Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Nov 2012

Maryland and Rutgers Might Be Moving to the Big Ten

Here's to hoping you enjoyed your few months of realignment-free news from the world of college football because it might be coming to an end. Over the past three or four days, "Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten" rumors have begun to take on ferocious volume, and ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Dana O'Neil and Andy Katz are reporting that Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who is to Maryland what Nike's Phil Knight is to Oregon (i.e. a serious sugar daddy and influential figure), is very much in favor of the move. And if Maryland were to move, Rutgers would take about three seconds to agree to become the Big Ten's 14th member.

Why would Maryland make this move? They are, after all, a founding member of the ACC and have been associated with Duke, North Carolina, etc., for a long time now. But there is always a draw in money, especially for Maryland, which has been struggling with cash flow for quite a while. The school recently had to cut eight sports and could very much benefit from being part of the Big Ten's television contract, which could become quite valuable with whatever pieces of the Washington D.C. market the school is able to command. Of course, there would still be issue of the simply enormous, $50 million buyout that the ACC would require of Maryland. Not a small thing, that.

Things seem to have gotten awfully real, awfully fast. Maryland's departure is not a slam dunk, but the school's Board of Regents will be voting on the issue on Monday. If the Terrapins elect to move, Rutgers could finalize its own decision by Tuesday. Will the ACC become a realignment victim for the first time? And how much will Rutgers' departure damage an already crippled Big East?

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 18 Nov 2012

47 comments, Last at 26 Nov 2012, 5:03pm by jklps


by RickD :: Sun, 11/18/2012 - 7:31pm

Who's left in the Big East playing football? Connecticut and Rutgers? Louisville and Cincinnati? These are not powerhouses.

The conference has no long-term future. They've already lost Miami, BC, Syracuse, Pitt, Virginia Tech, and probably five other schools that I've forgotten.

It's pretty bad when the conference has to allow Temple back in.

by Zac :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:46am

If Rutgers left it would be UConn, Cincinnati, Louisville, and USF (the later 3 of which joined all the way back in 2005; Temple, which rejoined football this year; and future members Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Boise State, San Diego State, and Navy.

by justanothersteve :: Sun, 11/18/2012 - 8:23pm

At least Big 14 isn't taken yet.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:11pm

It is, actually. The Big 12 trademarked it way back, just in case. Rumor has it that they got Big 16 as well, but I couldn't find anything that said so. (Of course what I could find was just message-board rumor, so I suppose that might also be incorrect.)

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:19pm

Don't you have to use copyrights or you lose them?

by Drunkmonkey :: Sun, 11/18/2012 - 10:06pm

I thought UConn and Pitt were going to the ACC?

by Hurt Bones :: Sun, 11/18/2012 - 10:37pm

Syracuse and Pitt.

by Cro-Mags :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:15am

I think UCONN is willing to bail, just waiting for the invite from the ACC. Seems more likely if Maryland leaves. That would be about the last nail in the Big East coffin. More too miss as a basketball, than as a football conference.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:21pm

It is interesting to note how little basketball seems to factor into all this. Men's basketball is, after all, the OTHER revenue-generating college sport. And yet the members of the #1 men's basketball conference are scrambling to leave. Shows how much more money there must be in football.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:13pm

It isn't football itself as much as the rights fees from football and basketball broadcasts. (Well, there is the matter of bowl slots and BCS bids, but that really isn't nearly as much money when split 11 or 12 or 14 ways.)

by Dennis :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 9:38pm

But that's the point - the rights fees from football are so much higher than basketball because teams are so eager to leave the Big East.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:20am

One day there will only be one conference.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 9:58am

It will be the Big Organization Ruling Games.

by Sancho (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:58am

I am all in for a 64-team league.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:18am

It will be a 63-team league and Notre Dame.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:34pm


by Clemson Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:42am

Don't let the door hit you on your way out. With that number of students and the associated number of alumni, in between two major population centers, their money problems aren't the ACC, it's management and being in a more pro-oriented market.

I say we take the exit fee and bribe Navy. Excellent academics and a big national following.

by jklps :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 5:26pm

And Clemson has contributed how exactly on the field or court?

by Dean :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 2:55pm

Well, there was that national championship that they won. Yeah, it was a long time ago, but it's still one more than the Terps.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 3:59pm

The 2003 Golf Championship? That's the only sport that Clemson has more national championships than the Terps.

by Dean :: Fri, 11/23/2012 - 8:30am

No. The one from the early 80s in football. 81? 82? Like I said, it's so long ago that it barely counts as relevant today. Borderline, but I tend to allow roughly 1980 or so - to present. Players might not have been born yet, but boosters who were young then remember it and they're the ones whose money drives the game. Has Maryland ever won a National Championship (in football)? As a member of the ACC or otherwise?

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 11/23/2012 - 2:06pm

1953 National Championship.

by jklps :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:03pm

And unless something changes, Maryland will bring the most recent basketball championship to the Big 10(baring a win this season or next by a Big 10 school).

MD is bringing tv, basketball and tickets to be sold at their football stadium for Big 10 fans.

by jklps :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 5:26pm

And Clemson has contributed how exactly on the field or court?

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:20pm

It's clear why Maryland would want to be a the Big 10, but why would the Big 10 want a school that's bleeding money?

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:22pm

Some of the realignment moves make sense to me. (Nebraska fits in nicely with the Big 10, for example). Others just leave me scratching my head. I get why Maryland and Rutgers would want to join the Big 10...just not nearly as clear why the Big 10 would want them.

by Briguy :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:21pm

Markets. The whole "large schools in the Midwest" motif would be thrown out in a heartbeat for a chance at the east cost TV markets.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:41pm

Exactly. Rutgers gives you the NY TV market, and Maryland gives you the DC TV market.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:37pm

This is not in direct response to you Marko, I'm just putting the message here in the chain, since I'm just expanding on what you said.

To clarify some more, since I don't think everyone quite gets it. It doesn't necessarily pull in more viewers because those schools had them in that area, but it really helps leverage the network carriers to carry the B1G Network which then gives B1G (and yes I really do think they might just drop the 10 and stick with BIG or B1G they've been pushing branding that way for a bit) more leverage in negotiations with advertisers, which is where the money comes from. When you can say you have pretty much all the Midwest markets with the exceptions of KC and St. Louis (and Nebraska does have some of the KC market, and Illinois has some of the St. Louis market) plus you are now carried in the New York and DC markets (even if the shares there are small you are now a channel option for viewers when before you weren't) that can help bring in a lot more money that folks might realize.

That's more how it delivers the markets and why the the conference would be interested.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:50pm

Definitely agree with what you say about leveraging the B1G Network to get more in advertising and with what others below say about more money coming in with more subscribers to the B1G Network. As you and other say, that's why the TV markets matter, even though the NY market isn't a hotbed of college football.

That's also why the Pac-12 so badly wanted to add some of the Texas schools. They wanted to add the Texas TV markets to their reach as they were launching the Pac-12 Network.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 3:37pm

The problem is that your assessment is only true in the theoretical sense. The NY Market doesn't watch much college football, and they certainly don't identify with Rutgers. Even in New Jersey, only Rutgers alum pay any attention to the program. Granted, its a large public school, so it's big enough to "deliver" New Jersey, but that's not what's being promised. To a New Yorker, Jersey is some sort of wasteland between The Center Of The Universe and Philly. You have to go through customs when you cross the Hudson River, and once you get past Philly the map ends and there's a vague inscription reading "here be dragons."

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:39pm

You're overlooking just how big the NY market is compared to other markets. Even a small percentage of the NY market is better than many markets; it constitutes 6.5% of the entire US television market. It is larger than Dallas, San Fran/Oakland, and Boston combined - and they are the #5-7 markets. Rutgers may not get the avid following of Nebraska, but the NYC market is about 10 times the size of Omaha and Lincoln combined. So even if you only got 2% of the NY market, you'd reach as many people as if you reached 20% of Nebraska.

Maryland is also about markets, even though it shares the DC market with Virginia and Va Tech. DC and Baltimore are considered separate markets. If combined, they would be fourth largest US market. (DC is 9th with 2.3M. Baltimore is 26th with 1.1M.)

A slightly different tidbit: For all the people talking about GB being such a small market, it's still about 2/3rd the size of Jacksonville. Taking into account the level of fan support and that the Packers also having Milwaukee in their market, they have the equivalent of a 1.3M market (which would place that at #21 overall). I realize Milwaukee and GB are about 100 miles apart. Just pointing out the Packers market isn't as small as often mentioned.

Figures from http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2008/09/10/nielsen-local-television-mar.... They look about right. I'm sure there are other estimates available, but I'm not going to go out and compare them all.

by JoeHova :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:39pm

It's not exactly true that NYC doesn't watch much college football. There are a lot of viewers, they just make up a relatively small percentage of the tv market. Also, Rutgers is the most popular team in the NYC tv market.

I'm not saying I think this is a smart move for the Big Ten, but if they want their network to get full carriage fees in NYC, Rutgers is their best bet. I doubt this move will look especially smart in the near future, I think they are hoping that in the next 10-20 years, people in NY and DC will become interested in following the Big Ten and the fanbases of Maryland and Rutgers will grow.


by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:15pm

I think they are also hoping that News Corp will be able to bundle YES and BTN to NYC subscribers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 4:45pm

You don't necessarily have to be a huge ratings winner in the market to rake in cable t.v. subscriber fees. One estimate I saw this weekend said it was not wildly optimisitic to think these two schools could quickly bring in an additional 100 million a year in subscriber fees for the BIG Network, and the wildly optimistic figure was $200 million. I suspect Delaney and crew have run the numbers pretty thoroughly; it isn't as if they have been impulsive as realignment fever has swept the sport.

(edit) My cynical side wants to discount it, but I also think the existing Big 10 schools wanted to keep their members to schols which have a strong commitmnt to research. Didn't Nebraska make a commitment to expand their research budget when they joined? Where does Maryland and Rutgers fit in that category?

by Clemson Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:53pm

Maryland and Rutgers are pretty fair. Maryland is middle of the pack in the ACC. The ACC alumni bases were pretty solidly against West Virginia for exactly that reason. (And UNC's problems are really limited to a joke of a major).

I don't doubt the big 10s ability to strong arm the cable providers. I live in Greenville, SC, and somehow their network is on the extended package. I'd love for some antitrust something or other to force ordering by individual stations. I end up getting screwed over the BBC, as it's generally the only station I want in the bigger package.

Maryland has problems money can't fix though.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 6:22pm

Both Maryland and Rutgers are AAU schools. Nebraska was ejected from the AAU right after admission to B1G. So it's the only non AAU school in the B1G. The majority of ACC schools are not in the AAU.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:50am

Markets are often hypothetical. Are there lots of East Coast football fans who'd avoid a Big 10 game otherwise but will be all over it if Rutgers is in the conference? And looking at it another way, the Big East was in horrible shape even with Rutgers. It's not like people were saying "Everything will still be okay as long as they can just hold onto Rutgers and the NYC market." So, they weren't consequential enough to stabilize a less-prominent conference, but they'll make a huge difference to a more influential conference? I just don't see the logic to that statement.

by Cro-Mags :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 12:43pm

Is it just a matter of time until the Big East loses it's automatic BCS bid and plunges into national irrelevance? That seems to be the only cache the conference has to attract ... the leftovers and misfits that they've recently been courting.
Is Rutgers not overreaching? I would think teams like Rutgers and UCONN would benefit more from being in the top end of a soft conference, where they can actually compete for a conf. title and a BCS bid, than to become whipping boys in a much better conference.
Or is this just the new normal, where conference lineups are in constant flux?

by Nick F (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:14pm

The Big East already lost it's automatic BCS bid under the new "playoff" system.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:41pm

And it was already irrelevant for a few years before that.

by tomdrees :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 5:36pm

AS a Maryland fan, this bugs me. But: I read in the Washington Post that the ACC TV contract with ESPN goes until 2027, with annual payouts to each team of $17 million, where the Big Ten pays out $24.6M and is up again in 2017. That is a stupidly long contract for the ACC. Provided the league doesn't fold by then (and it might), ESPN will have probably tripled the value of the content.

Whatever's left of the TV industry infrastructure has to go crazy outbidding each other for sports content. It's the only thing anybody's willing to sit down and watch in real time anymore.

If I were the commissioner of any league I'd do five year deals, tops.

Also, can we get some Football Outsiders recognition for what's going on this year at Maryland, please? It has to be considered a special occasion when a Division-I football program is starting a scout team linebacker at quarterback. I feel like Tanier should come back to write about it or something.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:28am

FO doesn't cover chess.

by jklps :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 5:29pm

The ACC is probably in trouble long term with football money(where the only real money is), and that's why I accept the move.

I'd rather be first out than last in when the conference disappears.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:41pm

As a Maryland alum, I should have strong feelings about this but I don't. It's not any worse than anything else that's happened at Maryland over the last few years.

I will definitely miss hating Duke though. Or I should say I will miss playing Duke. Hating is forever.

by jugkj (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:18pm

I'd bet cash money they're not done; within five years, they'll add two more teams in the east, and be the dominant college sports conference for the northeast quarter of the US. Notre Dame is obviously the goal, but Pitt, Syracuse, UConn or BC would fit in.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 11:13am

unc and uva are the goal, maybe georgia tech or virginia tech if uva flakes (though gt and vt probably make more sense going to the big 12 as a 4 team package with fsu and clemson). the ability to reach into the heartland of the american south is worth vastly more than anything pitt, syracuse, uconn, or bc could offer. plus uva and unc have national alumni bases clustered heavily in major media markets. they're both academic powerhouses with huge student bodies and state backing. and in a conference that cares about football, they can both be respectable football programs.