Realignment is nothing new in college football and it has actually become somewhat commonplace over the last few seasons. Now, reports have surfaced that the Big Ten is in serious talks to bring both Maryland and Rutgers to the conference.
The Big Ten isn't the nation's premier conference, but it certainly is in the top tier with history-rich schools such as Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska. If the moves are completed, the league will have 14 members.
The late Joe Paterno said in a 2011 press conference, "Why don’t we take a look at Rutgers and take a look at somebody that we can bring in from the east so that the Big Ten doesn’t end in State College?”
Now it looks like Paterno's vision may be coming true, but is it really a good move for the conference? It’s a dream scenario for Rutgers, which has feared it would end up on the outside looking in as the college landscape shifted.
Rutgers is located about 40 miles from Manhattan, but it seems unlikely that the university would help the Big Ten tap into the monster that is the New York market. How many people in New York City truly care about Rutgers?
When Rutgers wins, quite a bit. During Rutgers' Cinderella football season in 2006, its game against No. 3 Louisville on ESPN drew huge ratings in the New York market and the Empire State Building was lit up in scarlet.
The Scarlet Knights are currently ranked No. 21 in the most recent AP poll but have not played a very challenging schedule and still have two tough games left against Pittsburgh and Louisville. If Rutgers was to make the move to the Big Ten there would not be a lot, if any, easy wins. The Scarlet Knights could very well go back to being a doormat team, albeit in a much better conference.
2006 was the peak of Rutgers popularity this millennium. Since then they have toiled in mediocrity and obscurity. How many busy metropolitan citizens will get behind an average (at best) team that they have no real link to?
Rutgers is making a very serious run to becoming a respectable and legitimate program in the country, but they just do not have the weight of a Nebraska or Penn State to deal with on an annual basis. Executives at ESPN would have to be crazy to think that adding Rutgers and Maryland would add a tremendous amount of value to a TV deal.
Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! Sports said it best:
Still, the money from potentially being able to jam the Big Ten Network into the home of every cable subscriber in each state (combined population: 14.6 million) is significant. It also allows the league to extend some reach into major Eastern media markets such as Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and even New York City. That said, the Big Ten added the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights, not the Giants, Jets, Eagles, Ravens and Redskins. College football just isn't that big of a deal.
While the Big Ten may not take over the Big Apple, the conference does gain a foothold in two new, large markets by bringing in Rutgers and Maryland. One fact lost in the New York City talk is that New Jersey itself is a huge market. New Jersey has nine million people who live there and could be a tremendous asset on its own.
The expansion is not official and it could all fall apart before all is said and done. There are still exit fees, negotiations and a variety of other roadblocks that could hang up the move.
If Rutgers is announced as the newest member of the Big Ten, don't expect the people of New York City to flock to the streets in their scarlet sweaters and rejoice the move.
Really, they just don't care that much.