The Big 14? What could possibly go wrong?

This is obviously late, but with my cousin in town and other festivities going on, it was a bit difficult to find time to write this post.  Rutgers and Maryland; definitely not 1st round draft picks, not even 2nd rounders.  Maryland at least has a decent basketball team, and Rutgers was the first football team ever, but otherwise there is literally nothing impressive about these additions.  There is nothing that gets you excited about this.  To be honest, I just hate conference expansion.  The people in charge are just telling you that money is more important than anything else, and I value tradition.

To state the obvious, this was strictly to increase revenue and to negotiate a bigger television contract with ESPN.  A quick money grab that will ruin conference integrity.  This is how this is going to be viewed by every single person that sees this and I don’t blame them.  I’m not sure how else you could possibly view an action like this in any other way; I certainly will refuse to look at it in any other light.  Here’s an interesting fact from “While getting all 15 million homes is unlikely, this could potentially be a $100 million annual television windfall for the Big Ten. (That figure doesn’t include the additional money that will come from the added markets and games when the Big Ten negotiates its next television contract in 2017.) It’s estimated that the Big Ten’s annual payout could increase to between $30-35 million per year, nearly double the ACC’s $17 million payout.”  15 Million additional homes paying for Big Ten Network would be massive, but I think it is a huge overestimation.

Big Ten President Jim Delany says it all with his quotes over the past few months.

Before I dive into the problems I have with the Big Ten doing this, let me preface it by saying I completely understand why Maryland and Rutgers are joining.  Who wouldn’t want to join the Big Ten if you’re going to leave the ACC or the Big East?  Plus, Maryland and Rutgers will make way more money than they would have before.  Maryland was broke and had to cut seven varsity sports recently because there didn’t have enough money, and they still were losing money.  They were barely keeping the Athletic Department afloat; he Big Ten just basically bailed them out.  Think of this as the government bailing out the car companies, only with Athletic Departments and sports conferences.  It’s a good thing that the ACC just approved a $50 Million exit “sum” in order to get out of the conference.  How Maryland will pay for this I don’t know, but FSU will be paying close attention.  At least for Rutgers they will only have to pay $10 Million and give the Big East 27 months notice.

I bet the ACC adds UConn to replace Maryland, which nobody seems to see as a huge loss for the conference.  Florida State and Clemson will be two teams to keep an eye on though, because I think they will be looking to make a run for it.  Florida State would fit in nicely in the SEC, or if they prefer to not have as much strict competition they could head over to the Big 12.  Meanwhile, Maryland is going to make bank.

That is a HUGE monetary difference and a no-brainer on Maryland’s part.  Their President even said during the press conference announcement that they had to forgo tradition to make money so they could bring back their other sports.  At least he was honest about everything, unlike most people.  Especially that little snake Jim Delany.

The Big Ten is the real issue here.  They said they wanted quality not quantity and then say that there is no quality out there?  Give me a break.  Once Notre Dame “joined” the ACC and the Pac-12 cancelled their deal with the Big Ten to have those crossover games, they decided they needed to do something to improve their value as a conference before 2017.  They needed a way to create more of a net worth in order to get a bigger television contract (2017 is when their current contract is up).  According to ESPN, “the Big Ten has been itchy about further expansion since Notre Dame made its official move to the ACC two months ago in all sports other than football.”

The only issue is that no one cares about Rutgers or Maryland outside of those two areas.  You cannot tell me that people in New York care about Rutgers.  Rutgers is in New Jersey in case you didn’t know, and as far as I know, most New Yorkers hate New Jersey.  Sure, Maryland brings in the D.C. area, but that doesn’t add much.  Most people in New York and the D.C. area care far more about pro sports than they do collegiate sports.  The people can argue that alumni of those schools are in different areas will want the Network, but I still don’t see that making a massive dent.

Then they take about helping the Big Ten footprint and their recruiting, but really?  That’s not going to do much.  Most of the major Big Ten schools already recruit nationally, and playing in the conference will only help Maryland, Maryland kids aren’t going to want to play for Michigan or Ohio State more than before.  Sure, maybe they’ll get one game in their home state one of their four years, but if you care about playing at home that much, you’re going to play near home.  Also, the Big Ten adding an office out in the East completely destroys their Midwest tradition and that irks me.

Then you look at the conferences and specifically the divisions and if the Maryland President is correct, then they have already been determined.

Personally I think that these will end up being the divisions.  I know Jim Delany has “denied it,” but he proved that his word is for shit.  If he really wanted 14 teams from the start or thought Rutgers and Maryland were worthy, he would have added them with Nebraska and gone right to 14.  The worst part about these divisions is it will effectively screw Michigan, at least if Wisconsin continues to trend downward.  Maryland and Rutgers will continue to be layup games for them, and even if Penn State gets good again, thanks to the NCAA’s irrationality, they’re banned for another three years.

Do I think the divisions need to be realigned?  Yes.  At the very least they need to be renamed.  How would I re-align them?  I’m not sure, but I foresee a scenario where Michigan and Ohio State are in the same division and still play the last game of the year.

But think of a scenario like this.  Michigan’s permanent cross over game is Ohio State.  A team like Michigan State gets Indiana, and Nebraska has Penn State.  BUT, these would all change with these new divisions, EXCEPT for Michigan’s crossover.  So imagine a year when Michigan has Wisconsin and Ohio State for their crossover, but Michigan State only has Indiana and Purdue or Nebraska has Iowa and Minnesota.  Can you say lopsided?  They need to do something to prevent against this.  Logically going to 9 Big Ten conference games will have to happen at some point, but it hasn’t been approved yet.  How they are going to change the schedules I’m not sure.  But there will be teams that get screwed over by schedules, and Michigan having a protected rival of Ohio State is going to cost them.  They might as well put Michigan and Ohio State in the same division, let them play the last game of the year and it’s more than likely the winner would win the Big Ten Championship anyways.

To recap all of it, Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten and get free money.  They provide nothing to the Big Ten other than allow it to negotiate a bigger television contract and create schedule problems.  Sweet deal.  Let’s add two struggling teams that are historically terrible to a conference that is struggling mightily.  Rutgers was ranked #1 for one week and that was when Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 in 1869 in the first college game ever.  Tradition has been forgotten about for money.  Both Rutgers and Maryland were founding members of the conferences they are leaving, yet, that seems not to matter to them.  During his press conference, Maryland President Wallace Loh kept talking about how this improves their education and their academics, but it doesn’t.  Joining the Big Ten doesn’t make you a better school, sure it may give you more “prestige,” but don’t act like that is the reason you sold out to do this.

I don’t like the move, but it is what it is.  So long as Maryland and Rutgers stay on the other side of the division, I will just be thankful that Michigan doesn’t have to watch them play in football very often.  As if we needed anymore years with horrible home schedules.

A few more interesting reads:

Yahoo Sports

ESPN: Maryland, Rutgers to Big Ten?

ESPN: Maryland Terrapins to join Big Ten

Photos courtesy of Alternative Hero

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