New Kids on the Block
Recent addition of Maryland, Rutgers to Big Ten brings academic, athletic implications
Last week, the path of the Big Ten Conference was changed in a big way when two new schools made their way into the conference.
On Nov. 19, the University of Maryland Board of Regents unanimously voted to leave the university’s current conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, or ACC, and become the 13th school in the Big Ten — only two years after the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was approved to join the conference.
Maryland’s move quickly was followed approximately 24 hours later by Rutgers University, which left the Big East Conference to join as the Big Ten’s 14th school.
With this move, which some said primarily was made to boost television revenue, the Big Ten Network will enter two of the top television markets in the nation — New York and Washington, D.C. — and is expected to bring in huge profits for the conference.
Both teams are expected to join the conference for the 2014-15 academic year.
Although the moves are expected to increase profit, some MSU community members wonder what other benefits can come from such a move, particularly in regards to academics.
Maryland and Rutgers are expected to join a conference with a demonstrated commitment to academic partnerships.
The Committee on Institutional Cooperation, or CIC, is a consortium of Big Ten universities founded in 1958 by the presidents of Big Ten to help the institutions succeed in their academic missions and generate opportunities for students and faculty, according to the CIC’s website.
Each Big Ten school is a member of the consortium, with the University of Chicago being the only school outside of the conference to be a member.
However, Chicago was a member of the conference until it dropped out in 1946, later to be replaced by MSU.
MSU Provost Kim Wilcox said the consortium allows for a variety of collaborations with Big Ten schools, including shared courses and opportunities for students to study at other universities.
“(This move) is about the strength of the schools, (and) Maryland and Rutgers are very strong academically,” Wilcox said.
Steven Thomas, program manager at MSU’s graduate school, said despite the emphasis on athletics and specifically football, he believes the new universities will bring added resources through the consortium, such as the exchange of ideas and the use of facilities.
However, it is sure to bring a few challenges, especially since the schools are farther away than most of the other Big Ten schools.
“Technology has changed so much with Skype and other electronic resources; there are ways around the distance,” Thomas said. “I think the benefits definitely outweigh any initial barrier we might have.”
Separate of athletics, both Maryland and Rutgers match well statistically with the rest of the Big Ten.
According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities — released each year by Shanghai Jiao Tong University — Maryland ranked as the 38th-best institution in the world, which would be sixth in the Big Ten.
Rutgers checked in at 61st on the list, which would put it at ninth in the Big Ten.
MSU ranked 96th in the world, which would place them at 12th in the Big Ten, including Rutgers and Maryland.
“With a strong research profile, Rutgers is a welcome addition to the Big Ten Conference,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said in an interview with the Big Ten Network. “We look forward to competing and collaborating with them.”
The Big 14?
Not everyone is pleased with the recent additions to the Big Ten though, including doctoral student David Krcatovich.
“I think they did it to bring in more revenue, but I don’t think it’s good competitively,” Krcatovich said. “Neither of those schools are great football programs.”
Some, such as Krcatovich, question the strength of the athletics programs at Maryland and Rutgers — especially football, arguably the Big Ten’s premier sport.
Since the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, was put in place in 1998, Maryland and Rutgers only have combined to make one BCS bowl appearance — when Maryland lost to Florida in the 2002 Orange Bowl, 56-23. Seven schools currently in the conference have at least two appearances in a BCS bowl.
However, Maryland has won a total of 39 national titles in all varsity sports compared to Rutgers’ four, with the Terrapins’ most recent coming in men’s basketball in 2002.
MSU Trustee Melanie Foster wasn’t happy about the move, especially when factoring in location.
“(I’m) a little disappointed that we added the two new schools from a geographical perspective,” Foster said. “When I think of the Big Ten, I think of the Midwest.”
But MSU athletics director Mark Hollis said most of the conference realignments are focused on football and TV revenues, but this move will help with MSU’s strong alumni base on the East Coast.
“There’s no question that the impact that is happening around the country with conference (realignment) put the Big Ten Conference in a situation that you almost call this a necessity,” Hollis said in an interview at the time of Maryland’s announcement. “There is a component that this is about money. Is it good for the fans? I can argue it really is going to be.”
Listen to the money talk
Before Maryland and Rutgers are free to leave their respective conferences, they each will have to pay exit fees.
After Notre Dame joined the ACC in September, the conference raised its exit fee to $50 million.
Last week, it was reported that Maryland would have to pay the entire exit fee unless the ACC and Maryland agreed upon a lesser amount.
However, Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday the ACC sued Maryland for about $52.26 million.
However, Rutgers only will have to pay a $20 million exit fee from the Big East, according to a previous State News article.
During the press conference held last week announcing Maryland’s decision, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said the benefits exceed the monetary cost of leaving the conference.