College Football Realignment: Big TV Market Is the Ticket to a Big League Invite

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2012

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 20:  Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany makes his opening remarks 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

Though the Big Ten may justify the recent addition of Maryland and Rutgers by  pointing to the financial potential that the institution’s locations near huge urban centers offer, this claim only underscores how far gone college football really is.

Indeed, until 2012 the Big Tenthe FBS’s oldest conferencewas held in esteem as the old guard, a real honor to belong to and the toughest nut to crack from an entrance standpoint.

Since 1896 the Big Ten has been the premier institutional sport destination, a claim that is illustrated by the league landing big-fish Nebraska in 2010.

The Huskers were the first to receive an offer to join since Penn State dropped its independent status in 1993; prior to that the newest member was Michigan State, which signed on in 1953.

When the similarly steeped-in-tradition Huskers announced their move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten for the 2011 season, it seemed like a match made in heaven; perhaps even a step up for a program and institution that any athletic conference would love to issue a membership card to.

Any school, regardless of their situation, would be foolish not to seriously consider any overtures made by the Big Ten in terms of an offer to join.

This includes stalwarts such as Oklahoma, Texas, Notre Dame and Tennessee; all programs that geographically, academically, athletically and tradition-wise would fit into the Big Ten scheme.

Even though it would turn college sports upside down, an announcement that Oklahoma was joining the Big Ten is not unthinkable.

Beyond a top-tier team scenario for further expansion for the Big Ten, it seems plausible that institutions such as West Virginia, Pitt, Louisville, Kansas, Kansas State or even Oklahoma State would have a shot.

These options, again, all make sense geographically and they all offer a consistent winning program in at least one of the major NCAA men’s sports.

All this logic leads to the question: why in the world would the Big Ten, the bastion of hard play, stiff competition and old school ball, welcome in the likes of Maryland and Rutgers?

The answer that everyone across the nation is spouting“For the TV money”does nothing but signal that this is the beginning of the end for college sports as we know them.

Indeed, if the Big Ten is willing to offer its once prestigious membership packages based by and large on TV attractiveness, what’s next?

Both Maryland and Rutgers are fine institutions, but joining the ranks of the Big Ten over other viable options that fit the conference footprint more suitably?

For what?

The supposed viewership from a Washington D.C. market that has never fully embraced the Terrapins and a New York City market that is saturated with its slew of pro teams?

Realistically who is going to be excited about the big Ohio State vs. Rutgers clash or the Michigan vs. Maryland series?

Screw the fan, screw the existing programs and screw the sport…show me the money!

The Big Ten has overplayed its hand in its most recent expansion shenanigans, and not unlike an MLB that overestimated its national presence when adding teams, it may have pushed itself to the point of no return.

Unfortunately, the precedent has now been set. If you would like to join a major conference and enjoy the security and financial blessings that only a well-oiled, long standing league can bring, you had better hope like hell that you live near a stockpile of plugged-in, tuned-in TV sets.