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Friday, December 19, 2014


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Column: New additions more about money than merit






O'Brien

O’Brien

By now, you’ve already heard of the Big Ten’s newest additions, Maryland and Rutgers.

You’ve heard Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany talk about why it’s good for the conference, spinning tales of grand potential for the two haphazard athletics departments and explaining that this expands the conference’s footprint.

Sure, expanding to the East Coast makes sense when you look at the dollars and cents — the potential television revenue to be brought in with all the eyes in the New York and Washington, D.C., markets will drive huge profits for the Big Ten. But don’t think that’s the only reason the Terps and the Scarlet Knights will be jumping ship to the land of Leaders and Legends.

It’s hard to look at the Big Ten’s most recent expansion, along with Notre Dame’s move to the ACC in all sports but football in September and not wonder how reactionary this move was. It’s been well documented Delany and the Big Ten have tried and failed to court the Fighting Irish time and again.

So when Delany’s perfect 10 was swept off her feet and wooed to the ACC, he began to look for alternates — and settled on a pair of sixes in Maryland and Rutgers.

In a season in which the Big Ten has been ridiculed for its weak performances, it makes little sense to add a pair of schools with a combined one BCS bowl appearance (Maryland in the 2002 Orange Bowl) and zero BCS wins (the Terps were slaughtered 56-23 by Florida). It dilutes the strength of the conference and, taking it one step further, the strength of schedule for teams within the conference.

Although I’ve heard that along with crab cakes, football is one of the things Maryland “does,” adding the Terrapins and Rutgers to the schedule means at least one other conference game will get bumped in favor of a weaker opponent. Say goodbye to the Land Grant trophy, the grind-em-out, hard-nosed football played in Columbus or Iowa City and the classic MSU-Wisconsin matchups — which already are being put on hold.

Even more frightening than losing the grip on tradition is the possibility the Big Ten might expand its conference schedule to nine games, leaving only three opportunities to play high-caliber opponents out of conference — a practice the Spartans and athletics director Mark Hollis have taken even more seriously in recent years, scheduling football powerhouses Alabama, Oregon, Boise State, Miami and, of course, Notre Dame.

So hands up if you’d trade one of those games for the opportunity to play an extra conference game in College Park or New Jersey.

No? I didn’t think so.

When Nebraska signed on to join the conference, which became effective in 2011, the Huskers brought with them a historically great program with multiple national titles and a mentality that fit within the Big Ten mindset. With Rutgers and Maryland, we see a pair of also-rans that will challenge the likes of Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.

So when Rutgers and Maryland officially come to town and you’re wondering what they bring to the conference, remember one simple thing.

In this day and age, it’s no longer about what’s happening on the field. It’s the money made away from it that counts.

Jesse O’Brien is a State News football reporter. He can be reached at obrie151@msu.edu.


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