Remember when the Big Ten changed their logo following the addition of Nebraska to the conference? The public response to the new logo was criticized by many but not nearly as much as the decision to rename the divisions Legends and Leaders. As it turns out, I am starting to suspect the Big Ten had a long-term plan for their new logo. Is it really a coincidence the Big Ten put the stamp of approval on a new logo that can easily be adjusted to reflect the total membership of the conference once it expands to 16 schools?
No, it’s called strategic planning.
On Monday the Big Ten officially welcomed the University of Maryland to the conference, with the Terrapins becoming the 13th member of the conference starting July 1, 2014. Not long after it was confirmed Maryland’s board of regents had nearly been unanimous in the decision to accept an invitation and the Big Ten’s presidents voted to welcome the school, it was reported Rutgers will make a similar announcement on Tuesday.
By adding Maryland the Big Ten will be able to expand in to the Washington D.C. and Baltimore markets (9th and 26th best markets in the United States, respectively). Some Big Ten schools also have a solid representation in the region, so bringing more Big Ten football to those alums will drive up the money to be made with the Big Ten Network and other television deals moving forward. Throw in the targeted New York City market with the addition of Rutgers and it becomes easy to believe Pete Thamel’s suggestion in Sports Illustrated each Big Ten member could soon be earning an anual payment of $30-$35 million per year, up from the reported approximated $24 million each Big Ten school earned most recently. If those figures hold true, it becomes a no-brainer why Maryland would leave the ACC ($17 million payout) and Rutgers would leave the Big East. This is not meant as a slight against either conference. It is just the sad reality of college football and more in the realignment era.
It is also why we are not at an ending point just yet.
Losing Rutgers is a tough pill for the Big East to swallow. Not because Rutgers is a valuable commodity as far as football is concerned, but the conference now has lost any tie to New York with Rutgers and ACC-bound Syracuse out of the picture. One of the reasons Boise State may have accepted an invite to the Big East was because of the possibility of geting a better chance to play in a BCS bowl game as well as the increased exposure on the east coast. Now Boise State’s best chance to receive exposure in the east will rely on playing Temple in a Philadelphia market much more interested in professional sports to be bothered by college football or against Connecticut, which is far from a football powerhouse in the northeast. Would this force Boise State to re-evaluate their place in the Big East and consider finding another conference affiliation for 2014 and beyond? What about San Diego State? Will the Big East be able to stay an attractive enough option to stay in the fold?
The question becomes whether or not any other Big East members could be plucked by another conference, be it the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12 etc.
The ACC is also now set to be in a position to find a new conference member. After adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh in 2013 and losing Maryland in 2014 the conference will be left with 13 football members. There are suggestions the ACC is ready to fill the vacancy, although who would fit that spot is still anyone’s best guess right now. Notre Dame, feeling justified as an independent sitting atop the BCS ranking and polls, is not about to sign up to become a full ACC member, and finding someone from the SEC is out of the question. The only possible fit form the Big East remaining might be Connecticut, but who knows if that would ever come to be.
Wait, what is that?
RT @wilnerhotline: Realignment source: UConn to ACC could happen as soon as Tuesday.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) November 19, 2012
OK then. CBS Sports later reported the ACC was in talks with UConn, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida to become the 14th member. The ACC may have found some stable ground by adding yet another Big East school (Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Syracuse). The problem in the ACC is if Maryland sees the grass greener elsewhere, why won’t others? Dan Wolken from USA Today put it best…
Maryland looked at ACC, didn’t see a good future. You think that doesn’t send off alarm bells in Tallahassee, Clemson, etc.?
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 19, 2012
We have been down this road before and it looked as though Florida State and/or Clemson hit a dead end, but with Maryland raising some eyebrows Monday do not be surprised to see some old rumors return, legitimate or not. I hesitate to get too deep in to hypothetical scenarios when it comes to realignment but if truly reach an ultimate doomsday scenario, in which Florida State and Clemson feel they can work past any financial pitfalls and join the Big 12, the fallout could be massive.
If the Big Ten were to add tow more schools to get to 16 members, the ideal candidate would remain to be included would still be Notre Dame. The relationship with the ACC still seems profitable for the Irish overall, but the Orange Bowl deal Notre Dame is now a part of looks less attractive after the SEC and Big Ten got their share of the bowl game. Still, landing Notre Dame as a full-conference member appears to be a long shot for a variety of reasons. Instead, a continued push in to the east and south would still be a viable option for the conference, under the assumption plucking Oklahoma out of the Big 12 is nothing more than an idea jotted down on a napkin on my desk.
The schools I would think make the best additions for the Big Ten, in a move to 16 members, would be Pittsburgh and Syracuse to complete that eastern region along with Penn State and Syracuse. Adding those schools though adds little in terms of market expansion, which is the ultimate goal for the Big Ten. This is why you might read the name Georgia Tech thrown around at times. Getting a step in to Atlanta, college football’s hotbed, would be huge for the Big Ten and Georgia Tech is a great fit in terms of academics. Instead I would look more to current neighboring states for the Big Ten. Virginia and Virginia Tech would each be interesting names to consider, as would one or the other in addition to a school from North Carolina.
After all, the Big Ten didn’t just change their logo without a plan to move to 16 teams, right? It is all a part of Jim Delany’s master plan.
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