Big Ten adds Maryland, Rutgers likely next, giving league more markets, money
BY HERB GOULD email@example.com November 19, 2012 10:27PM
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany (left) shares a laugh with Maryland football coach Randy Edsall after a news conference to announce the school’s decision to leave the ACC for the Big Ten. | Patrick Semansky~AP
Updated: December 21, 2012 6:26AM
We might think it’s sports, but in another reminder that college sports is big business, the Big Ten annexed Maryland as its 13th member Monday. Rutgers is expected to make the math even fuzzier Tuesday, when it becomes the conference’s 14th team.
The league has no plans to change its name, but don’t rule out the addition of two more teams in the near future. That’s where college sports is moving — four (television) networks of 16-school mega-conferences.
Spurned for two decades by Notre Dame, which added to the insult recently by moving all of its sports except the one that matters (football) to the ACC, the Big Ten struck back, snatching the Terrapins from the ACC.
If the Irish are the Great White Whale in all of this, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany seems to be Captain Ahab.
Not surprisingly, a platoon of Big Ten Network analysts applauded the Maryland acquisition.
‘‘Based on early react from Big 10 analysts, Delany trails only Gandhi, Mandela, MLK among visionaries,’’ Minneapolis sports-talk host Dan Barreiro tweeted.
In another reminder that there’s something uncomfortably inbred about the Big Ten owning the network that covers it, ESPN analysts were not afraid to use their harpoons.
‘‘I just don’t understand it,’’ said Bruce Pearl, the former Iowa assistant and ex-Tennessee coach. ‘‘They talk about student-athlete welfare. How’s the road trip from Maryland to Nebraska going to be for the volleyball team or the fans who want to travel?’’
Another ESPN analyst, former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, also questioned an apparent marriage of convenience.
‘‘There’s an arms war going on right now between the conference commissioners,’’ Greenberg said. ‘‘ ‘You’ve got Notre Dame. We’ve got Maryland.’ It’s about one thing. Cha-ching. Maryland’s having financial problems, and this is a way to solve those problems.’’
What’s the Big Ten’s obsession with money? It just made room for Nebraska in 2011, creating a 12-school loop that allowed it to add a conference championship game that commanded $24 million from Fox. Its member schools already reportedly receive $24 million each from their partnership.
Apparently, that’s not enough. The Big Ten needed to snatch Maryland from its rich ACC tradition and Rutgers — Rutgers? — from the shadow of the Empire State Building for the obvious reason.
The Terrapins and Scarlet Knights will increase the East Coast profile of the Big Ten Network, which will become a must-have for cable providers, especially in the Washington and New York metro areas.
The expansion also will enhance the Big Ten’s position when its other television contracts expire in 2017.
For Maryland, which recently eliminated seven sports because of a budget crunch, it is a much needed financial boon.
‘‘I did it to guarantee the long-term future of Maryland athletics,’’ university president Wallace Loh said. ‘‘No future president will have to worry about cutting teams or that Maryland athletics will be at risk.’’
Why the Big Ten needed to go beyond its geographic profile to create a sprawling, unwieldy 14-school association is not as clear.
‘‘Maybe some people fear the turtle. We embrace the turtle,’’ said Delany, playing on a slogan associated with Maryland’s Terrapin mascot.
What the Big Ten seems to fear, almost irrationally, is losing its status as the nation’s wealthiest college conference to the expansion machinations of other leagues.
MARYLAND VS. BIG TEN 4-44-1
Michigan State 1-4
Penn State 1-35-1
Campus: College Park, Md.
President: Wallace D. Loh
RUTGERS VS. BIG TEN
Michigan State 3-2-0
Penn State 2-22-0
Founded: 1766 9-26-0
Campus: New Brunswick, N.J.
President: Robert L. Barchi