Latest Round of Realignment is Honest but still a Blow to the Big East

20 Nov

Games have started and there have been marquee games, upsets and interesting story lines on the court but again it is off the court news that is grabbing the headlines of the sport.  Late Sunday news started to trickle out that the Big 10 was deep into talks with Maryland and Rutgers to join the conference.

This comes as a bit of a surprise as the Big 10 didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to expand further after luring Nebraska from the Big XII to reach 12 members.  Jim Delaney the Big 10 Commissioner might have been spurred when Notre Dame finally decided on a conference for its Olympic sports but the conference turned out to be the ACC.

The biggest surprise is Maryland, a charter member of the ACC joining when the conference was formed in 1953.  They become only the 2nd team to leave the conference, South Carolina left in 1971 to be an independent.  Former Terrapin coach Gary Williams said that the move to the Big 10 is a positive for the basketball program explaining, “We can say Duke and Carolina, but we basically will be playing them once a year now. Duke and Carolina, that’s the rivalry. They don’t look at it as Maryland being their rival. The old ACC where you play everyone twice a year and see who’s the best team at the end of the year, that’s not happening anymore. The Big Ten, last I checked, had five teams in the top 20 in basketball.”

He also thinks it will be a good thing for the non-revenue sports and for Maryland those sports could use a boost as they cut seven of them back in July because they hadn’t made enough progress raising money to make themselves sustainable.

The good news is that with this move Maryland President Wallace Loh says that the move gives the school enough financial stability to reinstate those teams that were cut.  One sobering thing about the move is the fact that Maryland made no qualms that leaving the ACC was the best move for the university from a financial stand point.  Finally a school admits, hey we did this because it will give us the chance to make more money.

There is another aspect to this news, in addition to Maryland heading to Big Ten country it has been announced that Rutgers will be joining the Terrapins in making the jump. It isn’t so much about the Big East losing Rutgers from an athletics stand point as it is about the rumors about who the ACC may look to if/when they decide to replace Maryland.  The ACC is likely look toward the Big East to poach a team, with Connecticut and Louisville most likely, Cincinnati and South Florida are possibilities to switch leagues.

But as Loh said it is about money and when looking at the money who can blame the Terrapins or Rutgers, who become the far and away winners of conference realignment. Rutgers moves from the Big East where each full member received roughly $3.1 million dollars per year from television rights, a deal that is currently being shopped by the conference to the Big Ten where the conference and its network are guaranteeing each member a payout of $24 million a year.

From that perspective wouldn’t you leave your job if you were offered the same position elsewhere and guaranteed to make eight times more than at your current position? I know I would.

From a basketball perspective, this is another blow to old-school athletics.  Maryland anywhere but the ACC? Syracuse and Pittsburgh not in the Big East?  From a basketball view this could get even uglier for the Big East.

The conference will now lose Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Rutgers in the coming seasons.  Even though Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU and Temple next year that is still a downgrade for the depth of Big East basketball in anyone’s eyes.  With rumors that Lousville and Connecticut will be the top targets of the ACC when/if they decide to replace Maryland, another big blow to old school Big East basketball.

When the news leaked that Maryland and Rutgers were leaving for the Big Ten there was some whining and kvetching about the never ending realignment, when will it end? Can’t we just talk about basketball?  While I agree for the most part with the noise coming from those people.  It is refreshing to hear schools say hey it is about money and we are looking out for number 1, and for Rutgers this is such a big move they probably deserve some applause.

Now back to your regularly scheduled action on the court.


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