Could the Big Ten get any more mediocre? Apparently, yes. According to ESPN the Big Ten is negotiating with Maryland to become the 13th member of the conference. Rutgers would be the 14th. Conference realignment is alive.
Can This Happen? Both Maryland and Rutgers have bankrupt athletic departments. Maryland cut seven sports last summer. Rutgers’ athletic department receives nearly $20 million per year in subsidies from the university. Maryland would have to foot the ACC’s $50 million buyout (voted against it). The school may be getting a large donation from Kevin Planck, coincidentally selling a huge chunk of Under Armour stock.
What’s in this for Maryland and Rutgers? Money. The Big East stinks. The ACC signed a low ball TV deal. The Big Ten makes significantly more now. It will make even more than it does now when the conference’s current first-tier rights deal expires. The Big Ten signed away their first-tier rights in 2006, before the huge TV revenue boom. Bidding for those rights, the only major football rights to come available until the Mid-2020s could be astronomical. That’s not to mention the Big Ten network, postseason revenue and other ancillary benefits. It’s conceivable that could be worth the steep buyout.
What is in this for the Big Ten? These are two mediocre, not especially well-supported football programs. Though there is potential Big Ten money could provide a boost. Including New Jersey and Maryland would add 15 million to the conference’s TV footprint. They could also claim a greater foothold in New York and DC. Does adding that to the pie outweigh the cost of dividing the pie by 14 instead of 12 and muddling the conference’s identity? Does that move make more sense than the Virginia schools? Or a Duke/UNC combo?
Dominoes Falling. What do the ACC and Big East do? The ACC presumably has to get back to 14? Would that be Louisville or UConn? What happens if the $50 million buyout turns out to be non-enforceable? Does this open the floodgates for the Big 12? The SEC maybe going to 16? Fun times ahead. Possibly super conferences.
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