Big Ten Expansion: Adding Rutgers and Maryland Only Helps Conference Monetarily

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 19:  (L to R) University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany, University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan, University System of Maryland Chairman of the Board of Regents James L. Shea, and Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson stand for a photo after a press conference announcing that University of Maryland is joining the Big Ten Conference on November 19, 2012 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Inane justifications will be boundless in the coming weeks, but the Big Ten's decision to invite Rutgers and Maryland to join the conference and the schools' decisions to join come down to one factor: cold, hard cash. 

It's obvious the schools are using the Big Ten to gain much-needed revenue.

Maryland cut seven varsity sports programs in July due to underfunding and Rutgers is making the intelligent decision to jump ship while there's still a landing spot out of the Big East. 

But don't get it twisted, the Big Ten is using Maryland and Rutgers just as much (if not more so) to increase its ever-expanding revenue.

In fact, that's just about the only logical justification for adding the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights to the conference. 

The Big Ten can say this was about competition, that Maryland is a basketball juggernaut and Rutgers is a football program on the rise, but all it takes is a look at the record book to expose that as a farce. 

Maryland, while still carrying the weight of a nationally prominent program, has been extremely mediocre since winning the national championship in 2002. In the nine seasons since that triumph, the Terrapins have reached the Sweet 16 just once—and that was in 2003.

Since then, it's been a never-ending stream of early exits in March and disappointing trips to the NIT.

Rutgers, while a surprising 9-1 under first-year football coach Kyle Flood, doesn't carry much national clout, either. Though vastly improved over the past decade, the program rose to prominence in an extremely diluted Big East conference and has never competed in a BCS-level bowl game.

These are, in fact, very middling schools that likely won't make much of a blip atop the conference's radar. 

That's not to take anything away from Maryland or Rutgers. Both schools have a loyal, passionate fanbase and fit with the conference's academic prominence. 

But the true appeal of Maryland and Rutgers is what their addition can mean down the line for the conference's bottom line.

The Big Ten's television contract is due for renegotiation in 2017 and the addition of Maryland and Rutgers—particularly their Washington D.C. and New York City markets—will pay massive dividends.

As it currently stands, the Big Ten's current contract is a bit of a relic. According to Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel, it has paid an average of just $100 million per season.

Meanwhile, the new Big 12 deal, which was just inked in September, is for $2.6 billion and pays $200 million annually, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy

Despite that relatively meager payout, the Big Ten was still able to dish out $284 million in total revenue earlier this year. 


The Big Ten Network, a cash cow for the conference which stands to see an even bigger expansion with Washington D.C. and New York City in the picture. 

In the end, this expansion will work for its purpose. The conference and News Corp., which owns 49 percent of the Big Ten Network, will be able to jack up the price cable providers pay to offer the network.

That doesn't necessarily do anything to boost the conference's popularity, but it's not about that. It's about what the conference can do to negotiate television contracts with a perceived hold on two of the most influential cities in the world.

No other conference can say it has the most popular collegiate programs in New York City and Washington D.C., and that perception will do more than anyone realizes. 

Just don't let anyone talk you into increased competitiveness in the conference. Rutgers and Maryland will settle somewhere in the middle of the Big Ten in their big-ticket sports and everyone will go on with their business.

This move is all about money and perception for both sides. If you want to call it greed, then so be it. But major collegiate sports are big business and all parties involved stand to get a whole lot richer from this marriage.

Doesn't that just warm your heart this holiday season?