Conference Expansion Rumor of the Day: Maryland and the Big Ten?

Big Ten commish Jim Delany.via 1.bp.blogspot.com

We mentioned in the MM how the Big Ten expansion process could be speeding up, and I drew the connection to maybe the formation of the entirely speculative Super-ACC accelerating in tandem. But now that possibility has been turned on its head, and instead the new rumor du jour is that Maryland could be switching conferences to the Big Ten.

Aside from the difficulties that travel would impose on Maryland in the Big Ten, I will admit that there are reasons that it could make sense, as Kevin McGuire argues. As a program, Maryland brings in the DMV market, which is rather sizable, a strong academic reputation, and adequacy on both the football and basketball fronts. Maryland might seem a little out of the way geographically, but no moreso than Rutgers. They fit all the criteria that the Big Ten is looking for.

The problem here is that Maryland has very little incentive to leave their current conference. The Big East is the weakest power conference remaining; if Cincinnati, Syracuse, or Rutgers made the jump, it wouldn't be lateral. Notre Dame, of course, has no conference currently, while Missouri and Nebraska could make a lateral move from a Texas-dominated conference to a more sensible geographic fit. That's not the case for UMD.

While certainly a better move for Maryland than the potential Big East rumor that refused to die, the Big Ten provides little incentive to jump the ACC ship. Maryland would still be a geographical outlier, even more than they are now, and would remain a conference stepchild. The TV deal the Big East offers is certainly better than the deal the ACC has, but the ACC is on the verge of renegotiating and could end up with a pretty solid deal, potentially moving to FOX or NBC. Is $2mil in revenue (the difference between the ACC and Big Ten in 2008) that big of a deal? (The Big Ten has a bigger advantage than I first saw, but one that should soon be closed by the new TV deal).

The biggest obstacle is the fact that Maryland is a critical part of the ACC; Swofford and Co. might cater to Tobacco Road, but UMD is still a founding member, and that means something for both them and the ACC. Leaving behind the conference Maryland has been in since 1953 would be no easy task, especially if all the Big Ten provided in return was slightly more revenue.

Debbie Yow shot down the Big East speculation, and would likely do the same to any Big Ten talk. No hard evidence is connecting the two parties, so there's no real reason to assume anything is going on. And even if Maryland qualifies, they have less reason to make a move than any other target. Let's pass on this one, both for desires and likelihood.

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