This week’s college football news finds Maryland and Rutgers jumping to the Big Ten, which is actually the Big Somewhat More Than Ten. What difference does it make? Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports helped Bill Littlefield to straighten that out.
Forde’s recent article on conference jumping began by asserting that Maryland had turned “a financial mess of an athletic department into a swank new home.” He said the Terps move comes down to one thing: money.
“Maryland recently cut seven sports, has been millions of dollars in the red, has been a very unsuccessful football program of late, and by its own standards an unsuccessful basketball program, has just basically mismanaged the entire program,” Forde said. “And their reward is to get to go to the Big Ten. The Big Ten is the bailout right now.”
Forde expected the usual suspects — revenue-producing sports like football and men’s basketball — will benefit the most from the conference change.
“The Big Ten Network was very much drawn to the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore TV markets for Maryland and to the New York TV market for Rutgers, because they can sell cable subscriptions at a very fat price,” Forde said. “The reward for that is more money into the Big Ten Conference and certainly a lot more money into the coffers of Maryland and Rutgers.”
As for the schools’ fans, a new conference creates a new problem: away games that are even farther away.
“I sure hope they don’t have any great desire to travel to go see their team play, because it’s only going to be harder,” Forde said. “It’s a pretty tough commute from College Park, Md. to Lincoln, Neb., or Minneapolis, or Iowa City – or from Rutgers, Piscataway [N.J.] to those places. So as long as they don’t want to go anywhere, sure. And if you’re Rutgers and you’re fleeing the Titanic that is the Big East, then you certainly can be more excited about that.”
Rutgers’ departure is another signal that the Big East may be in big trouble, becoming irrelevant if not in danger of outright collapse.
“I think it’s becoming more and more likely,” Forde said. “As team after team after team leaves – it was West Virginia, it was TCU, it was Pittsburgh, it was Syracuse. Now it’s Rutgers, and trust me – Louisville and UConn are fighting for the lifeboat that will take them to the ACC and replace Maryland right now.”