With the University of Maryland Joining the Big Ten (currently an ACC member) and Rutgers - a founding member of the Big East conference - set to follow this east coast migration to the Big Ten, the most academically prestigious NCAA conference (outside of the Ivy League schools) will have 14 members and be on par in terms of membership with the SEC. But to think that this is all about academics is insane. It's all about the next big NCAA football broadcast deal for the Big Ten.
The Big Ten's football games are currently aired on ABC, ESPN and the conference's own Big Ten Network which is the conference's true cash cow and bringing in a couple of east coast schools and getting potentially millions of homes into the Big Ten Network fold means millions of additional dollars per year from cable subscribers who may or may not care about receiving the Big Ten Network but will pay for it anyhow as a part of their expanded basic cable package.
The other part of this addition to the Big Ten is that is a subtraction of schools from other NCAA athletic conferences -- this time the ACC and the Big East. This round of NCAA conference alignment -- with the Big Ten again leading the charge as they did two years ago in picking up the University of Nebraska from what seemed a certain-to-crumble Big 12 conference -- will more than likely be the end-game that sports rubes have had wet dreams about for years.
With the ACC losing Maryland, they'll likely pick up the University of Connecticut from the certain-to-collapse Big East who will go member shopping for anyone desperate enough to sidle up alongside the likes of Temple, the University of Central Florida and the Middle-Bronx College of Culinary Arts (not an actual college that I know of). This move, too, will make the ACC look shaky and have other conferences -- mainly the Big 12 who currently has ten member universities and the greedy SEC who stands at 14 member universities -- looking to pick off an ACC member or two who would welcome the greener pastures of the Big 12 or SEC despite the hefty $50 million exit fee from the ACC.
The Big Ten expansion to 14 schools will also make the Pac 12 (which appropriately has 12 member universities in western states as far east as Colorado) look towards Texas, Texas Tech, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University as they want to hit the somehow magical number of sixteen members first for bragging rights, if nothing else.
The NCAA conference landscape will again change entirely all for the almighty television dollars from ESPN, Fox and ultimately from the pockets of cable television subscribers who seem ready to consume anything shown to them on their charged-to-their-credit-card 70" LED HDTV set they picked up on Black Friday/Thursday after waiting in line outside of Walmart for 8 hours rather that socialize with their extended family who they see once each year.
Let's not look ahead to Black Friday but instead remember today -- Monday, November 19, 2012 -- as Black Monday, the day which truly showed us the college athletics isn't about competition on the field, court or ice but instead that it's about competition for cable subscribers and advertising dollars.