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It’s not ALL about football with Big Ten

T-R Column

November 22, 2012
By TROY HYDE - T-R Assistant Sports Editor (thyde@timesrepublican.com) , Times-Republican

You are either growing, or you're dying.

That must have been what the Big Ten Conference was thinking when it decided to add two new teams to an already financially stable league.

Maryland and Rutgers are the latest programs to jump their conferences to join another and will be official members in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, respectively.

While I have never been a huge fan of change and don't really care for this whole expansion thing, I understand it and get what the Big Ten Conference is doing.

Does Maryland and Rutgers help the conference be better at playing football? Absolutely not. Does it help the league continue to prosper and profit by adding cable contracts to a largely populated area of the United States? You bet.

If people were not watching the Big Ten Network before, fans of these programs may do so now. The fans don't really even need to watch. The Big Ten Conference will make money simply by signing cable contracts with cable providers on the East Coast - primarily the New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C. and Baltimore markets - that never really had a reason to carry the Big Ten Network before.

Maryland has had a few down years in athletics, but it is a good program with solid tradition. The university recently had to cut seven programs from their sports department because of major financial issues. The Terrapins won't have to worry about being financially unstable once they hit the Big Ten Conference.

Rutgers doesn't provide the Big Ten Conference much from an athletic standpoint. It has a good football program but they struggle to fill their stadium.

Rutgers was more valuable in the television world and also is one of the best research institutions in the country, which also fits into the Big Ten Conference wanting to adhere to a certain academic standard.

"The Big Ten includes America's most highly regarded academic institutions, known for both their athletic success and academic achievement," said Rutgers President Robert Barchi. "This is exactly the right conference for of the nation's leading research universities and our student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the playing field."

Maryland also fits into that academic standard - the Association of American Universities or AAU.

Currently, 11 of the 12 schools in the Big Ten Conference are currently AAU members. Nebraska was a member when they joined two years ago but has since dropped out.

Maryland and Rutgers also are members of that small fraternity.

So, this move was more about money and academics than it was about football. And I am perfectly OK with that.

"The Big Ten Conference is pleased to announce that Rutgers University will soon join the conference family," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "The additions of Rutgers and the University of Maryland further expand the Big Ten's footprint while helping solidify our presence on the East Coast. Both institutions feature a combination of academic and athletic excellence and will prove a great fit for our future."

While I am not a fan of expanding into the Super Conferences, it does please me that the Big Ten Conference is sticking to its academic standards and not just letting in anyone who is good at football.

With the Big Ten Conference likely gaining more television market coverage, the league now has a firm grip in large markets such as New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The financial stability for the Big Ten must be significant. Maryland was struggling financially and has to pay $50 million to get out of the ACC and agreed to do it.

The Big Ten Conference has been laughed at this season for its inability to compete with other major conferences on the football field.

I am sure Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany isn't happy about that. But he is happy that the league stays with what it believes in. The Big Ten is able to make similar money or more money than those other major leagues and didn't have to go against what it believed in to get there.

From a football standpoint, this will be beneficial for Iowa and its fans from a rivalry standpoint.

Maryland and Rutgers will likely be in the Leaders Division to take advantage of short road trips with Penn State and Ohio State.

The Legends Division will then get Illinois to put seven in each league. Having Illinois back will re-open an Iowa-Illinois series that probably should have never left. And it puts Illinois and in-state rival Northwestern back in the same division, too.

If the league wants to continue to expand - and we should fully expect it - they could go a lot of different directions.

If the Big Ten Conference wants to add some team from the Midwest, there is always a chance Missouri and Kansas could get another look. Both of those teams are a part of the AAU academic standard and both would provide benefits athletically and from a television market standpoint.

More popular choices among the media right now include AAU academic standard programs like Georgia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina and Pittsburgh.

Taking more teams from the ACC and Big East seem to be the way everyone is going these days. They seem to be the most unstable of the six power conferences.

It would be hard to believe North Carolina would leave the ACC without Duke, so that is unlikely unless Duke comes with them. The university in Durham, N.C., though does fit into the AAU standard.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz was asked about the Big Ten's decision to add Maryland and Rutgers on Tuesday, but the long-time coach preferred to stick with things he can control Friday against Nebraska.

"I haven't had much time to think about that," he said. "I caught wind of it like everybody over the weekend. I think it was floating around out there in cyber space. It has materialized into becoming a reality here in the last day and a half. So I haven't thought much about it. They're not on our schedule until at least '14, so we'll see."

That sounds like the same old Ferentz. But it is not the same old Big Ten.

 
 

 

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