm you know those schools UNC and Duke? Pretty good at basketball – maybe confusing the ACC and SEC?

  • Lloyd Braun

    I completely disagree with Ohio State and Michigan being in separate divisions. The stupidity is compounded by the fact that they kept it as the last game of the year, due to public outcry. So, even if the dream title game match up does happen, it will be tarnished by the fact that they just played the week before. It makes zero sense. If its the last game of the year they need to be in the same division (my preference), but if the Big Ten insists on them being in separate divisions, they have to move the game (absolutely not my preference). They tried to meet public demand half way, which simply doesn’t work.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Agree completely. And why are the divisions not based on geography? Too simple to figure out? They could have easily done North-South or East-West and avoided all of the embarrassing Leaders-Legends nonsense.

  • Kirk

    No,maybe you’re confused. “Has anyone cared about ACC football for nearly a decade?” UNC and Duke are good at basketball, not football. I’m making two different arguments here – one about ACC football and one about SEC basketball – to show that the Big Ten is more balanced in the two sports than the ACC or SEC.

  • Zach

    I believe you are the one confusing the ACC with SEC from the quote.

  • MrCleaveland

    Next step is for Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin to drop out of the B1G and join the SEC. They would be replaced by Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Missouri.

  • Nick

    Um penn state, ohio state, michigan, and michigan state in the same division…. yeah that sounds like a GREAT idea! Why not add nebraska and wisconsin in too

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Because that wouldn’t make sense geographically, that’s why. As for quality of competition, so what? Our East division would be comparable to the SEC West in terms of top teams. I’m not seeing a problem. Plus, are you really worried about Penn State at this point? The odds they recover anytime soon aren’t much better than the odds that a team like Iowa or Illinois or Purdue gets it together.

  • mgbode

    Louisville doesn’t have the academics.

    Would love Virginia, but I figure they’ll be a SEC team eventually.
    Syracuse might be the team we settle on (if we can add ND).
    I suppose Kansas might be an option.

  • mgbode

    it’s a fit based on historical prominence of their football program (and the fact they have a national following that will add to the lucrative TV deal).

    it’s a fit based on the fact they do have good academics (they need to do things differently in a few areas here, but they may be willing).

    and, it could become a fit because the ACC might be crumbling. a long way to go here and it might not, but I could see FSU/Clemson jumping to the BigXII very soon.

  • mgbode

    I don’t get the quality of competition argument either. Wisconsin / Nebraska hold up the West while OSU/Mich hold up the East. MSU is hit or miss and PSU is going to be down for awhile.

    The Big10 isn’t giving up the possibility of a 2 straight weekend of OSU v. Michigan though. So, swap out Mich/Mich St. for Ill/Purdue to get what they might actually consider.

  • mgbode

    “I detect a tinge of fear driving this move”

    missed this line somehow on first read. I completely 100% disagree. I think it is a brilliant tactical move. the ACC was on shaky ground and “thought” they had solidified with the new buyout agreement and pretend-addition of ND.

    now? fire up the FSU/Clemson to the BigXII rumors again. Could UNC/NC State be far behind on a move? Or possibly GaTech?

    noone wants to get left out of what appears to be an inevitable 16×4 conference setup. the BigXII staved off extinction and are now thriving (for now). the Pac12, Big10, and SEC never had much worry. Delaney may have just put the trump card down on the ACC though.

    I like it. Pro-active and cut-throat. Everything the Big10 has NOT been in recent years.

  • Garry_Owen

    As I see this whole thing play out, I think it’s entirely about Notre Dame. The Big Ten has been trying to get Notre Dame in the conference since Touchdown Jesus was a touchdown baby.

    By grabbing Maryland, the Big Ten has considerably weakened the attraction of the ACC and its ability to restructure into any sort of prominence (with Rutgers now not a viable replacement and a stronger Big Ten presence in the mid-atlantic with PSU, MD, and Rutgers). Notre Dame is seriously going to have to consider linking its football program to a major conference – and it sure won’t be the ACC. They will have to sever their relationship with the ACC, and sooner than anyone thought. That pretty much leaves the Big Ten.

    Patience, patience. It will happen. Not as soon as a lot of us would like to see (like in 1993!); but it will happen.

  • Garry_Owen

    Probably Syracuse; though I’m not giving up hope on Texas.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’ve always seen Notre Dame as being in the mold of Northwestern. From that perspective, it’s a viable fit (inclusion by exception).
    Agree that the TV deal is the biggest hang up. It could work, but it would mean NBC giving up the rights to two more games.

  • mgbode

    Texas will not play by the Big10 rules. No way, no how. They do their own thing and will not be a part of the whole.

    That goes for their sports, their research, everything. They would be a bad fit (though if they would change their philosophy on life it would be an awesome addition).

  • mgbode

    will they join the BigXII just out of spite though?

  • Garry_Owen

    Could happen, I suppose; but it would be stupid. There is no connection at all (that I’m aware of) between the Big XII schools and ND. There is already a huge history of connections and rivalries with the Big Ten.

  • mgbode

    ND & Texas consulted each other heavily in the last round. They both want to keep their own TV network and were working out possibilities.

    On the field? Does that matter anymore :)

  • Garry_Owen

    It can to powerful alumni! (That’s what I’m banking on here, you know, since the dollar sucks and all . . .)

  • Steve

    There is no way ND is sharing the money they get paid to be on NBC, and there is no way Delaney is going to let one of his teams get paid without everyone else getting a share. Not happening with NBC.

  • Steve

    There’s a lot of historically prominent, highly ranked schools. They aren’t all fits. And they would need to do more than a few things differently. It’s a completely different set up to be part of the CIC.

    Sure, if the ACC falls apart, then obviously there is no conference of similar schools for ND. But as long as there is an ACC (the presumption they were under when they joined), ND fits better there than anywhere else.

  • Garry_Owen

    You’re probably right, but I could see a situation where both sides are willing to cave a little bit. As it is, I believe that NBC is currently required to release ND for at least one game per year (maybe more – post-season for sure) to other networks. It’s possible (not probable, but possible) that NBC could be (very richly) incentivized by the Big Ten to release two more (which could also partially solve the revenue sharing issue between ND and the conference).

    Contract negotiations can be really creative. If both ND and the Big Ten came to the mutual agreement that the relationship was the right move for both, I’d bet that they could figure something out between them and with NBC. I can imagine a whole world of creative solutions (and would LOVE to be one of the attorneys at the table!).

  • thepaledragon

    These are all very important points.

    ND is a small private school with a greater focus on undergraduate education whereas in the B1G all but Northwestern are large, public, research-oriented institutions. BC, Duke, Wake, etc. are better cultural fits.

    ND could not enter the B1G without giving up their NBC contract, and that’s not going to happen. The ACC allows them the best of both worlds: they keep the NBC contract and they get the security of the partial conference schedule and the Orange Bowl tie-in.

  • Steve

    Sure, there might be a possible number that works for both sides. I’m just not seeing it though. NBC broadcasts only ND home games (and gets all of them), so it’s not about releasing another game or two. It’s about what happens when Minnesota comes to South Bend for a game that would otherwise be on the Big Ten Network. ND wants all the NBC money, and the Big Ten wants to split all that money evenly, and neither side is coming close to compromising.

  • mgbode

    NBC only has ND home games.

  • Garry_Owen

    Even better. So the BTN can have them on, say, 4 away games!

  • mgbode

    That was the case for years and years, but I think it is invalid now. ND makes ~$20mil/season from NBC and ABC/ESPN. Big10 teams make $24mil/year from their deals.

    Both are up soon for renegotiations. But, talk is Big10 getting close to $40mil/years with Maryland/Rutgers. With ND? Who knows.

    I do know that it is likely ND cannot pull in the money by themselves without their own network, which they do not currently have (NBC jokes aside).

    ND doesn’t want in the Big10 more to do with pride and history. According to many on the past few threads, they should be applauded for such “honor”

  • mgbode

    have to fight ABC/ESPN contracts for those :)

    anyway, see below. TV deals I do not think are the holdup with regards to the Big10.

  • mgbode

    powerful alumni are also why ND is hesitant at even discussing the Big10 as an option unfortunately.

    and for Texas, you apparently do not understand the Big10 is full of damn Yankees :)

  • Garry_Owen

    So why go after those lukewarm borderstaters in Maryland? This Big Ten is becoming a Big Tent!

  • mgbode

    the hope is to back them in the corner with no other choice :)

  • Ritz

    Got it now, just very confusing as written. ‘That confrence’ refers to a conference other than the most recent one mentioned, thus confusing, at least to me.

  • Steve

    Looking at how well each schools recruiting under Meyer/Hoke, it’s going to be the Big Two and little eight (12, I guess) again. Wisconsin and Nebraska will hold their own, and win a couple Big Ten titles, but Ohio St and Michigan are going to be the dominant teams again soon.

  • Steve

    ND was getting 20 million for a bunch of 7-5 years. We’ll see what happens now. Absolutely do pride and history come into play. But ND knows just how much money comes in when they have the kind of season they are having right now.

  • jemblue

    Michigan and OSU need to be in the same division. Separating us hurts the rivalry. We should be competing for that division title and playing a single, winner-take-all game in November to decide it. That’s what every other conference has done with its big rivals. Florida and UGA are in the same division, as are Alabama/Auburn, Texas/Oklahoma, USC/UCLA, etc. Only the Big Ten wants to do it differently. If/when the two schools meet in the title game a week later, it will be obvious to everyone that it was a mistake.

  • jemblue

    That’s fine, but we don’t need to be in separate divisions. There’s nothing wrong with having the two in the same division, which guarantees a hugely important game every year at the end of November. The SEC isn’t falling apart because Alabama and LSU are both in the West.

  • mgbode

    i don’t really care either way, but the Big10 has shown they want that possible OSU v. Mich champ payoff, so I don’t see much use belaboring the point.

  • mgbode

    they don’t redo the TV deal each year. they’ve made BCS games in the past decade.
    the question now is if NBC will give them the same type of payout that the Big10 network can. maybe? i don’t know. it seems possible at least that the conglomerate is becoming stronger than the singular though (if they create a FIN – fighting irish network, then all bets are off)