Remember when things happened in college athletics without the rest of the world following them up with panic, hysteria and unnecessary — sometimes even awful — reactions?
OK, me neither, but if you stretch your brain really far, you might be able to remember a time when a school or conference anywhere in the country could make a move of any kind and that would be that.
Unfortunately that’s not the case any longer. As soon as the news broke that Maryland and Rutgers were involved in serious talks with the Big Ten, fans and officials in conferences throughout the country stood up and screamed, “We’re next!”
Just because the Terps and Scarlet Knights are willing to leave what could (and perhaps should) be considered dying conferences does not mean that the rest of the country should jump back in and cause a third round of reckless realignment in three years.
It sure sounded to me like all of this mess was behind us when the Big 12 steadfastly proved it was happy at 10 teams — even as others laughed and rolled their eyes insisting that just couldn’t be the case. If that wasn’t enough, it seemed like the nail in the coffin when the ACC bumped its buyout to a whopping $50 million.
Oops. I guess that wasn’t high enough — somehow.
It’s been known for quite some time that Maryland was one of those schools the Big Ten would consider grabbing should it choose to expand. I can remember hearing talk about the Terps to the Ten during the initial round of realignment three summers ago, when Colorado and Nebraska bolted the Big 12. So the move itself, when taken only as a single move in a vacuum immune from the impact of past, present and future moves around it, actually makes some sense.
But it’s a crying shame that officials within the Big Ten and at Maryland chose now as the time to make this move. It does nothing but confirm the hard truth we already know — that money is king in all walks of life, but most certainly in college athletics.
Some reports have indicated that the Big Ten has been dying to reopen its expansion eyes ever since Notre Dame moved its non-football sports to the ACC several months back. Go figure; jealousy and envy played a role here, too.
Can someone, or perhaps some people, please just get it over with and buy out the NCAA and turn it into what it is sadly becoming anyway — a training ground professional sports league driven by dollars?
For goodness sake, it sounds as if Maryland may get out of the $50 million early exit penalty by, first, negotiating it down and, second, having the Big Ten pick up the bulk of the tab. A tip of the cap goes to the Terps for some savvy business moves there, but a slap on the wrist should head the way of the Big Ten, ACC and NCAA for letting that happen if it does, in fact, go down that way.
I know most out there think these moves are the spark that will start another conference realignment wildfire, but I’m not one of them.
For starters, I don’t think this changes anything for the Big 12 Conference. The conference was happy with 10 members before and it will be happy with 10 members after, too.
I know there is some strong interest in adding Florida State if the opportunity presents itself, but, (1) I don’t see the Big 12 footing the bill for the buyout the way the Big Ten may with Maryland, and (2) the league has said all along that any expansion moves would have to be made up of a couple of knock-your-socks-off schools. Florida State certainly is in that category but I don’t think there’s a 12th team out there on that level — not BYU, not Boise State, not Louisville. Who?
The best guess here, particularly because this Maryland/Rutgers thing moved so quickly, is that this will be a big splash for a few days and then the realignment waters will be still again.
The ACC will move on, perhaps by poaching a team like UConn (a willing mover) from the Big East, forcing the Big East to take yet another step toward becoming an all-basketball league, with its football schools playing independent schedules. That’s the only way for that conference to maintain relevance in the changing landscape of college athletics. And who knows if even that will do it?
I’ve already talked to a couple of people about this latest mess and I’ve got a few more calls out there, so if anything interesting or noteworthy pops up regarding the Big 12, you know where to find it.
Until then, we’re back to our old tried and true catch phrase: Stay tuned...
Here are a few links to peruse for those who might be interested in reading more about what’s going on:
Here are some of the specifics on the Maryland/Rutgers news:
Here’s a blog that includes a take on the Big 12:
And here’s a good read about the ramifications and money ruling everything: