Maryland and Rutgers are just the beginning
by Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
When the Big 12 finalized its new television deal in early September, followed just days later by the Atlantic Coast Conference adding Notre Dame as a partial member and raising the league’s exit fee to $50 million, a sense of relative calm settled over college athletics. The fear and greed that had fueled a rash of conference realignment since the summer of 2010 seemed to be at a pause.
But athletic departments across the spectrum were once again thrown a huge realignment curveball this weekend when they learned of reports that the Big Ten was in advanced discussions to add Maryland and Rutgers, increasing its membership to 14 schools. Though nothing is official yet – Maryland could get authorization from its Board of Regents as early as Monday to leave the ACC – conversations with officials at multiple schools revealed a sense of shock Saturday night and Sunday and some concern that another round of panic-driven moves could be at hand.
Just a couple months after decision-makers in college athletics seemed ready for the landscape to stabilize, at least until assessing the impact of the college football playoff in 2014, uncertainty once again hangs in the air.
“Everyone’s going to start looking over their shoulder again,” said one major conference athletic director, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issues. “You can see the Big Ten’s strategy if you think about it, but not a lot of people expected this so soon after the last round. Certainly, it makes you wonder what’s the next thing that’s going to drop in our laps.”
The Big Ten’s potential expansion caught the industry off guard for a couple reasons. After adding Nebraska last year, which got the league to 12 schools, there seemed to be little immediate incentive for the Big Ten to get even bigger unless Notre Dame was one of those teams. The Big Ten’s deals with ABC/ESPN and Fox don’t expire until 2016, and according to a report in the St.Louis Post-Dispatch, league schools received $24.6 million each last year,which is the most lucrative television deal in … [For more on Maryland and Rutgers are just the beginning, click here.]