I never thought conference expansion was over. I didn't care about conference buyouts, or that commissioners were all saying that they were happy where they were at. As long as there are billions of dollars to be made in television contracts, and those contracts keep expiring, conference realignment and expansion wasn't going to die.
It's just, I thought it would be the ACC and Big 12 cannibalizing what was left on the Big East carcass.
Instead it's the Big Ten striking first for the second time. The news that Rutgers and Maryland could soon become the thirteenth and fourteenth members of the Big Ten comes as quite the surprise. It may not make sense to you on the surface, as Maryland and Rutgers aren't the obvious choice for the conference like Nebraska was on a football level, or Penn State was in the early 90s.
But this isn't about football. It's not about basketball. It's about what Jim Delany said when he first began talking about conference expansion. He wants the Big Ten's footprint to to keep pace with changing demographics around the country, and right now, that's toward the southeast. It's one of the reasons Notre Dame moved from the Big East to the ACC.
Rutgers and Maryland may not bring much as far as football programs are concerned -- though with Kevin Plank and Under Armour behind the program, it wants to become the Oregon of the east -- but they sure do bring a lot of television sets.
Rutgers guarantees nothing with the New York market. That's true. But it's also true that there are nearly 9 million people in the state of New Jersey. The Washington DC metro population area that Maryland brings has nearly 6 million people.
So that's 15 million television sets. Televisions that already get Big Ten Network as part of their cable contract. However -- and the math I'm about to use is only for purposes of this post, I don't know actual numbers -- those getting the Big Ten Network in those areas may be paying 10 cents a month for it. If Maryland and Rutgers are in the Big Ten, the conference can raise that rate. Let's say to about 50 cents a month.
Well, if only 25% of the 15 million people (3.75 million people) in these two new areas get the Big Ten Network that's another $1.5 million a month for the Big Ten Network. That's $18 million a year, or another $1.285 million to each of the Big Ten's 14 schools each season.
Are Rutgers and Maryland making more sense to you now?
I'm also not entirely convinced the Big Ten is done. I think UConn will move to replace Maryland in the ACC, and the Big East will just continue to dissolve until it looks nothing like the conference it once was. Suddenly Florida State finds itself in an ACC conference that is more of a basketball conference than ever before.
Does Florida State then move to the Big 12? If Maryland is willing to pay the $50 million buyout -- and it won't be that much -- wouldn't Florida State be willing to? So maybe the Big 12 expands back to 12 schools with Florida State and Louisville, as the conference seemed split on West Virginia and Louisville when trying to replace Texas A&M and Missouri.
So after Florida State leaves the ACC, the conference finds itself in the same kind of precarious position the Big East was in.
Is that when Delany swoops in and goes after North Carolina and Duke? It's been rumored that the Big Ten has been interested in both before, and maybe Delany wants to be the first to go full-blown super conference.
These are the questions that conference realignment brings.