Big Ten Reignites Conference Realignment

Jim Delany

Jim Delany has gone and done it. With the addition of Maryland today, the Big Ten commissioner has assaulted and penetrated what was perceived to be an impregnable $50 million ACC buyout. The addition of the Terps, and the expected announcement of Rutgers defection to the Big Ten from the Big East tomorrow, has shattered the relative calm waters of conference realignment.

Some of you may be thinking “Maryland? Rutgers? This isn't a big deal”. Oh, but it is. The Maryland defection will soon set the precedent for other ACC schools to leave for greener pastures – if they so choose. For SEC fans that long for teams like Virginia Tech, Florida State, or North Carolina State to join the conference, well, this is how you find out how much money it will take to do that.

But why Maryland and Rutgers for the Big Ten? Simple – revenue. The Big Ten Network has been a cash cow for the Big Ten conference since its inception in 2007. By adding the Washington D.C., Baltimore, and New York City markets, or even the potential to get viewers in those markets, is huge for the Big Ten. Massive, really. All Delany needs is for the cable provider in those areas to provide the Big Ten Network for its subscribers and they make money.

Those new markets of NYC, D.C., and Baltimore are ranked 1st, 8th, and 27th, respectively, according to the latest Neilsen rankings. To put it simply, there are a lot of tv sets in those three cities and that means money. Just how much money? According to Dennis Dodds of CBS, the Big Ten next contract with ESPN could garner $120 million in a decade, and that's a conservative estimate.

Needless to say, it would make the Big Ten the most profitable conference in the country. But where does the SEC and Big 12 go from here? And what of the ACC?

The SEC and Big 12 will likely be in a holding pattern at least until the college playoffs start. Mike Slive is smart enough not to make a knee-jerk reaction to the Big Ten expanding to meet the number of teams he already has in his conference. As for Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12, they seem content at 10… for the moment.

The ACC will look to replace Maryland with another Big East school, as they have done since they began this whole expansion mess in 2003. UConn, as of now, is the front runner with Louisville coming in second.

The main reason why UConn is ahead of Louisville is due to academics. The lowest ranked university in the ACC according to US News is N.C. State at #106. UConn is ranked #63 while Louisville is ranked a distant #160. The ACC could justify adding UConn in that they meet their academic standards and have one of the more reputable basketball programs in the country. Forget that Louisville is better at football and just as competitive in basketball – they don't meet the academic criteria, especially when universities like UNC, Duke, Georgia Tech, and Virginia (just to name a few) are in the conference.

There will be more on conference realignment as this plays out. Just hold on tight and prepare for the ride.