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Big Ten Expansion: Rutgers Defection Will Accelerate Big East's Decline

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 20:  Rutgers University Athletic director Tim Pernetti looks on during a press conference announcing that Rutgers University is joining the Big Ten Conference on November 20, 2012 at the Hale Center in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
Ben ChodosCorrespondent IINovember 26, 2012

The dominoes are in place, and the Big Ten’s addition of Rutgers and Maryland will set off a chain-reaction that will lead to the steady demise of the Big East.

Last week, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and Dana O’Neil reported that Maryland and Rutgers would become the newest members of the Big Ten, starting in the 2014 season.

The Scarlet Knights are currently part of the Big East, while the Terrapins are members of the ACC. But the two schools' exits from their current leagues will have a catastrophic affect on the Big East. 

The ACC’s first move after losing Maryland will be to add another member, and they are likely to poach one of the Big East’s current members. CBS Sports’ Jeremy Fowler pointed to Connecticut and Louisville as the primary candidates to make the switch.

ACC could move quickly, I'm told. UConn and Louisville are considered clubhouse leaders among the four, per source.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) November 19, 2012

If one of these schools accepts an invitation, they will become the seventh program in the last year to either declare plans to leave the Big East or make a formal exit. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are on their way out, with Notre Dame’s basketball program joining them; West Virginia and TCU are already in the Big 12, and Rutgers became the sixth defector.

But despite this decline, the conference had plans to reload and remain relevant. The additions of Central Florida, Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU and Temple were supposed to push the conference to 12 teams split into East and West Divisions.

But Rutgers’ exit and the looming possibility of either UConn or Louisville joining them will shake up these plans, and as McMuprhy noted in a separate report, Boise State and SDSU are rethinking their decision to leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East.

The schools have publicly denied these reports, but there is little motivation for them to move conferences. A recent ruling has placed both the MWC and the Big East in the “Group of Five.” This consists of five conferences, and each season the highest-rated champions from these leagues will be granted a bid to a BCS bowl.

There is a worrying amount of uncertainty surrounding the Big East, and the conference can no longer use an increased chance of reaching a BCS bowl as a selling point to attract new members from conferences like the MWC.

The possibility that Boise State and San Diego State opt to stay put is very real, and as The North County Times’ Stefanie Loh noted, the schools even inserted loopholes in their contracts with the Big East that may allow them to avoid penalties.

If the Big East’s planned expansion falls through, it will be the final straw, and the conference will fade further into irrelevancy. As of now, Rutgers and Maryland’s decision to join the Big Ten appears as if it will be the catalyst for a series of unfortunate events for the Big East. 

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