The University of Maryland’s Board of Trustees voted to accept an invitation to become the Big Ten’s 13th member on Monday. Rutgers is then expected to announce their move to the Big Ten on Tuesday, which will round out the conference with 14 schools. From the moment the rumors of a potential move from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten began about a week ago, Maryland fans were starting to form their opinions about leaving their beloved ACC.
On paper, the move to the Big Ten makes perfect sense for Maryland. Their athletic program has been bleeding cash in recent years, and the Big Ten offers far more revenue for the school then the ACC does. The Big Ten also has the added luxury of the Big Ten Network to further increase revenue, and that their other TV deals expire in 2017, giving them a chance to negotiate a new deal far sooner than any other conference can.
It’s reached the point of some street game in New York City. Flip a card here, show its match over there. Have a cup with a ball in it, mix with two cups that don’t, shuffle ’em around and then have your, um, patron pick up where it is.
Pretty soon, the nation’s college sports fan base will be about as clueless as a hoodwinked tourist with knowing where the ball is.
Just when it seems the landscape of conference affiliations has settled somewhat, another continental shift kicks in.
This has gone beyond ridiculous. It has surpassed sublime. At this point, it defies description … if not sanity.
OK, we get it. Maryland felt like an outsider in a circuit it helped to create, so university regents voted Monday to jump off the ACC wagon and hitch itself to the Big Ten. Not that it will have any more cachet with its new companions in the Midwest, but at least that bigger paycheck will help sooth any hurt, or left-out, feelings now.
Maybe it’s just time. After 23 years of change and craziness, with schools switching conferences at the drop of a hat, the likes of Boise State gaining national acclaim and the BCS system becoming the bane of major college football’s existence, maybe it’s just time.
Time for Notre Dame to rise to the top of the heap, time for the Irish to play for a championship, time for a little old-school normalcy, if not familiarity, to return … maybe, just maybe, it is.
How else do we explain the 2012 season, especially after this past weekend’s results that saw No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both go down? The fact that those two programs constituted the best in the sport midway through November says it all with how things are different from the last time the Irish were in the process of grabbing an 11th national title in 1988.
Lou Holtz patrolled the ND sideline like a raving lunatic back then instead of the ESPN studios as he does now.
In the second season after Nebraska turned the Big Ten into a 12-team league, it had appeared that the conference would be one of the few bastions of stability among the shifting winds of college sports realignment. Now, however, it appears the question of Big Ten expansion has been reopened.
ESPN reports that the Big Ten is in serious talks with both Maryland (a founding member of the ACC) and Rutgers (ditto for the Big East as far as football is concerned) about joining the league. The putative 14-team conference would then have its first foothold on the Atlantic coast to go with its traditional Midwestern power base.
Assessed purely as a financial decision (admittedly the primary driving force of the entire realignment maelstrom), the addition of both schools makes some sense. Maryland offers access to Washington, D.C. as a television market, while Rutgers does the same for New York City, and a bigger conference will inevitably have more bargaining power for TV contracts in any case.
Ole Miss is sitting at 5-5 heading into its Saturday afternoon face-off against No. 8 LSU in Death Valley, which means they need just one more victory to become bowl eligible. An upset of LSU would be shocking. The fact that Ole Miss went from a dismal 2-10 campaign a year ago to being on the verge of bowl eligible is beyond shocking. The job Hugh Freeze and his staff have done in less than one year in Oxford is as impressive a coaching performance as any around the country.
It should come to no surprise when you hear Freeze talk.
Referring to not being happy with six wins and bowl eligibility, Freeze stated this week, "It's something you wish wasn't talked about as much. It would be nice to have that out of the way, but we don't. There's still a lot to play for. You want it so badly for the fans, but also for the few seniors that we do have. You want the young ones to experience what that is like because we need the extra practices. We need that badly, to start building our program."