Matt – YAY EXPANSION!
This is probably hindsight talking, but the 16 team super conferences are an inevitability. Whether it happens in 2 years, 10 years or 20 years, they are coming. There is just too much money to be made, culture problems be damned. That is why I commend Delany and the Big 10 for being aggressive in starting the push towards a 16 team conference.
No, Maryland and Rutgers are not the sexiest additions. Far from it, actually. But, the big fish, whether it’s Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma or another unknown, were not going to be the school that started the expansion train rolling once again. Someone was going to eventually make a move similar to this, and I’d much rather be the one to make that move, rather than react to it. As “meh” as Maryland and Rutgers may appear on the surface, I’d take them over some of the “leftovers” that could be there like UConn or Boston College.
Even though the Terps and Knights don’t exactly have the most sterling football reputations, there is plenty of upside, especially for fans of the Nittany Lions. First and foremost, nearly 80,000 Penn State alumni live in New Jersey and New York City. Not only does this give those fans a football game in their backyard every two seasons, but it also opens up an avenue for BTN to become more widely available in the New York metro area. I’m not going to pretend that Rutgers in the Big 10 all of a sudden gets BTN on every basic cable tier in the world’s largest media market, but it act like it doesn’t help at all is foolish. The same can be said for the Washington D.C., home to another huge concentration of PSU alumni.
There is also a recruiting aspect. PSU has already recruited Maryland/DC and New Jersey well, but now you can go in there and tell prospects you’ll play twice “at home” in your collegiate career, and you can do it for one of college football’s most storied programs, and with the Big 10′s TV deal with ABC/ESPN and BTN, you’ll be on national TV every week.
I have plenty of issues with Jim Delany and the way the Big 10 does things. But it is also hard to argue with what he’s done for the conference when it comes to the business side of things. Plenty of people laughed when he launched the Big Ten Network, but now the Pac 12 has followed suit, with the SEC and ACC not too far behind. The man understands the business and financial side of collegiate athletics as well or better than anyone out there. He’s not adding Maryland and Rutgers just to add two schools. I won’t pretend to know what that is, but if Delany has earned the right to be trusted on anything, it’s with decisions like this.