Home / General / Big 10 Expansion: In Case You Thought Its Brand of Football Wasn’t Boring Enough

Big 10 Expansion: In Case You Thought Its Brand of Football Wasn’t Boring Enough


The Big 10 expanding to include athletic powerhouses Maryland and Rutgers makes very little sense. If there’s one thing Big 10 football needs, a conference for which no single person outside the Midwest has actually watched an entire game this year, it’s 2 exceptionally mediocre programs in places that don’t care about football. I was pretty whatever about the Pac-10 adding Colorado and Utah but at least those programs have been really good in living memory. Maryland had like 2 good years in the last 30 and Rutgers is technically “good” this year playing in a joke of a conference and having lost to Kent St.

If you were dying to see Purdue play at Maryland or Rutgers to visit Minnesota, you are in for a treat!!!

And OK, I picked some mediocrity of the conference there. But Michigan-Rutgers? Who cares?

The idea of course is to add big media markets. There’s an obvious problem with that. No one in the New York area cares about Rutgers. Are people really going to pay more in their cable package for the Big 10 Network? I am highly skeptical. The Northeast is hard core professional sports country. Even as Rutgers is having a good season, does anyone in New York or New Jersey actually care? The amount of conversations I’ve heard about UConn or Boston College sports since I’ve lived in Rhode Island add up to 0. Maryland I know less about. Except that they are terrible. And you can’t just build college sports support out of nothing. It is a decades long process.

It’s hardly better in basketball. Rutgers is a non-entity. Maryland has declined significantly since their national championship a decade ago.

Seriously, all the Big 10 did was make their product even less appealing. Who knew that was even possible?

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  • Western Dave

    A story has been making the rounds on FB among my fellow Michigan alumns that Nate Silver wrote a piece arguing that in NY market Rutgers is #1, ND #2, Penn State #3 Michigan #4, and OSU is 6th. This is either a play to get ND into Big 10 or an attempt to get them out. Plus, while each of these teams isn’t that popular, together those four Big 10 teams have a sizeable base to build on. But then you’ve got a whole lot of folks like me, growing up on LI, who didn’t know the difference between Michigan State and Michigan until it was time to apply to grad school.

  • greylocks

    Big Ten football was boring back when I was at Michigan State in the early 70s. The Big Ten was still the more-or-less original Big Ten (minus U Chicago, plus Mich State), or more like the Big Two (Ohio State and U Mich) and the Seven Dwarfs + totally hapless Northwestern.

    But then I moved to Nebraska and discovered that it was possible to play even more boring football. Just put Tom Osborne in charge. So it figures Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Perfect marriage.

    I don’t get the Maryland/Rutgers expansion either. My brother lives in Maryland, his kids both went to Maryland, and exactly no one in the family watches Maryland football.

    • Scott P.

      Tom Osborne football is boring in the same way that watching Michelangelo paint is boring.

      • rea

        Tom Osborne football is boring in the same way that watching Michelangelo’s paint dry is boring.

      • How many convicts did old Mickey Angelo recruit to play for the Sisters of the Sistine Chapel? And Mickey never could draw up the X’s and O’s like Osborne either.

  • snarkout

    I grew up in Maryland, and reaction amongst my high school friends on Facebook (many of whom are Terps) is almost universally negative. Everyone likes watching the basketball team play UNC and Duke and, as you noted, the football team is an afterthought. On the other hand, the ACC already wrecked the basketball schedule pointlessly chasing football revenue, so everyone loses!

    • Dana

      I feel like Maryland sort of has the thing where everybody in Md. is a fan of Maryland regardless of where in the state they went to school, so it sort of does make sense from a media market/fan base perspective. But maybe as a Marylander your perspective is different.

      • snarkout

        It’s kind of true; on the other hand, no one gives a damn about the football team.

        • Alan in SF

          Maryland basketball (I’m a Terp!) was a huge deal in the D.C. area even when it was only fairly good, first of all because the Wiz nearly always stank, secondly because of the annual visits by Duke and UNC, which Maryland often won. The Maryland-Purdue game, not so much.

    • witless chum

      The Big 10 is now a better basketball conference than the ACC, so they’ll learn to like it.

      • JKTHs

        That very well could change with the addition of Syracuse, Pitt, and potentially Uconn/Louisville

  • cpinva

    taken a gander at the ACC lately?

    Seriously, all the Big 10 did was make their product even less appealing. Who knew that was even possible?

    with the exception (once in a while) of Va Tech, FL & FSU, it is a conference mired in football mediocrity (closely resembling the NFC East). actually, it is mired in delusions of mediocrity, mediocrity would actually be an improvement. the problem is twofold:

    1. there are just way too many Div. I teams, for the amount of quality talent actually available.
    2. there are too few really, really good coaches (see: NFL) available, for the number of Div. I schools looking for one.

    one advantage college football has over basketball, is that few players are good enough, prior to finishing their 4th season of eligibility, to go to the NFL, and the player’s union has ensured no “1 and done” college players will enter the draft early.

    • I’m certainly not saying that Maryland was helping the ACC!

      • spencer

        Florida is not an ACC team.

        • spencer

          Sorry, that was supposed to be a reply to cpinva.

          • Ken

            Maybe cpinva meant FL St.

            • Alan in SF

              Already has FSU, Miami would be the other one. All those Southern football schools look the same.

  • Todd

    While I think this makes some sense as regards Maryland for sports other than football, the fact remains that UMD is apparently 4-44-1 against current BigTen schools all time on the gridiron (1-35-1 against PennSt alone!)

    Rutgers makes little sense outside of the economic opportunities inherent in expanding the BigTen TV network to the NY/NJ markets.

    • John

      Why does it make sense for Maryland basketball to abandon traditional rivalries with Duke, UNC, etc., and instead join an inferior basketball conference featuring teams Maryland has no history of playing?

      • Bigger checks in the mail from teevee networks.

      • Todd

        1. Much bigger checks from the conference
        2. The ACC screwed up their re-alignment, and MD would no longer be playing UNC and Duke every year now. Their “rivalry” teams in the new ACC would be Pitt and UVA. Who cares about those games?

  • No one in the New York area cares about Rutgers.

    There’s been quite a bit of talk about this around the internet and unless everybody who bothered to check is lying, Rutgers is in fact a pretty big draw in NYC and northern New Jersey.

    So is there another reason it’s a bad idea? Should Rutgers stay in the Big East? Why?

    And Big 10 football is no more boring than any other conference, depending on who is playing. There aren’t that many college football teams that are consistently worth watching, but all taste is taste.

    • John

      A big draw in what sense? I mean, obviously there are some fans. But just as obviously, the teams people in New Jersey really care about are the Giants and the Jets.

  • Pepper

    I do not remember where but I saw an article this year saying NY C is largest per cent of pop watching col football. As I recall Atlant was second and Birmingham to small to be counted. I may be misremembering.

    • John

      In terms of raw numbers? Maybe. But I’d guess the vast majority of people watching college football in the New York area are watching non-Rutgers college football.

      • Considering the huge numbers of young adults who move here, I’d bet this in a heartbeat. Add to that the loyalty many of Irish descent feel towards ND, and you pretty much have your fan base for college football built in.

  • BobS

    Not that it would have improved the quality of the league, but it would have made more sense geographically and for rivalry purposes that Iowa State and Pittsburgh were added rather than Rutgers and Maryland.
    There are certainly schools with better football and/or basketball programs, but the Big 10 seems to want to at least maintain the appearance of the importance of academics, and all of the schools mentioned are AAU members.

    • John

      Pittsburgh and Iowa State are also traditionally better at football than Maryland and Rutgers. Pittsburgh is certainly better at basketball than Maryland and Rutgers at this point.

      • elk

        Iowa State is traditionally hopeless at football.

        • John

          Right, but no more so than Maryland and Rutgers.

    • gorillagogo

      Geography has nothing to do with it. The Big 10 will never add Pittsburgh because the Pittsburgh media market already gets the Big 10 Network. Adding new teams is all about driving up TV dollars and nothing about the product on the field.

      • BobS

        Although things have changed somewhat, geography is still what largely determines the composition of all the conferences. That’s because it makes sense from a both a travel and rivalry standpoint, although I understand perfectly the desire to enter large media markets (like the giant Lincoln-Omaha market).
        I can also understand Rutgers in an expanded Big 10, but I would have guessed Boston College before Maryland if I’d have been told some ACC school was added to the conference.

  • MikeJake

    I’m a Big Ten fan and this expansion means nothing to me. It’s all about television.

    BTN is already in DC and NYC, but this makes it more likely that the network will be made part of basic cable packages instead of premium, with the eventual goal of charging the carriers more per subscriber.

    This is also a shot against the ACC. Now PSU won’t be surrounded by ACC schools, and it gives ND something to think about.

    The quality of the athletic competition doesn’t even really enter into it.

    • Linnaeus

      Same here. There’s no enhancement of the quality of the games and this just further dilutes some really good rivalries. It’s just about money.

      And sure, money was always part of the equation. But now it’s even more so.

    • tonycpsu

      +1. Just another B1G money grab that does nothing for the product on the field.

    • tonycpsu

      Though, from a purely selfish standpoint, it does create some nice road trip opportunities to New Brunswick and College Park.

      • tonycpsu

        (Nice from a convenience standpoint, not that any trip into New Jersey could be considered nice.)

        • Well, College Park is one of America’s great college towns!

          • mch

            As a NJ native, I take exception to tonycpsu. Particularly unkind at the moment, Sandy and all. Also, yes, there’s a certain TV market for Rutgers, I would guess. Though hardly a big one.
            As a Michigan fan, formed in Bo’s day, I have only a couple of observations. First, the Big 10 was much better football before it decided to go all in with the forward pass. When it still focused obsessively on defense. Great great ground football for serious fans, easy to appreciate in the great Michigan stadium. Now this league in some kind of middle nowhere.
            Second, I remember Michigan creaming several teams each year with its second and third strings playing most of the game — Army, for instance. Now Maryland and Rutgers get to play that role? But what of all those non-conference (and a few conference) games played as warm-ups/builders for the bench? How many games of football can you play in a single semester? How are these schedules going to work?

            • Linnaeus

              First, the Big 10 was much better football before it decided to go all in with the forward pass.

              I don’t know if I’d say that the Big 10 went all in with the forward pass. Maybe Purdue, but they’ve been a passing team for years – they ran a pass-oriented version of the spread offense before any other team in the conference considered any kind of a spread. But the traditional powers (like Michigan and Ohio State) and the teams that have done well in recent years (like Wisconsin and Michigan State) still like to establish on a strong running game first and still field (or try to field) good defenses.

              I’m most familiar with Michigan, being a lifelong fan of the team and an alum of the school, and having watched the team from roughly the midpoint of the Schembechler years through the present, the team is clearly less run-heavy than it once was, and I think that’s a good thing. That said, Michigan’s fundamental football philosophy has been pretty consistent. With the exception of Rich Rodriguez (definitely not a pass-happy coach), all of U-M’s coaches since 1969 have been either Schembechler or are from the Schembechler coaching tree. Lloyd Carr’s teams had good QBs and WRs, but he still relied mostly on a strong defense and a ball-control offense.

            • tonycpsu

              I kid NJ because I love.

              • mch

                Thank you, Tonycpsu. And I appreciate Linnaeus’ reassurances. Hard to describe to thems that’s not been there the sheer pleasure of Big 10 games, in situ.

          • Sargon

            Hey, I resemble that remark.

          • Alan in SF

            Take it from me. No, it isn’t.

  • Kurzleg

    Geographically, it makes no sense. I’ve been impressed the past couple years at how many opponent jerseys, etc. I see passing through the U of MN campus on game days. I’ll bet it’s the same throughout the other original Big Ten campuses. Proximity enhances rivalries, such as they are. MN/WI hasn’t been much lately, but there’s still interest that can’t be matched by MD/MN.

    • Western Dave

      I, for one, look forward to the MN-MD battle for the Little Brown Turtle, or will it be Paul Bunyan’s soft-shell crab.

    • It makes more sense that other conference realignments. There is also a reason MD has played Penn State 40 times- MD is close to PA. MD is a basketball college and while they will miss Duke and UNC and Wake and the rest, I think they will maybe see improved recruiting, and the B1G is turning into a huge basketball conference.

    • Anonymous

      MN/WI hasn’t been much lately for one simple reason. And there are always a few oppo jerseys around any game, but I assure you there is nothing like the indifference in Madison to the home team that you see here in Minneapolis (I live in St. Paul but grew up in and lived on-and-off in Madison until just last year)that your comment is meant to suggest there is.

      • Kurzleg

        If we’re talking football, as a WI native I’m well aware of the popularity of the Badgers, but of course, that wasn’t the case before Alvarez. There’s no doubt that a successful program increases interest, but it’s not clear how adding two East-coast teams will do the same. When you have to fly to games rather than drive, you have a built-in inhibitor to visiting team presence at games. That’s what I was trying to get at.

  • Jamie

    I’m not as down on the Big 10 product as you are, but I completely agree that this expansion is non-sensical. Obviously the conference has taken a hit this year, but it still has several of the best brands in college football.

    That’s why adding Nebraska made so much sense – they completely fit with the “ancient rivalries played out on a crisp Midwestern fall day” thing the conference has going. Whether you agree or not, that brand is a powerful draw, and Maryland and Rutgers not only don’t improve it, they hurt it.

    If they really felt they needed to expand, and couldn’t convince Notre Dame to join, at least Cincinnati/Louisville/Missouri/Pitt would have made sense from a regional perspective.

    In general, I think the conferences have been much too eager to expand by adding third or fourth tier programs. If a Nebraska is sitting on the table, grab it as fast as you can. Otherwise, slow down and think about it.

    • If they were so eager to expand, why not add Missouri when they had the chance? Instead, they dithered and now are settling for vastly inferior programs.

      • Jamie

        I totally agree!

        This is just terrible brand management. It’s like Jaguar doing a promotional deal with McDonald’s. It just doesn’t make sense.

        And isn’t “brand management” the kind of thing that the dynamic corporate gurus taking over our universities are supposed to excel in?

      • MikeJake

        Gene Wojciechowski’s theory is that the Big Ten was prepared to stop expanding after agreeing to that partnership with the Pac 12 that fell through. That, and the ACC’s moves spurred them into action.

      • ploeg

        At the time, the main point was to get the 12th team so that the NCAA would allow a conference championship game. And Nebraska had a bigger following, so they became the 12th team. And they needed only one team, or maybe three teams, but not two.

  • I think for the administrators this may also be about the CIC. The Big 10 wants to a) secure its existence in a likely future of 4 superconferences with 16 teams each, b) expand the lucrative cable network into new media markets and c) be made up of big land-grant research universities with good academic reputations. Maryland and Rutgers were available options that fit the bill in the way that some of the other mooted options with better football programs don’t, and so they snapped them up before all hell breaks loose again.

    If and when it does and the ACC breaks up, they’ll probably try get the likes of UNC or UVA to have a full complement that fits that description. None of it makes geographical or rivalry sense anymore, but it is what it is.

    • UNC and Virginia. Well that ought to improve the football!!!!

      • i mean, I think it’s fundamentally a conservative move, and not really about football except insofar as football is the revenue driver for the TV networks and is driving the general instability. Despite the rather underwhelming quality of the product to outsiders and lukewarm performance in the BCS, the Big 10 has huge alumni bases and plenty of sports revenue coming in. They mostly just have to hold together and keep their core intact through this crazy period of realignment and they’ll be fine, regardless of the quality or competitiveness on the field.

        Of course, to do that, they’ll have to expand some, and Maryland and Rutgers add two big media markets and two more big alumni bases, and are academically and culturally a good fit.

      • tonycpsu


      • MikeJake

        The Pac 12 has one decent year, and you can’t stop running your mouth.

        College football fans are insufferable.

        • tonycpsu

          You don’t understand — all those other years, the Pac 10 was JOBBED by voters who believe that there is another phase of the game to play after you score a touchdown, kick the PAT, and kick the ball off. Ridiculous!

          • Bill Murray

            The WAC used to get robbed this way back in the day

            • Pretty true. I like the PAC-10/12 a lot, and the voters tend to hose them (and the B1G I might add). Remember an undefeated PSU did NOT get shared national title and an undefeated Michigan was forced to share one with Nebraska, and both were dinged because their Rose Bowl opponents were not fancied. However, Oregon didn’t exactly curb stomp Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last year. The B1G football is basically SEC football with less good athletes. Until Florida’s fun and gun and then Urban Meyer and the spread, I thought it was the rule that SEC games had to be 10-7. SEC has a nice scam going, close games between “good” teams just prove how strong the conference is same as close games between “good” and bad teams while any blowouts just means how good the conference is. See, _______ happens and it proves how good the SEC is.

              • MacGyver

                SEC football has legitimacy because it wins bowl games and early season non-conference games against equivalent or near-equivalent competition.

                • Yeah- I remember Arkansas whooping USC a few years ago.

                  They actually do the things you say some years but not every year. A few things- the SEC non-conf schedule this year SO FAR has been less than a challenge. FSU has UF and SCa has Clemson, but those are games that haven’t been played yet. Combine that with a completely stratified league, and you have 6 decent teams, 4 mediocre teams, and two bad ones.

                • MacGyver

                  we can both offer up own our anecdotal examples. You give me USC-Ark and I’ll give you LSU-Oregon. nonetheless, my comment should have read “…legitimacy because more often than not because…” rather than my original.

          • Hilarious. Jokes about bad Pac-12 defenses were pretty accurate in 2003.

            • Morbo

              Right, they’ve improved so much that they shut down their opponents to the tune of only 39 points per game in last year’s bowl season.

            • Outside of Stanford, what are the good Pac-12 defenses? I know, I know, it is just that all of their offenses are so good.

              (and I do think UCLA, USC, Oregon, Arizona have good offenses)

              What did a very good Oregon State team do against Wisconsin? They played a Big 10 game against a Wisconsin team with no offense. What did Washington do against LSU? Got destroyed. UCLA gave up 36 to a Wazzoo team with the wheels falling off. Had a nice early season win against a Nebraska team that has only just started to get it together.

            • tonycpsu

              Pac 12 defenses are themselves a joke, this year’s Cardinal squad notwithstanding. I know many teams have improved on D, but only in that they actually field a defense that could hold a high school JV squad under 40.

              It’s nothing to be ashamed of — the goal is to have more points than the other team at the end of the game — but calling a more defensive style of football “boring” neglects that big plays on defense, forcing turnovers, etc. are some of the most exciting plays in any game.

  • TT

    Maryland’s best sports are men’s and women’s basketball and lacrosse. Aside from Ralph Friedgen’s first season in ’01, the Terps have never been anything but a total nonentity in football. A jump to the Big 10 makes less than no sense since they’re already in a conference that is superior to the Big 10 in both of their best sports. As others have noted, the only possible reason is getting a cut of Big Ten Network revenue.

    True, Maryland basketball has not been nationally relevant since about ’04/’05, but still, it’ll be sad to watch Maryland-Duke or Maryland-UNC be supplanted by Maryland-Northwestern, Maryland-Iowa, etc.

    • Including 2001, they have had 10,11,10,9,8 and 9 wins as their best seasons the last 11 years.

    • Sargon

      Maryland soccer has also been excellent recently, and has a particularly devoted (and not small) fan base on campus. Overall, having just graduated from Maryland, I am pretty shocked and dismayed at this, and I barely followed sports while I was there. Playing Duke is like 75% of our sports identity! Football is like…somewhere between a distraction and an embarrassment, so it’s absurd that it still gets to call the shots in a situation like this.

  • It certainly makes clear that basketball is about as important as cross country in the business of college athletics… despite how profitable the tournament is, the fact that the NCAA controls the purse strings makes it small potatoes relative to football where conferences have all the juice. Does make me wonder whether the mega conferences the emerge from this will eventually stick the shiv in the NCAA.

    • tonycpsu

      Does make me wonder whether the mega conferences the emerge from this will eventually stick the shiv in the NCAA.

      Well, there’s the silver lining.

  • Fighting Words

    Talk to me because I’m stupid:

    Does conference expansion negatively affect all the other non-football, non-basketball sports? It seems like it would be problematic for the “non-revenue generating sports” to add more matches that are farther away.

    • tonycpsu

      For these specific additions, it creates more losers than winners — Penn State gets some shorter trips to NJ and MD instead of Illinois, but I wouldn’t want to be Wisconsin or Nebraska having to travel to Rutgers.

  • Pepper

    The acc should trade freeshoesu to big 12 for ku and ksu. Also unc is a football power at least in terms of nfl draftees.

    • Yeah, if UNC didn’t have an apparently entirely fabricated (at least the Dept. Chair’s classes) department with which to have a massive football scandal with, and then the scandal before that (forgot what it was), UNC would probably be pretty good at football.

    • The disparity between schools that get a lot of players drafted and schools that win is surprisingly high in college. You have a school like Oregon that wins consistently but has few players drafted. Then there are schools like UNC, UCLA, and Clemson that win sometimes, are mediocre to fairly decent frequently, and always have a lot of players drafted.

      • Schools that get classed as a “system” sometimes are that way in the draft, I would say that those offenses are designed to exploit speed and leverage undersized (they don’t have to be) players. I enjoy college football (all the bad parts notwithstanding) specifically because you can try to play underdog ball to win, and when you get really good at it, you can actually be an overdog who is exciting to watch. Teams like Oregon.

    • spencer

      “Freeshoesu?” Twenty years ago called – they want their “scandal” back.

  • Pepper

    until further notice sec champ is king

  • I don’t understand the move either, but DirecTV, for example, includes Big Ten Network on a basic package. No idea what that will mean for ratings in either area, but it probably won’t be insubstantial between that and whatever number of people will pay more to get it.

  • Rutgers football is about the only local college football anyone follows in NYC, so yes, it gets covered and there are actually people who follow them.

    It’s the only local college football team that has its games broadcast on a 50,000 watt station, all four network outlets report on its games, and it has its own weekly television program (on SNY, so you have to discount for the desperation of the Mets here).

    The move to the Big 10 is to give Rutgers an opportunity to get into the BCS mix full stop. They weren’t going to get there in the Big East.

  • witless chum

    Apparently, the vagaries of the BTN’s deal with various cable providers means that adding Maryland and Rutgers means big money very soon. Apparently, it’s enough that the Big 10 can split the money 14 ways and still thinks it can increase the per school payout. Currently, everyone gets $24 million, plus individual schools get to keep the money they earn by playing in a BCS bowl game.

    I hate the idea because Michigan State’s best rivalry in the last few years has been Wisconsin and now we’re not going to play them again for who the fuck knows? Even if we go to nine conference games, which will almost certainly happen because the biggest schools support it and MAC teams are charging too much for beatings (and occasionally beating us), we’ll play our six division foes, our protected rival (Indiana, because fuck you Delany, that’s why.) and two teams from the remaining six in the other division. So, assuming it rotates evenly, we’ll probably forget what a douche Brett Bielema is.

  • witless chum

    Oh, and Eric is shirty about it because a PAC-12 school playing Big 10-style football just beat Phil Knight’s dressup dolls. (I was rooting for the Ducks, because Fuck Notre Dame, but still.)

  • tonycpsu
  • aaron

    Fans of Northwestern, Purdue, Minnesota and Iowa ought to be thrilled. Imagine how many third-tier bowl games just became attainable by virtue of adding one or two more mediocre wins against FBS schools!

    Also I am looking forward to a third division to go along with legends & leaders. I am thinking “losers” but surely the readership here can do better…

  • Steve S.

    No one in the New York area cares about Rutgers.

    Nate Silver did a study concluding that Rutgers was the most popular team in New York and the 32nd most popular team in FBS. Since then they’re having a pretty good season with a good shot at a BCS bowl so it’s not unreasonable to assume that their fan base has grown. One might also posit that putting Rutgers in the Big X would have the effect of generating more interest in college football in the NYC area.

    From an esthetic viewpoint, though, you’re right, boring team joining a boring conference.

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