The Big Ten Conference is one of tradition, with its proud, long history as the oldest Division 1 college athletic conference in the country.
Currently, the conference has 12 members, despite its name, and it recently added two schools to its repertoire, both of which officially will join the conference starting in the 2014 academic year. Although the decision to add these schools most likely was prompted by the profits they will award the conference, there also are benefits to having a 14-member conference.
Last Tuesday, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany excitedly announced Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, as the 14th member of the Big Ten. The announcement came just one day after the conference added the University of Maryland. The move is expected to cost both schools millions of dollars in penalties for leaving their respective conferences.
Omari Sankofa II
Although many are upset with the Big Ten’s decision, it is time to — perhaps awkwardly — welcome these schools into our conference.
Many were quick to criticize the conference’s decision to add Rutgers and Maryland. The decision to do so most likely was prompted by the conference’s desire to increase profits. The conference had a reputation as one that represents the Midwest and its strong universities, but now its scope spreads to the East Coast.
The Big Ten Network, or BTN, was hoping to gain new television audiences in other areas of the country than those it already has, and it will be gaining a huge media market with the conference’s eastward expansion, securing millions of viewers in New Jersey, New York and Maryland.
Sports, much like universities, are businesses hoping to turn a profit. The conference most likely was acting in its own self-interest because of the possible money it would gain when deciding to add these schools.
But there also are benefits to having two new members in the Big Ten division. Maryland and Rutgers both have strong academic reputations as vigorous research institutions. Adding them to this conference could spark interest for collaborative research opportunities, providing possible academic benefits for MSU students. The conference just gained thousands of new colleagues by adding these institutions, and MSU should engage in setting up possible research opportunities with these universities.
When looking at the move from a sports perspective, however, the conference has gained little. Neither school has a strong football program, and adding them to this conference only weakens the Big Ten’s reputation for strong athletic programs.
MSU could lose its strong football conference and nonconference schedule only to be replaced with weaker opponents. Rutgers has had a strong football season this year, but it’s difficult to tell if this will continue in the future after it officially is involved in Big Ten play.
Although it’s not ideal, there are benefits to adding these schools to the Big Ten. The conference might lose its reputation as one that represents the strong athletic and academic programs of the Midwest and a conference based on tradition, but MSU could see increased collaborative research opportunities because of this addition.