AAU member institutions Maryland and Rutgers are in talks with the B1G to become the 13th and 14th members of the Big 10. Not long ago, the B1G set off the conference realignment by adding its 12th team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, which significantly changed the landscape of college sports.
Afterwards, Missouri was all but begging to be let in the conference, but was shut out. Now as a member of the SEC, the Missouri Tigers have to be scratching their heads as they are natural rivals with Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska and bring the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, yet there is conference realignment on the horizon and it still doesn't get the Tigers into the B1G.
Both Maryland and Rutgers, as AAU member institutions, are academically high ranking schools, which further cement the B1G's reputation as a high level academic conference. Athletically, Rutgers looks to be in the driver's seat in the Big East in football with a 10 - 3 win over Cincinnati last night, while Maryland lost to FSU and dropped to second to last, just ahead of BC, in the Atlantic division. While Rutgers looks to be a better pick athletically at the moment, Maryland is the lynchpin in the process. If Maryland goes, only then would Rutgers go along for the ride.
For the B1G, this move gets it into potential markets in NY city and beyond as it expands its footprint significantly eastward into greater population centers. This undoubtedly gives the B1G network an expanded and greater potential base for subscriptions.
According to ESPN, the announcements come on the heels of the Notre Dame to ACC agreement and are being planned in order to add bargaining leverage to the B1G's media contract, which is up in 2017:
"A source told ESPN that the Big Ten has been itchy about further expansion since Notre Dame made its official move to the ACC two months ago in all sports other than football. The source said the Big Ten can justify Maryland and then possibly Rutgers since they are all contiguous states to the Big Ten footprint."
Just about every article presupposes that UCONN is the next logical step for the ACC, to replace Maryland. UCONN has stated its interest in joining the ACC and has felt snubbed for quite some time. The question, as posed in the ESPN article, is about what this means for Louisville and Cincinnati. Are they to be the next additions to a Big XII, which didn't send an excellent OK State team to the national championship game last year, because it lacks a championship game to catapult its teams to the next level in the BCS standings?
The speculation for most articles ends there, but what does it mean for the Mountain West conference? If these teams do leave their respective conferences and UCONN is picked to replace Maryland in the ACC... then what? That really means that the Big East gets shelled yet again and this time it loses multi-sport champ UCONN, one of its bigger profile teams and both final founding members. Without Rutgers and UCONN the Big East really is the CUSA from not all that long ago. To host football and be even, the BE would only need to replace 1 team and be in balance, but with the ACC, SEC and Big 10 all at 14, can any conference afford to remain at 12 (or even 10 in the MW and Big XII's cases) if this deal gets done?
By the looks of things the shake up is for real. Unfortunately, these things always spiral down and could have real consequences for the MW. With the need for an extra team in the west for an extra travel partner for the Aztecs and BSU, does this put more pressure on the BE to get a deal done? What eastern teams would be pulled from CUSA next to cover the losses? Would BYU even want to be considered for entrance into the now non-AQ Big East conference? How much does the loss of prestige and solid membership hurt the conference's chance at a better conference deal? Does the loss of these two teams trigger the escape clauses in BSU and SDSU's contracts? Are Louisville and Cincinnati working the phones to find higher ground?
Here we go again...