The Presidents of the Big Ten universities are back for another money grab. On Monday, the University of Maryland announced it was leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference to join the even-more-incorrectly-named Big Ten in 2014. Today, Rutgers (the State University of New Jersey) is expected to announce that it is leaving the Big East to join the soon-to-be-14-member-Big Ten.
When you look at the additions from a purely intercollegiate athletics standpoint, adding Maryland and Rutgers does absolutely nothing for the profile of the conference. Maryland has had some success in college basketball and soccer--but they bring nothing to the table in terms of football (and they don't have a hockey team to bolster the new Big Ten league in that sport). Rutgers is noted for women's basketball and not much else--despite being in one of the most fertile recruiting areas for both football and basketball (and they don't play hockey either). So how exactly does this benefit the Big Ten?
Well, you need to look at all of the off-the-field stuff. Namely, adding Maryland (and the Washington DC market as well) along with New York City to areas served by the Big Ten Network--you bring in millions more potential TV viewers that BTN can sell to advertisers. And since the soon to be 14 members get to keep all of that revenue, the cash registers in the University Presidents' offices will be ringing up a storm. That is also two more teams that can garner bowl game invites and NCAA Basketball tournament slots--meaning more ka-ching!
Coaches will go along with this expansion--not because it guarantees a spot in the BCS championship game every year like the SEC has--but because now you can showcase your team to high school kids in New Jersey, New York City and the Mid-Easter Seaboard a couple of times a year--expanding the potential talent pool even more.
The big losers in all of this is of course, the fans. In the "good old days" of ten teams in the Big Ten, you could make a weekend road trip to any school in the conference. In fact, the only campuses I have never visited are Penn State and Nebraska. But a drive to College Park, Maryland or Rutgers, New Jersey would require a three day commitment minimum. Unless you want to fly, and then you pretty much give up tailgating before and after the game--plus you'd have to rent a car to get to the campus, etc, etc.
And how do you develop a rivalry with schools seven states away? How many Maryland alums or Rutgers grads do you run into around here? We have fans of four different Big Ten schools here in our office alone--and that makes game weeks even more fun. I doubt Wisconsin fans will ever develop a rich "hatred" for the Scarlet Knights or the Terrapins.
We should also mention that taxpayers are going to take it in the shorts here as well (no surprise there), as the addition of two more schools in the more expensive Eastern Seaboard area will now be used to determine the "Conference average salaries" for faculty and adminstrators. Never mind that the cost of living is exponentially higher in New Jersey and Maryland, the fact that "they are making far more than us" will be brought up every time professors and chancellors in Madison, Iowa City and Lincoln appear before their respective boards of regents.
So what do you say we finally get a name that accurately fits our ever-expanding conference. I don't mean "The Big 14". I was thinking more along the lines of the "Cash Cow Conference" or maybe "The Moneygrabbers".