What the Addition of Rutgers and Maryland Means for Big Ten HoopsPosted by jnowak on November 19th, 2012
It would be misleading and deceitful to imply that conference realignment is about anything other than money (though that hasn’t stopped conference commissioners and university presidents), or that basketball is at the forefront of presidents’ minds when moves are made. But regardless of the motives behind the seismic moves that have taken place across the college athletics landscape over the last handful of years, fans of all the involved schools and of all relevant sports must adjust to the changes. With the swiftly breaking news of Maryland and Rutgers set to join the Big Ten for the 2014-15 school year, here are a few of the basketball implications of the realignment and the likely 14-team Big Ten:
- Schedule Changes — With two more teams added to the mix, you can expect that the already-diluted conference basketball schedule will become even more so. As it stands now with 12 Big Ten teams, each school plays 18 conference games. That means each school plays four other conference schools only once, and seven teams twice. If the conference keeps an 18-game conference schedule, under the new 14-team format, each school would then play more fellow Big Ten schools only once and fewer teams twice. What that means: fewer rivalry games and marquee match-ups will be played on an even-keel home-and-home basis, also leaving room for an unbalanced conference schedule across the board. When that’s the case, regular season championships carry less value if teams don’t have a consistent conference slate from top to bottom.
- The Cost Implications — With the Big Ten expanding from Nebraska to New Jersey, you’re looking at significant travel for all schools. And, keep in mind, it’s one thing for a multi-million dollar football program to arrange a weekend trip and quite another for a women’s basketball program or any non-revenue sport (i.e., soccer or baseball) to travel across state lines in the middle of the week. Again, with men’s basketball not factoring heavily into the decision-making or weighing on the mind of the Board of Regents at Maryland, sports like softball are not going to factor in. But this will mean a tremendous increase in costs for all sports across these athletic programs (and with Maryland recently cutting seven varsity sports because of budget problems, it’s that much more puzzling). On the other hand, there’s significant money to be made with this deal as the Big Ten extends its footprint into huge markets with New York/New Jersey and Washington tuning in. The Big Ten Network has proven to be a great success, helping to distribute $284 million across the conference schools this fiscal year. The number of teams splitting that pot will grow, but so will the revenue.
- Fan Reaction – Perhaps the most puzzling (frustrating?) thing about it all is that this is something nobody — aside from the respective school presidents/chancellors/boards and conference presidents — seems to want. Big Ten fans don’t seem to have an interest in adding Maryland and Rutgers to the conference and Maryland and Rutgers fans seem to have no interest in leaving the ACC and Big East, respectively, for the Big Ten. There’s quite a bit of pride in each team’s and conference’s respective tradition in their current situation, and so far, nobody seems willing to concede that their school is working toward a better tomorrow.
- New Rivalries – Part of the reason Maryland and Rutgers were likely candidates was because they’re in states contiguous with a Big Ten state (Pennsylvania), but what does this mean for rivalries? Does Penn State have a budding rivalry with either of these schools on the horizon? The Nittany Lions are one of the Big Ten’s worst basketball teams (and depending on Tim Frazier’s injury this weekend, perhaps the worst ) and Rutgers isn’t much better. It’s hard to see Maryland becoming a rival with any current Big Ten school on the hardwood, although the Terps did give us a dandy against Michigan State in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Can you see any other budding rivalries under this new alignment?
- Incoming Pedigree – In short, Maryland has been playing third or fourth fiddle in the ACC behind the Tobacco Road schools since the conference was formed in 1953. During Gary Williams‘ tenure from 1989-2011, the Terps won three regular season conference titles and appeared in the NCAA Tournament each year from 1994-2004 and in 2007, 2009 and 2010. They went to two Final Fours in that time and won the national title in 2002. At this point, under Mark Turgeon, they’d likely be considered somewhere in the top of the middle tier of Big Ten teams, but much could change before realignment goes into effect. As for Rutgers, there’s not much to say about the Scarlet Knights’ contribution to the basketball world. They’re a bottom-feeder in the Big East, not finishing better than 13th since the 2005-06 season and the Scarlet Knights haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1991.
- Conference Name – They can’t still go by the “Big Ten” can they? Any suggestions? The Big America? The Big #? The Big 14? The Big East of the Mississippi?