For a fat program, you sure don’t sweat much.

Jim Delany’s not even bothering to try to sell Maryland as anything other than a television move.

“This is a long-term play,” Delany said. “There’s no reason that Maryland can’t be a prominent football program. They have great recruiting and great markets. And good competition makes everybody better.”

Baby, you sure have some great markets there.  Hubba hubba!

Andy Staples tells the fans stupid sentimentalists to get a life.

So why does everyone hate Maryland’s move to the Big Ten?

The answer is simple. College sports are built on nostalgia. Everyone wants everything to be exactly as it was when they attended Old State U. That way, every Saturday is a trip back to the best time of their lives. When they flip on the television and see Utah playing USC in a conference game, it wrecks that nostalgia. Most people either can’t or won’t accept what big-time college athletics actually is. It is a big business that happens to be attached to mostly publicly funded universities. That attachment brings with it a number of complications. Taxpayers are schools’ shareholders, and administrators have a fiduciary duty to them. In other words, if you’re in charge at the University of Maryland and the Big Ten invites you and you say no, you should be fired immediately for breaching that fiduciary duty.

Funny, I thought you should be fired for exercising sufficient incompetence in running the athletic department to put it at financial risk in the first place.

I think what really bugs me about this more than the rest of the realignment games college football has played for the last few years put together is how profoundly mediocre the end result is.  As Ivan Maisel put it, “Taking Maryland and Rutgers isn’t innovative. The Big Ten could have taken them last week, last month, or five years ago.”

This is Staples’ blessing of the situation:

None of us grew up with Ohio State-Maryland or Michigan-Rutgers. This is different, and different is always scary. But the Big Ten saw a chance to add value, and Maryland saw a chance to make more money in a time of economic uncertainty. This marriage may not square with your idea of which teams should or shouldn’t play in the Big Ten, but in this economy, none of us should be criticizing a school for making a sound fiscal choice.

It’s not that it’s scary.  It’s that it’s boring.  It’s like shopping for an insurance policy instead of a new car.  We’re fans.  We don’t give a rat’s ass about our schools making sound fiscal choices.  (Just ask Tennessee fans about that right now.)

This is soul-numbing.  And it’s been done in such an in-your-face way that it won’t even be worth making an effort to laugh the next time Delany has the stones to invoke tradition when he talks about the television programming he schedules, er… conference he leads.

I don’t even want to ponder whether this is the new template for conference expansion elsewhere.  If it is, I’m gonna need a lot more bourbon.


UPDATE:  Nate Silver, as only Nate Silver can, weighs in.

It is probably no coincidence that the two most popular college football conferences – the Southeastern and the Big Ten – have until now been the most conservative about expansion. The most recent additions to the Big Ten, Penn State and the University of Nebraska, ranked as the 3rd and 18th most popular football programs in the country. The newest additions to the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M and Missouri, were ranked 6th and 23rd.

Rutgers and Maryland are outstanding public universities – but they are just not in the same league in terms of football.


Filed under Big Ten Football, It's Just Bidness

36 responses to “For a fat program, you sure don’t sweat much.

  1. TennesseeDawg

    Just cut to the chase and put everyone into 4 super conferences and get it over with. This constant expansion is nauseating.


  2. Well, we always need more bourbon…


  3. Biggus Rickus

    In this economy, you can’t blame Andy Staples for defending the Big 10.


    • Anytime someone says “in this economy”
      I immediatley know something involving bad facts, bad strategy, or just a load of bullshit is about to follow.

      That’s not directed towards you but Andy staples.


  4. SouthGa Dawg

    I can’t for the life of me understand why the big 10 wanted Maryland and Rutgers – kinda like why the SEC would want Missouri. I know there are “on paper” reasons out there but I just don’t get it.


    • Alkaline

      In the analysis from Nate Silver, Missouri practically looks like a rock star compared to Maryland.

      What I’m wondering: why is NC State getting “to the SEC” rumors from so many writers. VT sure, but the wolfpack?


  5. ScoutDawg

    “Exercising sufficient incompetence”, that is neatly summed up.


  6. Chi-town Dawg

    Staples’ attempt at justifying the arrangement sounds more like a Russian mail order bride seeking a sugar daddy here in the states = a marriage of convenience. Hopefully, the marriage works out once the bride gets her citizenship and starts living in the states with no more bills to pay…


  7. 81Dog

    Senator, thiis has been the template for conference expansion since the SEC added South Carolina and Arkansas: what will all more cash to the existing members’ pockets?

    the SEC didnt add Arkansas and (especially) South Carolina because anyone wanted to compete with such storied programs, or because of the rich tradition at either school (especially South Carolina). They were added because Roy Kramer needed a couple of warm corporate bodies to get to 12 teams, which allowed the SEC Championship Game to occur, which resulted in big tv bucks for the conference. That also resulted in added value for the regular season, in that now you had “the race for Atlanta” in two divisions, so every week there was likely to be a crucial matchup.

    Arkansas at least had a halfway decent program, despite the SWC’s rich history of NCAA probation. South Carolina was about as appealing from a pure football standpoint as Marylad is today, except that Maryland at least has a good basketball program. It was a money grab, pure and simple. I cant argue that it hasnt worked out financially, and I cant argue that it hasnt worked out from a regular season interest standpoint, either. On the other hand, there’s always the diminishing returns to scale issue. If adding TWO teams was great, why not add two more? Or four more?

    Texas A&M and Missouri? Money grab. It certainly worked ok from a money standpoint. Ratings are up, and now people in the southwest and midwest have a reason to be a little more interested in the SEC. But, the scheduling is a little awkward. Wait until they start picking the bones of the ACC for VaTech and NC State (the ACC versions of A&M and Missouri; it gets the SEC in the North Carolina and Virginia/DC markets. Nowhere else makes sense) It’ll be raining straight cash up in here, but I’m not sure it will be better from a football standpoint.

    and, we’re still stuck with South Carolina. We might as well have added Furman or App State as the chickens, from a pure football standpoint.


  8. Matt

    Interesting point about Delany’s hypocrisy on valuing tradition only when it suits his financial ends. “Legends” and “Leaders” indeed.


  9. Nate Dawg

    Remember when you could watch an NFL game back in the day with big money teams and big money players, totally free of any silly nostalgic rivalries? What’s that – I can do that this upcoming Thanksgiving and Sunday? Oh…
    I don’t what the hell am I gonna do in the fall when they take away the hillbillies, flaurda, barner, and nerd games?


  10. HVL Dawg

    I love how EDSBS puts it

    “At some point the money went from nice to destructive”


  11. a few quick things….

    1)Delaney seemed to imply it is a “long term” move, which implies that there is some degree of risk that the plan does not work. As discussed regarding the cable sub fees yesterday, it is NOT a certainty that the BTN in able successfully impose its “tax” on the DC and NYC markets. The people in DC and NYC who care about college football DON’T care about rutgers and maryland. those that do care about big 10 football already did care about it.

    the one thing they have in their favor is that Fox, which owns half of the BTN also owns a big stake in YES, which is the station that broadcasts the yankees locally here in NYC. Cable networks often use their leverage with their premier channels (like say ESPN) to leverage the cable operators to help “launch” a new channel. that said, the BTN is not a new channel that needs “launching”. rather, they are going to try to push to have it included in basic cable. what is unknown is whether they can push those fees up by redefining NY and DC and Big ten markets. Personally, I think it is an uphill batter. The other analogy I would use is the Big ten adding these two teams is equivalent to the economics when some billionaire buys a professional sports franchise. forgetting the fun they have owning the team and being on TV, the real value creation occurs when new TV deals hit every 5-7 years. At that time, the value of every nfl/nba/mlb franchise gets “stepped up” reflecting the higher revs. Delaney is “buying” two TV markets after a pretty big increase in sports broadcast rights. that trend may continue, but it may not. my guess is the Big 10 is wildly overestimating the economic bump. which leads to the next point….

    2)while i don’t like having A&M and mizzou in the SEC and I recognize that slive’s logic was based of the same crass rationale that delaney used, we have a GREAT product and were introducing it to an audience (state of texas can I interest you in SEC football?) who already consumed it. It was as if we went to folks who like texas brisket and said, “can i interest you in a really good pulled pork sandwich?” They have taken a bite and have realized it tastes pretty spectacular. the point being Slive has a product that can steal market share, but Delaney, by his own admission, has a collection of schools that are really struggling.

    The better question is at what point do Texas and OU throw their hands up and say, “we screwed up. we want in!”

    3)Yes South Carolina and Arkansas were warm bodies to field a championship game, but Kramer wanted FSU, which refused to come along knowing the SEC was a tougher place. South Carolina may have had a history of mediocrity, but it was a far far better program with way more consistent fan support than Rutgers or Maryland. which leads to my next point

    4)can we stop with FQ#$cking mentions of NC State and Va Tech. No one wants them. they are NOT coming to the SEC. they want to stay tied to their ACC brethren and there is NOT a shred of evidence to suggest that the SEC has EVER had ANY thought of adding them.


    • 81Dog

      per #4: no, we cant. I guess time will tell, but I didnt just pull those names out of thin air. I couldnt care less about either of them, but both appear tired of getting crapped on by snooty in-state rivals (sound familiar?) and would probably be happy to ditch the snobs for the increased payouts and prestige of a better conference, all while leaving their rivals behind in the wreckage…..just like A&M did.

      Duke, UNC and UVA wont split up, especially the first two. Who else is left? Clemson adds zero from a tv perspective, ditto FSU, double ditto Georgia Tech.

      Kramer may have wanted FSU, which was hot to trot to join the SEC in the 60s and got constantly rebuffed, but he wasnt looking at the total TV footprint back in 1990. Rivalries/powerhouses made sense then. FSU said no, so he took the warm body of South Carolina to make 12. You can certainly correctly point out the Chickens have had more consistent fan support, but you’re out of your FQ#$cking mind if you think they were a better program than Maryland, especially in 1990. Even Rutgers today is a better FOOTBALL program than the Chicks were back then.


      • per #4, Actually, either you did pull them out of thin air or you read some post on online article speculating about who is next. whoever the source was simply looked at at a map and the ACC conference standings and somehow concluded that these two schools were “in play”. seriously, please don’t ever mention n.c. state OR va tech again, it is a total embarrassment to the SEC.

        to be clear, they have NEVER been remotely rumored as an object of consideration. recall that when things were really heated the SEC was talking to UT, A&M, and OU. David Boren intervened to quash any separation of OU and OSU. texas was said to be so irrational that it thought its tv network would enable it to be independent if it wanted. I thought it absurd at the time, but again that misses the point. i guess i would characterize USC as something between a “warm body” and the best of what was available. that said, they ROUTINELY passionately filled a stadium, traveled with fans, etc. have you ever seen pictures of rutgers and marlyand’s stadiums on game day? these are program that don’t have large fan bases nor fill stadiums.

        the notion that maryland’s football program in 1990/91 or even in 2012 was above where USC’s was is just flat out wrong and completely contradicted by fact. from 1986 (the first year after bobby ross) until the decision to add carolina in 1991, maryland was awful.

        South Carolina had their best year ever in 1987, beat us with sparky woods in 88 and 89 and had historically held their own against us over time, which suggested they were capable of fielding at least a mediocre SEC team, which they did ably. Obviously, the “sparky woods” era was a failure and so was the Brad Scott era, but to equate their program to a middling ACC school (even at the time) or Rutgers (whose schedule during their current “golden age” is so weak its guartees 7 wins. they have mastered the art of play 4 cupcake games plus 7 big east (which at varying times have included 2 win syracuse teams, 5 win pitt teams, 6 win USF teams, and routine losses to West virginia and anyone with a pulse).


        • 81Dog

          oh, boy. You accuse me of making stuff up and you quote Wikipedia? I’m convinced. There’s no point in arguing with a guy who just assumes crap; because Mike Slive hasnt called you with a list of potential candidates, has he? I doubt, based on your demonstrably limited capacity to reason, that just because you havent heard of NC State or VaTech as candidates, they are a figment of my overworked imagination. By all means, tell us who YOU hear the next two teams may be? Clemson? FSU? The Jacksonville Jaguars? Amaze us all with your keen insight.

          South Carolina had “their best year ever” in 1987? Pardon me for being unimpressed. They were still only what, 12 or 13 years from their first bowl win ever? Yeah, that’s some proud tradition there. Meanwhile, Maryland in the 80s was turning out some pretty solid teams and players (maybe you heard of Bobby Ross while he was the head coach there. Or some stiff named Boomer Esiason. Or a guy named Randy White). South Carolina in 1990 was a giant suckfest of football non-achievement. Of course they jumped at the chance to be in the SEC, and thumb their noses at the rubes from Clemson. It would be like Katy Perry calling you and asking you to spend the weekend with her in Aruba doing jello shots and skinny dipping. Even a dope like you isnt passing that chance up, however undeserved.

          Look, you want to celebrate the loserfest that is South Carolina football, be my guest. Historically, even Maryland and Rutgers have acheived more.


          • 81Dog

            oh, and by the way, this is just one of the places I’ve seen those two names mentioned over the last 6 months. You can thank me later. I hate the 16 team league approach, but if you start from the premise that expansion NOW is all about adding tv markets, it doesnt take a genius to look at a map, figure out where the SEC doesnt have teams, identify the potential spots that dont have SEC teams but have large tv markets, and then identify the teams in those markets who might be tired of being the redheaded stepchildren in their current league, and then figure out which of those teams is, I dont know, contiguous to the current league footprint.

            Maybe we add those two. Maybe we add Oregon and Oregon State (I actually DID just pull those two out of thin air, so save the Wikipedia research). Whether we do or not, though, and whether you heard it or not, and whether any of us likes it or not, they’re being talked about by people who actually have a say in things.



  12. AlphaDawg

    I cast my vote for more Scotch.


  13. Two things:
    1. You could switch the word “program” for “conference” in the header and it would still apply.
    2. What does Disney expansion mean for the Star Wars movies?


  14. The Lone Stranger

    “Mmmmmm, Bourbon.” — Homeboy Simpson


  15. Dawg19

    So metaphorically, by adding Maryland and Rutgers, The Big Ten has added curb-feelers to their low rider…


  16. Always Someone Else's Fault

    College football is bacon. Conference expansion is a pork bellies market.

    Has anyone really compared the crap that grocery stores sell now and call bacon? It’s flash-marinated pork belly, not bacon. People buy it. People even buy it pre-cooked. It’s quite profitable.

    And it tastes like crap if you remember the real deal.