NCF Nation: Maryland Terrapins
It’s time to find out how much wheat lies among the chaff this season (all times Eastern).
Purdue (2-3) at Illinois (3-2), ESPN2: Illini quarterback Wes Lunt has 11 touchdown passes and only three interceptions through five games with his new team. Lunt & Co. probably need a win against the struggling Boilermakers on Saturday to feel good about their chances of reaching a bowl game at the end of the season.
North Texas (2-2) at Indiana (2-2), 2:30, BTN: The Mean Green visit an Indiana team that had an up-and-down September. They wedged a major upset against Missouri between disappointing losses to Bowling Green and Maryland. The Hoosiers' defense needs to find more consistency, but shouldn't have too much of an issue with a North Texas team that ranks 115th in total offense.
No. 17 Wisconsin (3-1) at Northwestern (2-2), 3:30, ESPN2: Pat Fitzgerald successfully installed some grit in his lineup last week, holding Penn State out of the end zone on the road. Can Northwestern hang with the more powerful Wisconsin offense in Evanston? Badgers running back Melvin Gordon had his way with opposing defenses in the team's past two victories.
Michigan (2-3) at Rutgers (4-1), 7:00, BTN: Playing football should be a welcome reprieve for Brady Hoke and his Michigan team after the week they had in Ann Arbor. Devin Gardner returns to quarterback for a Wolverines offense riddled with problems. Rutgers freshman defensive end Kemoko Turay should have a good opportunity to build on his one-sack-per-game average this season. Gardner will have to solve his turnover issues to get out of New Jersey with a win and help stop the bleeding.
No. 19 Nebraska (5-0) at No. 10 Michigan State (3-1), 8:00, ABC: In what could be the most important Big Ten game of the season, conference title and national playoff implications are at stake in East Lansing on Saturday night. The Spartans have won 18 of their past 20, and most of those have been double-digit victories. Nebraska, led by Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah, is the league's last chance for a perfect record. If the Huskers can get past Michigan State, an undefeated season becomes a much more realistic possibility.
- Week 6 predictions
- Life on Sparty Island
- Penn State struggles aren't shocking
- Top recruit destinations for the weekend
- The defensive backs at Maryland look to change their reputation
- How did Michigan get to this point?
- The new guys have a chance to prove themselves Saturday
- Big Ten awards tracker
- Blown coverages a concern for Meyer
- How Nebraska can beat the Spartans
- The yips are gone for Wisconsin's Stave
- Iowa goes with two-quarterback system
Maryland and Rutgers officially joined the Big Ten on Tuesday. That prompted celebrations in Piscataway, New Jersey, and College Park, Maryland, but more of a collective shoulder shrug elsewhere. One school's fan base seems particularly unhappy about the latest additions: Nebraska. So today's Take Two topic is this: Does Nebraska have a right to be unhappy about Maryland and Rutgers coming on board?
Take 1: Brian Bennett
You can sum up the displeasure of Huskers fans by simply pointing to Big Red's conference home schedule in 2014: Illinois, Rutgers, Purdue and Minnesota. This is not the Big Ten that Nebraska backers thought they were joining back in 2011. They thought that leaving the Big 12 for Jim Delany's league meant plenty of games against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Instead, they're in a division without any of those teams, and none of those three come to Lincoln before 2017 (when the Buckeyes visit Memorial Stadium). Was it really worth leaving the Big 12 for this?
The Maryland and Rutgers move was aimed at opening up new territory for the Big Ten, to serve recruiting, future population growth and alumni along the East Coast. But as the westernmost school in the league, Nebraska stands to benefit far less from this expansion than other conference members. The Huskers haven't traditionally recruited a lot of players from the East Coast, and the school's alumni base isn't as large there as it is for other Big Ten teams.
Still, don't forget that the Big 12 was basically crumbling when Nebraska left. The Huskers will become far more financially secure in the Big Ten than they would have in the Big 12, especially when the league's huge new TV deal comes rolling in. Nebraska has been a good fit culturally in the Big Ten.
Yet I don't blame Cornhuskers supporters for being at least a little upset, especially given the scheduling distribution. The Big Ten's future parity scheduling should help a little, and hopefully a robust rivalry with Wisconsin will develop in the West Division, along with a growing interest in the Iowa series. Nebraska should enjoy what looks like a slightly easier path to the Big Ten title game every year (assuming the West Division remains less top heavy than the East), and the occasional Eastern exposure could help expand the school's brand and recruiting reach.
The Huskers actually need to win a Big Ten title in football before deciding the rest of the league is beneath them, after all. And if all else fails, Nebraska fans, remember this: at least you no longer have to mess with Texas.
Take 2: Mitch Sherman
Interesting, Brian, that you mention Texas, which still draws the ire of Nebraskans more than a lackluster slate of Big Ten home games ever could.
And the only thing as frustrating to Husker fans than Texas' hold on Nebraska from 2002 to 2010 -- six wins in six games for burnt orange -- is the Longhorns' 16-11 league record since the Huskers left for the Big Ten. Yes, Nebraska fans salivated over the sight of Texas as it hovered near .500 in Big 12 play in 2011 and 2012; they wanted nothing more than to kick UT while it was down.
In some convoluted way, perhaps, they blame the Big Ten for robbing the Huskers of that chance. Now, the entry of Maryland and Rutgers has taken from Nebraska the chance to kick Michigan while it's down -- something the Huskers, their fan base and their Ohio State-bred coach enjoyed in 2012 and 2013.
It's not that simple, though. If Ohio State or Iowa want to get nostalgic and hold a grudge against the Big Ten newbies for disrupting their fall festival, go for it. But Nebraska has no room to groan.
The Huskers landed in this league, way back in 2011, as an agent of change. The Big Ten secured Nebraska's financial future. Three years later, you might say the Huskers sold their soul to Delany. Sure, they're making lots of money and poised to make even more.
The football team continues to win nine games annually, but when is an October meeting with Rutgers or Maryland going to feel natural?
Look at a map. It's Nebraska, not the newcomers, that is most geographically isolated in the Big Ten. Delany planned all along that the addition of Nebraska marked only the start to his new era of change.
Did he sell the Huskers and their fans false hope, with the promise of every-other-season trips to the Big House and the renewal of a once-bitter rivalry with Penn State? Not anymore than Rutgers or Maryland wrecked it all.
This is an age of change in college athletics. More is coming, even if conference expansion has halted. Programs and their fan bases can't cling to the past. They can't cling to the present, either.
The opportunity exists to play Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State more often than the schedule dictates. Just win the West. One of them is likely to often await in the Big Ten championship game.
Maryland and Rutgers don't figure to soon disrupt any of those plans.
Both programs have dealt with Big Ten schools invading their home states, but now that they are conference foes it becomes imperative they land their in-state recruiting targets.
Being able to fight off the competition means knowing who the competition is and the landscape for both programs. Here is a look at what Maryland and Rutgers are up against.
We've been talking about this moment since November 2012. Rarely, have the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights been mentioned as contenders in their new league. But change comes fast in college football.
It could happen here, too. On this historic day as the Big Ten goes from 12 to 14, here are six reasons to believe that Maryland and Rutgers, as a pair and individually, can experience success in the Big Ten:
- The Big Ten just isn't that good. You've heard about this, right? The league last played for a national championship seven years ago and hasn't won a title since January 2003. It has performed poorly of late against the major-conference competition and went 2-5 in bowls last season, though Michigan State did win the Rose Bowl – the Big Ten's second triumph in Pasadena since New Year's Day 2000. How does any of this impact Maryland and Rutgers, expected by many to finish 6-7 in the Big Ten East Division? It means no conference foe is unbeatable. It means there's hope.
- For a while, at least, they're going to get noticed. Rutgers has long operated in the shadow of pro sports in its region, while Maryland football played second fiddle amid the ACC basketball buzz. The Big Ten figures to change some of that. The Terps have already benefited in recruiting from the move. Rutgers needs to capitalize on the attention to make a dent in a deep pool of New Jersey prep talent. You want excitement? Check out Rutgers' Big Ten opener, Sept. 13, when Penn State visits for the first meeting in the series since 1995. Expect Maryland's first Big Ten home game, three weeks later against Ohio State, to equally move the needle.
- The Terps are trending up. Coach Randy Edsall took Maryland from a two-win team in 2011 to six in 2012 and seven last year. The Terrapins remained an average program in the ACC, but Edsall and his staff have begun to stack the pieces in place, notably on offense, to make a move in the Big Ten. For quarterback C.J. Brown, the time is now to make a mark in the new league. Brown, from Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, is a dual threat who knows the Big Ten style. He works well with coordinator Mike Locksley, an innovative offensive mind. Meanwhile, Maryland's incoming class, bolstered by the impending move, ranked 50th nationally, featuring home grown star Damian Prince at offensive tackle.
- Deon Long and Stefon Diggs are healthy. Diggs, a junior, and the senior Long form perhaps the best receiving duo in the Big Ten. Both wideouts suffered leg fractures on Oct. 19 in the Terps' 34-10 loss at Wake Forest. Long broke the fibula and tibia in his right leg; Diggs broke the fibula in his right leg, triggering a stretch of four Maryland losses in five games before a regular season-ending win at North Carolina State. Long and Diggs returned for spring practice and appear on track to torment even the best of secondaries in the Big Ten this fall.
- Gary Nova is back at the helm. This could go either way, depending on whom you ask at Rutgers. But we say it's good for the Scarlet Knights to go through a transformation such as this in with a steady hand at quarterback. Nova has started 28 games and ranks third in school history with 51 touchdown throws. He was benched in favor of Chas Dodd after winning five of 10 starts in 2013, but Nova has won consistently, dating to his unbeaten days as a starter at Don Bosco Prep. To help his cause, Rutgers returns five starters on the offensive line and its top four rushers.
- There's new energy on the Rutgers defense and strength up the middle. Joe Rossi, the 35-year Rutgers defensive coordinator promoted this offseason from special teams coach, offers a new start for a unit that endured struggles last season. Its strength comes against the run, which figures to suit Rutgers better in the Big Ten than it did in the AAC. And through the core of its defense, tackle Darius Hamilton, middle linebacker Kevin Snyder -- who switched spots with linebacker Steve Longa -- and safety Lorenzo Waters form a backbone of veteran leadership.
2. One benefit of the Big Ten’s expansion is that in the scramble to accommodate Rutgers and Maryland into the scheduling, the Scarlet Knights filled a nonconference opening with Washington State, meaning the Big Ten and Pac-12 will play five games against each other in the regular season for the second consecutive year. And these games were set up before the conferences pushed to begin scheduling each other more often. Meanwhile, the SEC and ACC will keep playing FCS schools.
3. Todd Graham had to endure a lot of abuse when he job-hopped from Rice (one season) to Tulsa (four seasons) to Pittsburgh (one season) to Arizona State. He bruised feelings and his own stature along the way. But with the news Wednesday that he has received his second one-year extension in the last eight months in Tempe, the rough edges of his reputation are being smoothed over. He is 18-9 and has won a division title in two seasons with the Sun Devils. Maybe he really is there to stay.
1. Clemson (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 1): The Tigers did what we all expected in a 52-13 win over South Carolina State. They also ended up moving up one spot in the AP poll to No. 3. Their big win over Georgia in Week 1 remains the crown jewel in the ACC crown after two weeks.
2. Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 2): The Seminoles were off this past week after beating Pittsburgh in the opener. Let's see what Game 2 has in store for Jameis Winston this weekend against Nevada.
3. Miami (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 3): The Hurricanes had the most impressive win in Week 2, over No. 12 Florida, which vaults them to No. 15 in the latest AP poll. But that win does nothing to change their standing in the ACC. There remains a clear gap between Clemson, Florida State and the rest of the league. Miami looks like it is starting to close the gap, but the Canes still have a long way to go -- especially after their offense struggled for most of the day against the Gators.
4. Georgia Tech (1-0 0-0 ACC; last week: 4): The Jackets were also off in Week 2, so all we have to judge them on is a blowout win over FCS Elon. The next five weeks will tell us what we need to know about this team, as the Jackets prepare to play at Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, at Miami and at BYU. That is one of the most brutal stretches any ACC team has to play this season.
5. North Carolina (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 7): The truth is, you could flip flop the Tar Heels and Virginia Tech at this point. Despite their victories over the weekend, both have problems that must be addressed. For starters, North Carolina has to get the coin toss figured out. The defense was once again up and down. They need a more consistent, better effort out of that group.
6. Virginia Tech (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 5): North Carolina gets the nod ahead of Virginia Tech for this week based on the quality of opponent it just played. The Tar Heels beat an FBS team, Virginia Tech an FCS team. I think we can all agree the Hokies have a formidable defense -- better than North Carolina's -- but the offense still has a ways to go to be respectable. Logan Thomas now has one touchdown pass and three interceptions on the season.
7. Virginia (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 6): No. 2 Oregon boatraced the Hoos on Saturday, but the truth is, nobody really expected them to win the game. They stay in the top half of the rankings this week based on their win over BYU in the opener. That win looks a lot better today after BYU clobbered No. 15 Texas. Virginia enters a five-game stretch now with winnable games. If the Hoos can take advantage, they will be looking good for a bowl spot.
8. Maryland (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 8): The Terps have beaten their first two opponents by a combined 90-20 and have not faced much of a test. The opponents' strength has been really weak, hence their spot here. Still, this is a team that has showed off its talent on offense in the first two weeks. C.J. Brown, in his return from a knee injury, ranks No. 3 in the nation in total QBR to lead all ACC quarterbacks. Chew on that one for a while.
9. Duke (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 10): Give the Blue Devils credit for pulling out a road win in Memphis with backup quarterback Brandon Connette this past Saturday. You can write the win off by saying it was "only Memphis," but the Tigers are a rapidly improving team and Duke was on the ropes. Any road win is a good win for a team that won only once away from home last season.
10. NC State (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 9): The Wolfpack get downgraded slightly for struggling to beat Richmond. While it is true the Spiders have caused FBS opponents fits, the Wolfpack nearly handed the game away with their own miscues. NC State had four turnovers, including three inside Richmond territory. Quarterback Pete Thomas struggled, throwing two interceptions. While he did lead the team into field goal range for the game winner, he has some work to do to improve.
11. Boston College (2-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 14): The Eagles climb out of the cellar for the first time in a long time after their 24-10 win over Wake Forest. You can already see the difference new coach Steve Addazio has made in the program. His team is playing a lot more physically and with a lot more energy. That is best illustrated in Andre Williams, who is now averaging 5.5 yards per carry -- one full yard better than last season. The BC run game has gone from awful to respectable in a matter of weeks. The Eagles have now matched their win total from 2012.
12. Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 12): The Panthers were off last week, so they stay put here. The good news is they will not have to play a team as strong as Florida State the rest of the way in the ACC. They get New Mexico this week.
13. Wake Forest (1-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 11): The Deacs were supposed to be better this season with so many veterans returning, but they looked completely lost against BC. The defense got gashed on the ground. The offense could not run, nor could it execute the option effectively. Not sure why coaches insisted on sticking with it when it was not working. Their inability to run the ball was a bugaboo last season, and it looks to be the same this season.
14. Syracuse (0-2, 0-0 ACC; last week: 13): The Orange have been the biggest disappointment in the ACC so far based on the first two games. No doubt they played a tough schedule to start against two Big Ten teams, but they were not even competitive in a loss to Northwestern this past weekend in which Drew Allen got benched after throwing four interceptions and the defense gave up 581 yards of total offense. Scott Shafer has some serious questions to answer before the season gets away from him.
2. Loved the best/worst of the BCS era that the conference bloggers posted this week. Matt Fortuna pointed out that the Big East membership that began the BCS era had the football chops. Miami and Virginia Tech appeared in three of the first five BCS championship games. The original membership didn’t go very deep, but the teams at the top rocked. But Miami didn’t stay on top, and left. Virginia Tech didn’t stay on top, and left. And none of the other Big East teams picked up the slack.
3. I understand why Maryland doesn’t want to pay the ACC a $52 million exit fee on its way to the Big Ten. And I understand Maryland’s argument that the ACC didn’t suffer any injury because Louisville and Notre Dame are coming to the conference. But the ACC membership, with Maryland as a member, approved the exit fee. What does it matter whether the ACC is injured or not? The league had a rule. Maryland is a member of the league. Why shouldn’t Maryland live by the rule? Am I missing something?
In a move that should surprise no one, the ACC is suing the Terrapins to try and make sure they pay the full $50 million. Maryland officials voted against the league's decision to raise the buyout from $20 million to $50 million earlier this fall, and president Wallace Loh has said he didn't think the buyout would hold up in court.
"We continue to extend our best wishes to the University of Maryland; however, there is the expectation that Maryland will fulfill its exit fee obligation," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "On Friday, the ACC Council of Presidents made the unanimous decision to file legal action to ensure the enforcement of this obligation."
Maryland will no doubt fight this and hope for a negotiated settlement, while the ACC will try to stand firm. Either way, it won't change the fact Maryland is coming to the Big Ten in time for the 2014 season. Other schools who have changed leagues have negotiated buyout settlements. Paying the full $50 million will be tough for a Maryland athletic department that is struggling to make ends meet, but the school will eventually make up for any exit fee through the extra revenue it will make in the Big Ten.
Expect Rutgers to deal with the same types of wrangling as it attempts to navigate its way out of the Big East in time for 2014.
But every major transaction offers something for both parties, and the Big Ten needs Maryland and Rutgers, too. The Big Ten needs their markets -- Washington, D.C., and New York -- for television and branding purposes, plain and simple.
Does Maryland obtain the D.C. market for the Big Ten? No, of course not. Does Rutgers do the same with New York? Fughetaboutit.
According to The New York Times' Nate Silver -- who, if you followed the latest election, isn't bad at this polling thing -- Rutgers and Maryland don't account for large percentages of sports fans in their respective mega-markets. Silver writes that Rutgers will rank near the bottom of the Big Ten in number of football fans, while Maryland will supplant Northwestern, the Big Ten's only private school, as the smallest football fan base in the league.
Is that a concern? Maybe a little. But the Big Ten didn't add Maryland or Rutgers for their fan bases and certainly not for their athletic prowess in the major sports (sorry, lacrosse fans). It added them for their locations, and what the existing Big Ten brand -- the one that netted a record $284 million in revenue last year and continues to grow despite mostly disappointing on-field results in recent years -- can do with a more frequent presence in these markets.
"We're not going to be dominant, no one's going to be dominant. This is probably the richest corridor in the world."
The Big Ten will be in the corridor much more frequently beginning in 2014, as major athletic brands such as Ohio State football, Michigan football, Nebraska football and Indiana basketball make more regular appearances in the New York and Washington areas. When the winged helmets or the candy-stripe pants show up more often, the hope is that the market will pay attention.
During the last expansion cycle, I blogged a lot about which schools "move the needle" on the national landscape and which schools do not. Nebraska does. Maryland and Rutgers do not. But the existing Big Ten moves the needle, according to TV ratings and revenue figures. The Big Ten and SEC are in a class of their own in terms of popularity. And an expanded Big Ten with a larger East Coast presence should continue to move the needle.
This isn't about converting pro sports towns such as New York and Washington into college towns. That's not realistic. But the Big Ten already has a sizable presence in those cities, thanks to its alumni bases.
The top two cities for Michigan alumni are, not surprisingly, Detroit and Chicago. The third and fourth? New York and Washington. The top regions for Ohio State alumni outside the Buckeye State are Washington, D.C./northern Virginia and New York. It's the same for much of the Big Ten.
Delany said the Big Ten has approximately 540,000 alumni between northern Virginia and southern New England.
Those are the people who will want the Big Ten Network in their homes. Those are the people who might buy season tickets to Maryland football or Rutgers football just to ensure they see their favorite team in person. Those are the people who help make Big Ten football games some of the most watched in the country, even if they have little to no bearing on the national title chase.
"Whether you're talking expansion or bowl relationships, you're always looking at where your people are," Delany said. "Where you're going to recruit your students, where you're going to recruit your student-athletes, where your alumni live. So every analysis takes into consideration where you are, where you'd like to become stronger, where you can move.
"We're conscious of that in everything that we do."
It was front of mind in these moves, which Delany described as "an Eastern initiative with a Penn State bridge." The league will set up a satellite office on the East Coast as it looks to enhance its presence.
Delany told me Rutgers is a "real potential national player in athletics," because of its location, its strong academic reputation and, now, its new conference affiliation. But will Rutgers or Maryland become Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State? No.
It'll be great for the Big Ten if the Scarlet Knights and the Terrapins earn Big Ten bowl wins in football or national championships in other sports. But the two schools basically serve as platforms for the existing Big Ten to showcase its product in bigger markets.
"Nobody dominates in this kind of corridor," Delany said. "Maybe the [New York] Knicks when they're good, the Giants when they're good or the Yankees all the time. But we're a new element. We're here to compete, we're here to grow.
"You can't have influence without being here."
It has been a historic week for the Big Ten, which went two decades without expanding (1990-2010) and now has added two teams in as many days. Asked if further expansion is on the horizon, Delany said the Big Ten is "fine" at 14 but will continue to monitor the landscape.
But the real big day for the league will be when it announces a new television agreement in 2017. Keep in mind all the other conferences have had their turn and cashed in. The Big Ten is the last in line, and should get the biggest payout. Maryland and Rutgers should help in those efforts.
"We wouldn't have done it," Delany said, "unless we thought it was a positive."
There's a risk in any major venture, and this one is no exception. But the biggest gamble the Big Ten is making is on itself.
And looking at the league's recent trajectory as a brand, it's a pretty safe bet.
Big Ten athletic directors
Michigan State's Mark Hollis: "I think there's going to be good competition, but who do I want to play? I want to play Michigan and Ohio State and Northwestern and Wisconsin and all the way through the Big Ten Conference. And the more you dilute that, you get concerned."
Ohio State's Gene Smith: "When we talked about Maryland, we looked at the big picture, we didn't isolate ourselves to our own locale. What's good for this conference? How can we move this conference forward? ... We can't skirt the fact that financially it assists us as we move to the television agreement that expires in 2017."
Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez: "We're sitting in the Rust Belt. We lose population every year. That Eastern corridor keeps growing. With all the population [in Maryland, District of Columbia and New Jersey] you don't want one of those other leagues to come in there … and close us out of there and we're land-locked."
Penn State's Dave Joyner: "It means the reinstatement of a great series and rivalry in many sports. It’s a terrific situation. I think it brings somebody right to our back door and extends the footprint of the Big Ten."
Colleague Mark Schlabach: "I don't believe Delany will settle on 14 teams. He just added two more lucrative TV markets in Baltimore/Washington, D.C., and New Jersey/New York. Might he now decide to expand the Big Ten's footprint even more into the Southeast or farther West?"
The Sporting News' Steve Greenberg: "Not to go all negative on the Terrapins’ move to the Big Ten, but at best it’s a win-lose scenario from the football point of view. Win a lot of money, lose a ton of games."
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde: "Two largely underachieving, financially irresponsible athletic programs are parlaying their geographic proximity to major metropolitan areas into membership in the Big Ten. They've done very little on the field of competition to deserve it. But that's not what drives conference affiliation these days. College Sports, Inc., is no meritocracy."
SI.com's Andy Staples: "Maryland's athletic department is in a financial crisis now because it doesn't take a subsidy from the university. With more money flowing in, it should never have to ask for one. ... So, unless you can think of a better way for Maryland to bring in an additional $15-20 million per year, quit being so sentimental about it."
The (Harrisburg) Patriot News' David Jones: "Delany is one smart cookie. And he believes exposure to brand-name college football and all the synergistic promotional and big-media tools the Big Ten can bring to bear can change the status quo."
ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski: "I don't think expansion was ever Delany's first choice. That's why the Pac-12 alliance had so much appeal to him and the Big Ten presidents. But when it fell apart, and the ACC formed its own alliance with Notre Dame, and geography began to work against the Big Ten, Delany decided he couldn't sit on his hands. In essence, it had become a zero-sum game."
The New York Post's Lenn Robbins: "It’s a no-brainer for the Big Ten. It’s a no-brainer for Rutgers, which is expected to announce this afternoon that it is leaving the Big East to join the Big Ten. And it’s a no-brainer for Maryland, which yesterday announced it was leaving the ACC."
The Washington Post's Mike Wise: "There was no impact study, no open discussion. At the state’s largest public institution of higher learning, there was no genuine process of deliberation. Three educational careerists — University President Wallace Loh, Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan — went into a star chamber, played God and mocked self-governance."
The New York Times' Nate Silver: "The Big Ten may have expanded the size of its revenue pie, but it will be dividing it 14 ways rather than 12, and among family members that have less history of sitting down at the table with one another. In seeking to expand its footprint eastward, the conference may have taken a step in the wrong direction."
CBSsports.com's Dennis Dodd: "The Big Ten can swing for the fences because everyone else's main TV rights are tied up until the mid-2020s. That Maryland source said the Big Ten might split their rights between networks, which would push the bidding even higher. The Big Ten will be starting from scratch in 2016 as the last major conference to go out to bid."
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Cowherd: "We learned tradition doesn't matter anymore. Loyalty doesn't matter anymore. A nearly 60-year affiliation with the ACC as a founding member doesn't matter anymore. Natural geographic boundaries that make sense from a travel perspective don't matter anymore."
The Star-Ledger's Steve Politi: "They don’t give out a trophy for this, but there will be a celebration in Piscataway on Tuesday that Rutgers fans will savor for a very long time. Because, at long last, the Scarlet Knights have won a title. They are the National Champions of Realignment. Think about it: Who out there did better?"
The Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Oates: "This expansion isn't about athletes. It isn't about academics. It isn't about tradition. And it certainly isn't about competition. It's about TV sets."
2. Delany listed in a teleconference Monday all the ways in which the Big Ten has been innovative: luring Penn State out of independence in 1990, starting the Big Ten Network, plucking Nebraska, another traditional power, out of the Big 12. Taking Maryland and Rutgers isn’t innovative. The Big Ten could have taken them last week, last month, or five years ago.
3. Delany framed the move in the context of other leagues going beyond their geographical boundaries: the SEC expanded westward, the Big 12 took West Virginia, and the ACC made a deal with Notre Dame. Since when does the Big Ten do something because everyone else did it? True, the league expanded eastward into states contiguous with Penn State. But the league didn’t expand for traditional powers (Nittany Lions, Huskers), as it did in the past. The Big Ten took a couple of guys, mainly for their TVs.
Much to my surprise, Saban said he believed there needed to be only 60 to 70 FBS teams in four or five conferences, and they needed to play each other and no one else.
Basically, Saban admitted he's a proponent of superconferences and programs that are financially able to compete in big-time football and to hell with everyone else.
After Monday's surprising announcements that Maryland and Rutgers are joining the Big Ten, and leaving behind the ACC and Big East, respectively, I'm beginning to wonder if Saban won't end up being right in the end.
And it might happen sooner than we believe.
After all, if a $50 million exit fee won't prevent one of the ACC's founding members from leaving, what else will?
Click to read the rest of Mark Schlabach's commentary on the Big Ten expansion.
The Terrapins will officially become a Big Ten member on July 1, 2014, and begin competing in athletics in the 2014-15 season.
Loh and athletic director Kevin Anderson repeatedly stated that they never want to make such cutbacks again, and the move to the Big Ten ensures financial stability "for decades to come." In perhaps the best news of the announcement, Loh said Maryland immediately will start the process of reinstating those teams. Loh and Anderson obviously felt they would have had to cut more teams if Maryland stayed in the ACC.
SI.com reports that Maryland expects to make $100 million more in conference revenue from 2014 to 2020 as a Big Ten member, according to information Delany presented to the school. As SI.com's Pete Thamel notes, the big jump comes after the Big Ten negotiates its new television contract.
Some other notes and thoughts:
- Although Loh and others repeatedly pointed to the Big Ten's financial advantages, they danced around questions of how Maryland would pay a $50 million exit fee from the ACC. Clearly, folks like Maryland super booster Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour, will help in this area, as well as a projected Big Ten revenue windfall, but it'll be interesting to see how Maryland addresses its immediate debts as it looks for future gains.
- Delany revealed the Big Ten will open an East Coast office in addition to its main headquarters, currently in Park Ridge, Ill., but soon moving to nearby Rosemont, Ill. With Maryland in the league and Rutgers soon to follow, the Big Ten will have a larger East Coast presence. Delany said the Big Ten isn't a national conference, but it now has a presence in two distinct areas of the country (Midwest, East Coast).
- Anderson said he has discussed the Big Ten move with football coach Randy Edsall and that Maryland "will take on the Big Ten and be very competitive." Better question: Will Edsall be around to coach the Terrapins in their first Big Ten game?
- Delany noted that when the Big Ten announced its last expansion push in December 2009, it triggered an unexpected wave of bad reports and tension on a number of campuses. The league didn't expect such a response and took a much quieter approach this time around. The talks with Maryland really heated up in the past 2-3 weeks.
- Delany said there were no direct conversations with Maryland during the Big Ten's last expansion push, but the league looked at models that included the school.
- Loh acknowledged the disappointment many Maryland fans have about leaving the ACC, but he also noted that the ACC is changing with new membership and that some of Maryland's long-term rivalries would be changing, too. He also waited until noon ET today to inform ACC commissioner John Swofford of the school's departure from the league. Ouch. Almost as cold as Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman ripping Texas when Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Good times.
One thing you may have noticed in that list of benefits: All of them involve off-the-field items. As far as the actual, on-the-field product? The Terrapins and Scarlet Knights add very little, at least in the short term.
This is a move about revenue and population shifts, not about enhancing the Big Ten's competitiveness in the near future. On that front, it pales in comparison to the SEC's adding Texas A&M or the Big 12's adopting TCU and West Virginia. This is more like the Pac-12 taking in Utah and Colorado, which was a success in that it allowed that conference to add a championship game and sign a big TV contract. But the Utes and Buffaloes have barely made a dent in football.
Luckily, neither Maryland nor Rutgers is anywhere near the Carrie Mathison-like hot mess that is Colorado these days. Yet neither offers much brand-name appeal or, judging by recent history, any boost to the league's sagging competitive fortunes.
Maryland is 4-7 this year and went 2-10 last year and in 2009. Second-year Terps coach Randy Edsall could be on the hot seat next season. A Penn State rival? The Terps have beaten the Nittany Lions once in 37 tries, and that was during the Kennedy administration. Aside from some pockets of success under Ralph Friedgen, Maryland has been irrelevant on a national stage for most of the past 50 years. The school's athletic department is also saddled with so much debt that it recently had to cut multiple sports.
"If you wanted to judge it on the basis of this year or even the last 10 years, I would say that Maryland football has not performed at the level of the top half of our conference," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com and the Chicago Tribune. "I would also say that there’s no reason why they can’t be a prominent football program. ...
"I just believe they have real upside. I recognize in the last couple years they haven’t been as competitive. We’re not always going to be able to add a member that has got a nationally relevant, top-tier program like Penn State and Nebraska. If that’s the litmus test, then there wouldn’t be a lot of expansion around the country.”
Rutgers wouldn't come close to passing that litmus test, either. The Scarlet Knights played in the very first college football game against Princeton in 1869 and then decided to rest on that achievement for more than a century.
OK, I exaggerate, but Rutgers had been to only one bowl game before 2005. Former coach Greg Schiano finally got the program back on solid footing before departing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Scarlet Knights have never even won the Big East title.
That may change this year, as Rutgers is 9-1 and No. 19 in the BCS standings. That's one spot higher than Michigan, and in a year when only three Big Ten teams are ranked in the major polls, that must seem attractive. But take a closer look at Rutgers' season: The Scarlet Knights haven't beaten a ranked team, and their best win came at dysfunctional Arkansas. They were beaten by double digits at home by Kent State.
"Many of Schiano's best seasons were built on extremely weak nonconference schedules. I covered Rutgers for three years on the Big East blog, and while the school did an excellent job of improving its facilities and becoming a consistent bowl team, it remains light years away from competing with big boys like Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan.
We're not always going to be able to add a member that has got a nationally relevant, top-tier program like Penn State and Nebraska. If that's the litmus test, then there wouldn't be a lot of expansion around the country." -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
While Rutgers and Maryland will finally make Penn State feel less like it's on an Eastern island, neither new team creates much of a rivalry elsewhere in the league. Will anyone get excited about, say, Maryland versus Minnesota or Illinois versus Rutgers?
What's worse is that this further dilutes what was so special about the Big Ten: tradition-rich, history-seeped Midwestern rivalries. In August, Delany said, "We don't expand to play each other less." But unless the league changes course on the idea of a nine-game schedule, that's exactly what will happen. Get used to fewer games like Nebraska-Ohio State, Michigan State-Wisconsin and Penn State-Michigan.
"I still believe what I said," Delany told ESPN.com. "We have great integrated rivalries, great integrated markets, and on the other hand, it’s not the world necessarily that you want, it’s the world that you live in.
"So I still believe the more you play each other, the better off you are, the better chance to bind your fans to rivalries and tradition. I don’t think there’s any question that there’s a half-step away from that."
Delany said he'll bring up the nine-game schedule "as a discussion point," but ultimately it will be up to the league's athletic directors to decide on that. Longstanding nonconference rivalries and some recently added, top-flight intra-sectional matchups could be affected by an expanded conference schedule.
The Big Ten has struggled to win big games on the national stage, including this year's poor performance in the nonconference schedule and recently on New Year's Day. Maryland and Rutgers don't seem likely to change that anytime soon, or to enhance the league's chances of earning a spot in the forthcoming four-team playoff in any possible way.
There is hope that the Terrapins and/or Scarlet Knights can raise their current level of competitiveness and eventually become impact programs. Maryland has Under Armour founder Kevin Plank as its benefactor, and perhaps he can become the Terrapins' version of Phil Knight at Oregon. Rutgers has access to pretty fertile recruiting ground and should enjoy the added exposure of playing in a traditionally strong league. The influx of Big Ten cash should help both programs immensely in facilities, salaries and other areas.
Still, greatness is hard to achieve and even harder to predict in college football. The Big Ten is gambling on two teams that potentially could become good one day instead of taking established ones like Nebraska and Penn State. The league couldn't talk Notre Dame into joining as a full member and couldn't reel in a big fish like Texas. Now it will have to fight the perception that it's adding teams just to add them.
Delany has proved to be a visionary, and maybe the added revenue and markets are worth the on-the-field gamble. But in the immediate future, Rutgers and Maryland do very little to enhance Big Ten football.