Within the last hour reports are coming out through various sources, including Yahoo and ESPN, that the University of Maryland is leaving the ACC to join the Big Ten conference. According to Yahoo, a news conference to announce this decision has been scheduled for this afternoon that will include Maryland president Wallace Loh and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney.
The addition of Maryland in 2014 will temporarily bump the Big Ten to an uneven 13 members. The conference however, is not standing pat. Rutgers University is expected to announce tomorrow that it too is joining the Big Ten as the 14th member of the adjusted conference. The Scarlet Knights are expected to join the Big Ten for the 2015 season.
These moves are obviously blows to the ACC and Big East respectively and will significantly expand the Big Ten’s footprint in terms of television markets. Neither move immediately impacts things in our neck of the woods but this has to send shockwaves through the plans of the other conferences.
That’s right folks, the realignment doors have been ripped wide open, so get your golashes on. We will all be trudging through the realignment rumor muck in the coming months and it all starts now.
For the Big 12, Maryland’s decision has to reopen the door to discussions with Florida State and Clemson. Yes, the ACC recently implemented their $50 million exit fee policy but one has to wonder how well that’s really going to hold up. Further if it’s not a deterrent to keep Maryland in the fold, it’s hard to imagine that it’s going to prevent other ACC schools from looking at their options elsewhere. Also playing a factor in this conversation is that Maryland, and yes, Florida State were the two schools that voted against the ACC’s exit fee hike.
If you’re Florida State and Clemson, the Big 12 looks a lot more appealing based on how this college football season has played out. Florida State, with just one loss on it’s record, is stuck at #10 in the BCS currently and much of that is a result of their terrible strength of schedule. Granted opening with Savannah State and Murray State do themselves any favors, and they do have a huge non-con game against #4 Florida coming up, but teams can’t control the strength of their respective conference schedules.
#11 Clemson is in a similar boat with a 10-1 record. Their only loss came at the hands of Florida State and they have #12 South Carolina on their schedule this weekend. But their other non-con games – Ball State, Furman and Auburn aren’t augmenting their resume.
The other ACC schools are jumbled up in a mass of mediocrity with records between 6-5 and 4-7 plus Boston College which has truly earned its 2-9 mark.
If you play in a legitimate conference like the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and – in most years – the Big 10, you don’t have to sweat your non-conference strength of schedule because your in-conference opponents will give you plenty of opportunities for quality wins. The ACC lacks that and Notre Dame “sort of” joining the conference isn’t going to fully remedy that.
In addition to what has happened in the current football season, all the rumored reasons that FSU and Clemson were looking at the Big 12 are still in play. In fact, the Big 12 has to look even more attractive as they’ve strengthened their position and revenue streams since Texas A&M and Missouri bolted for the SEC.
For the Big 12 the current football season has to also give them pause. Yes, Kansas State was in good shape heading into Baylor but even if they had won that game and took care of Texas to go undefeated, the lack of a conference championship game had the door cracked open to the possibility that they could get pushed out of the BCS title game.
Getting back to 12 schools (or beyond) and putting the Big 12 championship game back into place would be advantageous to the conference and obviously generate a nice chunk of additional revenue that they recently turned their backs on. Not having a conference championship game is going to be used as a strike against schools going forward, and we already heard the rumblings of that for both K-State and Notre Dame this season. So why not eliminate that variable while further expanding your brand and your footprint in the process?
I have a ton of respect for the Big Ten in all of this. They move quietly, quickly and decisively with an eye toward the future prosperity and strength of their conference. It’s time for the Big 12 to get off the sidelines and bodly forge a new future of their own by adding two, if not four, schools to the conference.