Maryland's move could leave already-fractured college conferences in splinters

See you in Nebraska? Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova (15) salutes Scarlet Knights fans after a 10-3 Big East road win over Cincinnati on Saturday.
See you in Nebraska? Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova (15) salutes Scarlet Knights fans after a 10-3 Big East road win over Cincinnati on Saturday. (         AL BEHRMAN / Associated Press)
Posted: November 20, 2012

Nobody would have wagered, not even last week, that Rutgers leaving the Big East could be the drop of water that breaks the dam and floods the Big East village - not that anything in this whole realignment saga/fiasco has followed a script.

Is the tipping point arriving? Do Big East schools that don't play Big East football say, "Enough," and decide to break away?

That's a most relevant local question now that Maryland is headed for the Big Ten, Rutgers is expected to follow, and the Connecticut-to-ACC rumors switch to the front burner.

Meanwhile, Boise State and San Diego State already have talked to the Mountain West about returning to that league, according to ESPN. The rationale is that they would have the same access to BCS bowls from that league as from the Big East. San Diego State's athletic director denied to the San Diego Union-Tribune that there had been talks of any nature with the Mountain West.

The latest moves are all about television revenue - getting your league's cable network in the most homes, whether people watch or not. In 2011, the Big Ten Network received 37 cents a month for each home the network was in, with advertising on top of it. That figures to go up.

The Big Ten has been playing chess throughout this whole thing, but not getting Notre Dame forced the league into moves on the other side of the board - strategic decisions that make sense if you look at the Big Ten as a network, not a league. Bringing in Maryland and Rutgers offers the possibility of getting the lucrative Big Ten Network into more Eastern seaboard homes.

The Scarlet Knights, reportedly ready to announce their move to the Big Ten on Tuesday, may be the top net winners of the whole realignment saga, since they were losing almost $20 million a year on athletics and stood to be the odd school out if the Big East hadn't cobbled together a football league. Now, they join a league that will pay them as much as $43 million a year once they are full members, according to Maryland's projections.

The Terps lose their traditional basketball rivalries, North Carolina and Duke, games that will join a dustbin that already holds Oklahoma-Nebraska football and many others. But the Terps also were hemorrhaging cash. Maryland officials are talking about restoring sports that were cut, promising "financial sustainability."

The biggest loser looks to be the Big East. The league is in negotiations for a new TV deal and had reason to be optimistic that all the schools would get eight figures a year given the number of suitors looking for programming.

The league can withstand losing Rutgers. But the potential dominoes are killers. Does the Big 12 decide it now has to add teams and take Louisville and maybe even Cincinnati or Boise State? Might the ACC want Louisville?

Georgetown and Villanova and the others have believed their basketball brand has more value staying with Big East football schools. Will they still believe it?

On North Broad Street, Temple has to keep playing cards as they are dealt. The Big East move was a no-brainer. They had to hope the league would stay together and bring a lucrative TV deal. Whatever the revised number, it still will be worth more than being in the Mid-American/Atlantic Ten.

If UConn and Louisville flee, and the schools that don't play football split, Temple is looking at a basketball league with Memphis and maybe obvious invitee Massachusetts and Cincinnati as top rivals. Not awful - just not anything resembling the Big East they signed on for mere months ago.


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com Follow on Twitter @Jensenoffcampus.

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