Dienhart: Latest moves will shake things up

And then there were 14. We all knew this day was coming, right? We all knew the Big Ten would grow to 14 schools. The SEC made the move prior to this season, which certainly had to catch the eye of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

And when Notre Dame forged an alliance earlier this fall with the ACC to provide a home for all of its sports but football, the Big Ten reportedly began to move aggressively toward expansion.

Mission accomplished.

[RELATED: Clothes Call: Meet the Rutgers Scarlet Knights]

Maryland officially was announced as the Big Ten’s 13th member yesterday. After a day basking in the limelight, it was Rutgers’ turn today, as the Scarlet Knights officially were welcomed to the Big Ten club.

It will be a shock if these moves by the Big Ten don’t set off others, as leagues scramble to remain relevant and bolster their portfolios with good assets.

Rutgers vs. Big Ten schools
The Scarlet Knights are 9-26 vs. teams in the Big Ten. They have not played Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin or Ohio State.
Illinois 1-1
Michigan State 3-2
Nebraska 0-1
Northwestern 3-0
Penn State 2-22

The addition of two middling and financially strapped athletic programs that are way outside the Big Ten footprint has drawn scrutiny and criticism from many pundits, who also point out that neither has much of a pedigree when it comes to football–the bellwether sport.

Fair enough.

But this move by Delany and the Big Ten isn’t about today. It’s about tomorrow.

Maryland and Rutgers are undervalued commodities with great potential. Yes, compared to the Big Ten overall they lack great football traditions, massive fan bases, 100,000-seat stadiums and fat budgets, but they sit in fertile ground on two fronts.

  1. Rutgers (New York City) and Maryland (Washington, D.C./Baltimore) are two massively populated areas. The Beltway area has roughly 7 million people, while New York City has around 9 million. And all of those people own TV sets, which will enhance the media rights deals the Big Ten can secure for its first-tier TV contracts. It also will push the Big Ten Network onto more cable providers, which will raise its revenues.
  2. The densely populated areas now become prime recruiting territory for Big Ten schools, which presumably will bolster the rosters and make the league better.

Yes, some long-standing traditions get washed away in this Great Realignment that continues to sweep the landscape and forever change college athletics. Iconic rivalries like Oklahoma-Nebraska and Texas-Texas A&M have been erased. But the sun has continued to rise. I don’t think western civilization will crumble if Maryland doesn’t play North Carolina.

New traditions will develop. Give it time. Beside, tradition is the LAST reason why anything should be done. You can’t move forward if you are looking back and clinging to tradition.

Road trip!
How far is your school from Big Ten newcomers Rutgers (New Brunswick, N.J.) and Maryland (College Park, Md.)? We used Google maps to route the drive.
Rutgers Maryland
Illinois 811 712
Indiana 739 640
Iowa 989 905
Michigan 605 522/td>
Michigan State 668 584
Minnesota 1,189 1,105
Nebraska 1,290 1,206
Northwestern 800 716
Ohio State 514 415
Penn State 228 198
Purdue 750 651
Wisconsin 928 844

Besides, the ACC has been chipping at its tradition for years, beginning with when it brought in Florida State in 1991. Then, Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech came aboard in the new millennium. Last fall, Pitt and Syracuse were added. With so many teams, few traditional ACC foes would meet annually. Was anyone lamenting the loss of ACC tradition then?

Uh, no. They were speculating how big the ACC’s next TV contract was going to be after the league pushed into some massive markets.

Now the question looms: Is the Big Ten finished expanding?

Once conference alignment caught fire a few years ago, speculation began that the landscape would one day feature just four, 16-team conferences. The nation’s two biggest and most powerful leagues already are at 14. So, obviously, it’s not a big jump to 16.

Can the Pac-12 and Big 12 sit idly by? This is all about asset acquisition, for lack of a better term. I think we all can agree that the only schools on the market worthy trying to add are ACC and Big East schools, along with a few outliers like Boise State and BYU. And could Notre Dame remain on the outside of a four-league, 16-team structure?

This conference realignment game is all about demographics, population bases, TV markets. It’s not about how many trophies a school has on display in the foyer of its athletic department. Smart people know this. Ignorant ones don’t.

The idea by the Big Ten is to ride the crest of change—not to be washed away by change and react to it.

So, what’s next?

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (13 Comments)
sbuel2 on 11/20/2012 @ 2:35pm EDT Said:

Big East s still on the run to get teams to look viable in football. I doubt if MWC will be losing their former members unless someone else gets them first but MWC teams do not have the TV market to be very desirable to the Big 12 or other major conference.

DJ on 11/20/2012 @ 4:08pm EDT Said:

While it means the Hawkeyes will play some “traditional” big ten schools less in football, I fully understand why this was done, and I think it was a good move for the conference.

gedmaniac on 11/20/2012 @ 4:40pm EDT Said:

As a Nebraska fan in the northeast, I loved it when we joined the Big East. I love this even more. More chances to see my team within driving distance.

    BTN.com staff on 11/20/2012 @ 4:52pm EDT Said:

    We think you meant “Big Ten” but we’re glad you like it.🙂

Jim Amber on 11/20/2012 @ 5:24pm EDT Said:

the only thing that really bugs me on re-alignment is the university presidents forever pontificatring that its not all about the money- college athletics has become ALL about the money- guys like Gordon Gee at Ohio State insult peoples intelligence trying to play down the greed and fear of not keeping up with big revenue streams

sbuel2 on 11/20/2012 @ 5:46pm EDT Said:

Monney and TV contracts are what make colleges seek the best deal they can. B1G shares profits evenly which the Big 12 did not do. lots of money involved in TV rights and BTN broadcasts more than football so women’s sports gain exposure and there are some excellent women’s programs in the B1G

FSchmertz on 11/20/2012 @ 6:02pm EDT Said:

Oops, left a comment in the question box, sorry.

You could even look at this as a way to put pressure on ND to make their minds up on FB.

Can’t see how they wouldn’t consider B1G a better fit, and they way things are going they might be on the outside looking in.

Assuming the eventual goal is 16, they want ND + who???

P.S. Rutgers grad here, glad they’ve finally gotten in such a prestigious conference. It’s where they belong, and now the job begins to get the Northeastern eyeballs watching (I know I will)!

Tom Fuller on 11/20/2012 @ 6:42pm EDT Said:

Add Kansas and Syracuse to make it 16 and have the best basketball conference possible!

Tom Fuller on 11/20/2012 @ 6:51pm EDT Said:

Each team could have a home and away against a division foe in basketball and a game with each team from the other division to have 22 league games. Move Ilinois and Kansas to the Legends, Maryland and Rutgers to the leaders. Football will move to 9 league games, with 7 against division foes and only 2 from the other division, not as ideal as what the basketball schedule would look like, but basketball will drive the east coast market for TV dollars.

mark on 11/20/2012 @ 9:24pm EDT Said:

This is the best article I have read since hearing the news of Rutgers/Maryland; I am a Minnesota Alum, and a giant Big Ten fan, now living in Los Angeles. I was rather excited when I heard the news, but that excitement was dampened when I got online, where I was surprised by all the ignoramus’ blather and whining about the whole thing.. “it’s bad for INSERT STUPIDNESS HERE.” All of the sports writer’s crying about this or that… barf. We live in the future. We have airplanes and the internet. Choose to participate in the future or get out of the way for those of us who do. Also; if you’re not a Big Ten Alum- shut up.

aroznowski on 11/20/2012 @ 9:25pm EDT Said:

If I were Jim Delany right now, there are two more moves that I would make at this point. I would offer lacrosse-only membership and CIC membership to Johns Hopkins so that both men’s and women’s lacrosse can be sponsored by the conference without having to wait for another Big Ten school to start lacrosse programs from scratch. After that, I would impose a moratorium on conference expansion similar to the one that the WCHA used to have.

sbuel2 on 11/20/2012 @ 11:26pm EDT Said:

ND is aligning with ACC in all other sports, dropping B1G games in the future to schedule ACC opponents. If ND jumps into a conference, I think it looks like ACC and B1G is out of their line of vision. They will have less competition in ACC if that is where they go. Florida State picked ACC where the majority of the ACC had losing records when the independents, especially the Florida schools joined conferences, ND stuck to indepent status with their private TV contracts. Florida State sat atop ACC for a lot of years and seems to be resurging again.

Jim Dunn on 11/22/2012 @ 9:41am EDT Said:

I’m a SEC fan living in Big Ten country (Thank goodness for CBS, ESPN/Game Plan}. I love football and have watched Big Ten games. The league has inferior athletes compared to the SEC and other major conferences. How does adding sub-level teams like Maryland and Rutgers help the Big Ten compete nationally? If the BIg Ten doesn’t start recruiting premier athletes it will soon be a glorified MAC conference.