As the Conferences Turn: Maryland, Big Ten rumors back in vogue

Mitchell Layton

After months of stagnation, whispers about Maryland and the Big Ten are back again. And they're strong.

Were you like me, thinking that the ACC's new $50mil exit fee, the addition of Pitt and Syracuse to the conference, and the complete and total lack of movement on the realignment front meant that the expansion saga was finally done? Or at least finished as it pertained to Maryland?

Guess again, mon ami.

That first tweet is from Jerry Fisher, the host of a radio show in central Pennsylvania, relaying information from Phil Grosz, the Penn State editor for Rivals.com (who has a sketchy history with this kind of stuff). Had Grosz and only Grosz talked about it, I'd say it's probably a 95% shot at being bunk.

But then there's that second tweet, from Jeff Ermann at IMS, linking to a paywall'd story (please, if you have access, don't share in the comments) that implies the rumors are "more than just rumors."

And all of that is supported by 105.7 in Baltimore talking about a potential move all week long. And now an absurd number of maybe-right-maybe-complete-fabrication rumors we're hearing that are flying around under the radar.

So there's nothing particularly concrete from a particularly reputable, out-in-the-open source. But combine all of this with some of the whispers going around, and there's definitely smoke. A lot of smoke. It's all coming from strange places you wouldn't be expecting to see smoke to come from, but it's there. It is, at the very least, worthy of your attention.

Four things: first off, until something comes from McSources at ESPN, just follow Ennis's Law of Realignment Rumors: don't believe it. It's fun to talk about and wonder over and stay abreast of, but belief? That'll take more than a few tweets that make you go hmmmmmmm.

Secondly: don't discount it, either. I see a lot of people doing just that, citing all of the other times things have been incorrect in the past and - ridiculously - that "all the moves have already been made." Sure, the first wave has, but there are changes still coming. A lot of rumors will fly about realignment, the majority of which will be wrong. But some will be right. And maybe it is, in fact, this one.

After all, it's not just a single report coming like a lightning strike out of the blue. It may appear that way, especially from the outside, but this rumor mill has been churning since for upwards of a week now, with a variety of sources from every side saying something similar. That's a lot of moving parts to be total fabrication. Look at this way: it may not happen, but it's not just random speculation trawling for hits. There's too much coming from unusual places for that to be the case. Whether they're leaks to serve some other purpose, old information, or something else entirely, there is something happening here.

Third: most of you hate it, I like it. In a very general sense, at least. But you probably knew that already. This is worthy of a bigger post and I'll start working on it now, holding off most of my thoughts 'til then. But my feelings toward the ACC are well-known (I'm one of those curmudgeonly types who resents decades of Carolina-centrism), and while the issue of being The Outsider would still be present in the Big Ten, at least we'd get a bunch of money and academic collaboration for our trouble. Others have stronger, more sentimental feelings toward the ACC, and that's fine. I get it - well no, I don't get it, but I do respect it. Here's the thing, though: it's really tough to quantify those feelings as a dollar amount, and even if you could they probably wouldn't reach the potential - and note the emphasis - payoff the B1G would bring, in terms of not only athletic revenue but also academic collaboration via the CIC. It's pretty tough for a university to turn down several million dollars a year simply because you, Joe Terrapin, enjoy playing UVA once a year. It factors in, but less than you want it to.

The big question, of course, is just how big that payoff would actually be, what with the massive exit fee and the travel involved. None of us can state that it would or would not be a certain amount, unless you have the books. It's an unknown, which is scary from our point of view given the history of Maryland's decision-makers, but the people making this call have a lot more info on it than we do.

Fourth: so which large, important, highly-respected and influential university would join us in this brave new world? UNC? Virginia? Pitt? No, the name that keeps popping up is ... Rutgers.

Abort mission. Abort mission.

Hey, look at the bright side: at least we'll have a perfect plug-'n'-play for our State disdain.

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