There is a scene in The Godfather, where Michael Corleone, through a brutal, but effective series of “moves”, establishes total control of his empire, allowing the Corleone family to proceed with its plans in a more efficient and profitable fashion.
“” Today I settled all family business”, was the way The Godfather explained it.
The Big Ten, guided by commissioner Jim Delany in true Jerseyguy fashion (Delany is indeed a Jerseguy), has done the same thing with the expected moves to add Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten family.
One key question that is being asked is why was the move made; why was it necessary. One quick answer was that it expands the footprint of the wildly successful Big Ten network, adding the New York and Washington D.C.-Baltimore markets.
Critics suggest that the viewership of Big Ten football in those areas will be minimal. Viewers is not the issue. Having the Big Ten network AVAILABLE on cable tv packages is what brings in the money, not having actual viewers.
But that is only part of the answer. It goes much deeper and, in a sense is much more basic. The move was a Big Ten/Delany strike back at the Atlantic Coast Conference and more indirectly Notre Dame.
Here’s why. Notre Dame was courted by the Big Ten. The Irish, as they have done to the Big East and will continue to do to the ACC, despite their invitations, said “No thank you” to full membership
No one says NO to the Big Ten. Notre Dame did. That ticked Delany off, but he moved ahead.
Then this fall, Notre Dame, in a move to protect its other sports and to provide a parachute for any non BCS worthy football team–a perennial event until this season–joined the ACC in all sports but football. But the ACC also gave ND a spot in its non BCS bowl rotation.
That ticked off Maryland.
The Irish agreed to play 5 ACC teams each year. To do that, they had to dump some of their traditional opponents, which included Michigan, a Big Ten team.
That also ticked off Delany. You don’t drop Big Ten teams without a good reason and this wasn’t good enough.
Then the Orange Bowl which is contractually obligated to take the ACC champion, talked with the Big Ten about matching the ACC champion vs the Big Ten runner-up every year.
But the Orange Bowl wanted more diversity. The ACC, under pressure from the SEC and Notre Dame, said OK and made it a deal between the ACC champion vs. the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame on a rotating basis.
That ticked Delany off to the point where he said enough was enough. It was time to settle some family business.
After adding Nebraska as a 12th member a few years ago, The Big Ten, in a long range plan, had pinpointed Maryland and Georgia Tech as possible future targets.
But the conference backed off of Tech because Atlanta was too firmly entrenched in SEC, and to a much lesser extent, ACC territory.
Maryland was ripe and so was New York, where Rutgers and Connecticut were flirting with any conference that expressed an interest.
During the past several months, Delany and the Big Ten sped up the process. They had meetings, they did studies and they checked with both Maryland and Rutgers. Both were interested.
In the next few days, perhaps as soon as Monday, both Maryland and Rutgers will vote on accepting an invitation. Both will say yes. The invitations will be extended, the moves will be made.
Much has been made about the $50 million dollar exit fee the ACC put in to protect itself from such raids. They did this after having raided the Big East to get Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who joined former Big East members Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami and Notre Dame in moving from the Big East.
Paybacks are indeed tough some times.
The money won’t be a big deal. The Big Ten will front Maryland the money-a settlement of less than $50 million will most likely be a compromise to avoid a long court battle.
Maryland will pay it back by receiving slightly less money–the television deal the Big Ten has will pay each school slightly more than $24 million a year, which is a boost from the $17 million the ACC is expected to pay annually. It won’t be a deal breaker.
At 14 teams, the Big Ten will be done with its reconfiguration. Its TV footprint will extend throughout the Midwest, the Northeast and into the Middle Atlantic region. It will be enough.
Maryland will be free from the Tobacco Road influence which bothered many Maryland backers. It will have a natural football rival in Penn State and geographical rival in Rutgers.
Breaking away from the ACC tradition?
Ask Texas A&M how breaking away from the Big 12 and Texas has worked out for itself?
With the loss of Maryland, ACC commissioner John Swofford will have to react. The first move will be to see if Notre Dame is interested in joining as a full-time 14th member. It is highly unlikely.
If not ND then who?
Connecticut, which will elevate ACC basketball and be part of a nice northern wing which could include Syracuse, Boston College and Pittsburgh, will be a target. So will Louisville, which could boost basketball and football.
But the ACC might have other concerns. Florida State, already looking at other pastures, might be enticed by an offer from the Big 12 to come along with Clemson or Louisville, which would leave the ACC rich with exit fees but wiped out as a football power conference.
The Big East?
Problems, problems, problems. New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is in the middle of shark invested waters with only a rubber raft and a few fragile paddles as protection.
Aresco is maintaining the good fight of a nation-wide conference covering 4 time zones,. But who is going to watch? That is not Aresco’s biggest concern,
Keeping the core group of Big East basketball schools together is the problem. And it is growing. The Catholic schools, led by Georgetown and Marquette, kept quiet as a concession to the football money being funneled in each year. But they counted on Big East basketball maintaining its high-profile with schools such as Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville UConn and Notre Dame as the anchors. Now all be gone.
It might take just one Catholic school to walk out the door and the others will follow to form an 8 or 10 school all basketball, Catholic League, which will leave a group of bewildered group of BCS wannabees in a Conference usa ,not USA ,configuration.
If that happens, Big East football can officially close shop.
And the next giant step towards what looks more and more like a 4 or at most five league Super Conference of 14 to 16 teams will have been taken.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.