The addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten came as a surprise to some and was fueled by multiple financial angles.
The announcements on Nov. 19 and 20, respectively, confirmed the Terrapins and the Scarlet Knights would join the Big Ten in 2014. Maryland recently cut seven sports from its athletic department and Rutgers’ previous conference, the Big East, lost West Virginia earlier this year and faces the departure of two powerhouses in Pittsburgh and Syracuse next year. Louisville, also of the Big East, will join the ACC in 2014.
Chris Korman, the business of sports reporter for The Baltimore Sun and a former Collegian staff writer, said the decision was made in order to give the Big Ten Network footholds in two major metro markets in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Korman also said that if the Big Ten Network was able to reach into the tier of basic cable, it would provide millions of more dollars to the establishment.
“It’s just a business thing,” Korman said. “It’s purely about the network being able to say to cable providers, ‘Hey, the Big Ten now reaches into your area, don’t you really think you should carry it on your basic tier of cable?’ ”
Korman said that he does not think the addition of two teams in the East will provide a burden financially for teams in the Midwest to travel to because of how lucrative the Big Ten is.
“I’m guessing that the money is just so overwhelming,” Korman said. “As far as how much money they’re bringing in, it’s a lot. It’s more money for everyone and only a portion of that money would be used to bolster and to handle the extra trips or whatever.”
Connor Letourneau, the sports editor for The Diamondback, Maryland’s student newspaper, said although the decision came as a surprise, it made sense with Maryland’s financial situation.
The programs that Maryland cut earlier this year include men’s and women’s swimming, as well as men’s tennis.
According to the Associated Press, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said being a member of the Big Ten Conference ensures the Terrapins financial stability during a news conference with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson Nov. 20.
“Somebody has to pay the bills,” Loh said in an AP story. “I want to leave a legacy for decades to come, long after I’m gone, that no president is going to wonder if Maryland athletics as we know it is going to survive.”
Penn State football historian Lou Prato said he has a cousin, who he is very close to, that is a Terrapins fan living in Columbia, Md. and he will no longer be able to travel to the games because it will not be feasible given the distances to the majority of the other schools in the Big Ten like Nebraska.
Prato also said he does not think the Big Ten expansion is done yet, but sarcastically asked if Texas would be the market they will enter next.
“Don’t be surprised if two more teams are added in the future,” Prato said. “Who the hell knows? I would have not guessed that Maryland would have been one of the teams that they would’ve gone after.”