Big…14? Maryland & Rutgers

University of Maryland (ACC) and Rutgers (Big East) announce today that they will be joining the Big Ten conference in what many believe is a high-risk high-reward move for the conference.  Adding Maryland and Rutgers means the Big Ten can now tap into the population dense TV market from DC to NYC.   There are an estimated 15 million available households in the New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. markets. In fact, DC had the nation’s largest growth rate, at 2.7 percent.  If the Big Ten Network got on basic cable in all those places, the per-household figure by the time Rutgers and Maryland joined the league would project in the neighborhood of $1.25 per month. That would equate to about $200 million per year.

The Big Ten is already by far the most profitable conference, in large part to the Big Ten Network, and by adding Rutgers and Maryland, it could become ever more so.  This doesn’t just mean money for athletic programs, it also provides valuable funds for academics and the university as whole.  Money is a big motivator and the Big Ten knows it.

Find the people to find the money

Geographic impact
Penn State is currently the team farthest to the East in what many label as a Midwest conference.  Nebraska was the last team to be picked up by the Big Ten. Now, with the addition of two East Coast universities, the demographic expands East. Why?  Population density.  More people, more televisions, more money.  Technically, no longer a Midwest conference, perhaps the Union conference?  Although Maryland falls below the Mason-Dixon line, it remained in the Union thanks to a little ‘push and shove’ from old Abe Lincoln…

‘Non-college football’ territory?
Many argue that name-brand college football is not a big part of the landscape along the I-95 corridor, or at least nothing like the South and parts of the Midwest.  Here, professional sports reign supreme.  However, I imagine once Michigan, OSU, Nebraska, and PSU start showing up on a regular basis , major-college football will have arrived.  For PSU fans, it might serve as another home game!

Division realignment  East / West

Leaders Legends
Maryland Michigan
Rutgers MSU
PSU Nebraska
OSU Iowa
Purdue Illinois
Indiana Northwestern
Wisconsin Minnesota

The exception here is that Illinois is bumped to the Legends division while Wisconsin remains in the Leaders division.  Geographically, Wisconsin is definitely the outlier, but I imagine the Big Ten big whigs knew that moving Wisconsin and keeping Illinois in the Leaders division would’ve left PSU and OSU as the only consistently relevant football programs.

Updated Big Ten conference

Are we done at 14 teams?
Many thought the conference was done after pulling in Nebraska.  The only exception would’ve been Notre Dame.  My how that has changed.  Rutgers leaves a Big East conference desperately trying to hold on as teams continue to drop, whereas Maryland leaves a strong ACC conference to obtain the financial benefits of being in the Big Ten.  Maryland was forced to cut funding for seven sports teams this season as a result of a massive budget deficit and by joining the Big Ten, finances may no longer be an issue.  Talent on the other hand may take a while.  ACC is already on the move to find a replacement while Big East is back to the drawing board….

How will it impact PSU?
Hard to say at the moment, time will tell.  One positive though is that PSU is no longer alone in the East.  With large fan bases in New Jersey and the greater DC area, fans can watch and attend games close to home.  The question of recruiting has also come up.  PSU has had tremendous success recruiting in these areas, but will the addition of Maryland and Rutgers present a new challenge?  Will OSU, Michigan, Nebraska become bigger competitors in the region?  Easier to sell a DC recruit to attend OSU when he knows that he’ll be playing some games in Maryland, allowing his family and friends to attend.  Same goes for PSU though.  So all in all, hard to say how the additions will affect recruitment.

Conclusion
It’s all about the benjamins — to argue otherwise would be idiotic.  This is certainly a bold move by the Big Ten and time will tell to see how it plays out.  Big Ten is currently very stable, but of course never satisfied and knew the long-term potential of having a presence along the East Coast.   Rutgers and Maryland may not be the athletic powers many Big Ten fans had hoped for, but the move allows the Big Ten to become bigger and stronger than ever.  And for PSU, that’s a good thing.

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