You can lament it as much as you'd like, but the reality is they're here to stay. They're not leaving. Rutgers will be a member of the Big Ten Conference for the long, foreseeable future.
And as months pass, it's only becoming easier for Jim Delany to justify the move that has continually left this blog and others up in arms about BUT UGH WE DON'T WANT TO SIT WITH RUTGERS AT LUNCH IT'S NOT FAIR. The B1G Eastward Money March has been successful -- it's already lining the pockets of the conference in a big way. Conference tournaments are going to be held in New York City & DC. It's happening. It's here. Delany's desire is that the Big Ten become as cityslicker as it is corn, which is fine, good, and understandable in a transitional climate of self-preservation among collegiate athletic conference. If the Big Ten stayed forever tied to its regional roots as some would like, it might open the door to programs being plucked away by more lucrative financial deals in later years. Sure, sure, that scenario is hardly likely given the Big Ten's position as a power player in the space, but still. The point is such: Moving east was fine and good and made lots of money for existing member schools. Whatever.
Problem is: The Big Ten chose the wrong dang program when heading to the New York City area in 2014.
Where Rutgers' athletic department has been largely non-competitive & lacking leadership and investment, UConn has been, well, exactly not that. They possess the most successful men's basketball program of this decade. They possess the most successful women's basketball program ever. They went to a BCS bowl game in 2011. If Delany's motivations in expansion were to solely increase the quality of play in the conference, taking Rutgers over Connecticut would have been gross administrative malpractice.
Of course, it wasn't. The Big Ten wants three things: money, eyeballs, and some skewed sense of academic prestige. The Big Ten values academics, and all member institutions must be members of the American Association of Universities. Well, except, when they don't. The Big Ten didn't care that Nebraska lost AAU status in 2011, because Nebraska has lots of people that will pay lots of money to watch Nebraska football games. Sure, fine, whatever.
The reality is that if Connecticut could've matched the undeniable presence Rutgers has in the New York City area, they would've unlocked the door to the conference long ago. Just take a look at these Rutgers sporting events. It's hard to match the supp-
The money is made for now, but the Big Ten needs to lock in a program with something resembling success and a fanbase if it's to be taken seriously long-term in the country's largest metropolitan area. The Big Ten needs to add UConn, and do it sooner rather than later. Here's why.
1. The Big 12's allegedly interested in UConn -- and getting a slice of those New York television dollars as part of a new tv network.
Oklahoma president David Boren has made his thoughts known on the Longhorn Network, the conference's swing-and-miss on adding Louisville, and is seemingly displeased with the conference's handling of realignment over the course of the past five years. If there's one school in the conference with the moxie and standing to offset Texas' power to push a move, it's Oklahoma. They'd undoubtedly have support from West Virginia administrators in adding an eastern travel partner, and the Huskies seem to be the new hot name.
Now, would UConn heading to the Big 12 destabilize the Big Ten's hold on the New York City market to the point that it would influence future TV revenues? That's unlikely. Big Ten schools still have large alumni bases in Manhattan and other areas nearby -- and sheer distance from Big 12 schools makes it significantly more difficult for the conference to ever have the hold the Big Ten could in the area, even in UConn were to become a dominant program in the conference.
Still, it's letting a competitor into the marketplace when it's completely possible the Big Ten could solidify itself in the city. With that said...
2. Two area programs would make New York City far more of a B1G TOWN than it is presently.
This is Delany most vivid, explicit moist dream. Jim Delany, DeBlasio, and Anti-Semitic Elmo skipping through Times Square as hordes of onlookers shout in unison, "B1G! B1G! B1G!."
Look, you can do the "ACTUALLY, RUTGERS IS A GOOD SCHOOL AND DOES HAVE FANS" thing if you'd like. That's fine and good enough, and probably true to an extent. The reality is that Rutgers is and has been bad as hell at sports for quite some time and having a school with a couple of nationally-known, elite brands would be massive for the conference's real presence within the city. As a fan of a Midwestern-based teamI'm significantly cooler with the whole east-coast movement if it feels real and not a half-assed money grab. Hosting Big Ten tournaments in Madison Square Garden feels must more justified with two programs in the area -- and the UConn add would give the Big Ten some legitimate beef with the ACC in staking claim to the B1G APPLE.
3. The Big Ten could leverage UConn into adding one of the ACC's big dogs.
This would be a savvy compromise for Delany's other wet dream. If the Big Ten were to add UConn, they certainly wouldn't sit at 15 teams. Who would be that 16th team? It's reasonable to think the conference would want to look to other new television markets, to the west or south. UConn jumping to the Big Ten might destabilize the ACC, leaving them without further obvious and logical expansion options not named Cincinnati or UCF. That might put the Big Ten a step closer to a long-rumored goal -- poaching one of the ACC's most prestigious public institutions. There have been rumors before that the Big Ten had an eye to ACC schools like Georgia Tech, Virginia, or North Carolina -- and leveraging a single lifesaver of a Big Ten spot would give the conference significantly more leverage in luring one school away than it would in attempting to take two independently. Virginia would seem to be the most logical fit, giving Maryland a natural rival and doubling down on the DC market much in the way the UConn add would solidify the New York market.
But, what about those Western locales?
4. It also might blow up the Big 12.
Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. But it's become increasingly clear that at least one institution in Oklahoma is seemingly fed up in the conference's inaction in adding members and the Longhorn Network has long been a contentious issue with the school. Sure, the Sooners wouldn't share a state border with any current member institution, but it would open up new TV markets in Oklahoma City and North Texas for the Big Ten and rekindle the nostalgic rivalry with Nebraska. Or it could be Kansas. Or Texas. All of those schools have allegedly been discussed as options before, and would all fit the Big Ten's traditional criteria. A pissed off David Boren after another swing-and-a-miss on a school from the east might be enough to send the Big 12's house of cards tumbling, and that would leave the Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12 to fight over schools in a manner that could leave us with four superconferences that might shake out like this.
|Boston College||Maryland||Arizona State||Vanderbilt|
|Georgia Tech||Ohio State||Oregon State||Ole Miss|
|Florida State||Penn State||Washington||Mississippi State|
|Virginia Tech||Wisconsin||Texas Tech||Texas A&M|
oooooooooooooohhhhhhh godddddddddddddddd what do you do with west virginia and k-state and iowa state maybe not guys maybe not maybe we shouldn't do this jim jim no what are you doing jim PUT THE PHONE DOWN
on the other hand
LET'S GET LIT
#UCONN4B1G #UCONN4B1G #UCONN4B1G
Trying to figure out exactly what to do with the remainder of the Big 12 in that scenario gave me heartburn. I'm gonna go lay down or something.