The Big 10, which has been bigger than 10 for years, since Penn St. joined up, is getting bigger. It was announced today that Maryland will join the conference as of July 1, 2014. Rutgers is also in the process of leaving the Big East to become the 14th member of the Big 10, the traditional Rose Bowl partner of the Pac-12.
As always, dollars, especially future dollars, are the driving force.
For those who wonder why the ongoing and endless criticism in this and other media sites of the Pac-12 Network's continuing inability/refusal to come to a distribution agreement with Directv, especially given the conference's failings in getting distribution guarantees from the major cable carriers they have deals with, and their failure to reach any agreement with some major cable carriers, and to a degree, the relative strength of the bowl tie-ins different conferences have, consider this.
Maryland, a founding charter member of the ACC, has dropped 7 varsity sports in the last year, and is willing to pay a $50 Million exit fee in order to join the Big Ten. The reason? They deliver the Baltimore, MD, and Washington DC markets to the Big Ten Network, (which happens to be distributed on Directv), and together with Rutgers, which delivers the New Jersey market, as well as inroads into New York, will result in an increase of $100 Million in conference revenue from 2014 through 2020 than they would have realized staying in the ACC. Which will allow them to begin the process of reinstating those 7 sports.
In a related move, prompted by the BCS's plans to revise their qualification procedures once the 4 team playoff model begins in 2 years, and 2 additional teams will be included, Boise St. and San Diego St., who were planning to move to the extended Big East, and currently independent BYU, are talking with the Mountain West Conference, their current or most recent homes, about returning to those conferences.
The ONLY reason the Broncos, Aztecs, and Cougars left a natural geographic fit was for better access to BCS bowls, and the new plan, agreed upon at last week's meeting in Denver of the BCS commissioners, to award an automatic access bowl berth to the highest rated champion to the "Group of Five" conferences, puts the Mt. West on equal footing with the Big East.
The "Group of Five" are the Mountain West, Big East, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences.
The SEC, Big XII, Pac-12, Big 10, and ACC will continue to get an automatic bid for their conference champion, but the Big East no longer will.
And so Boise St. could return to the Mt. West and have a clearer path to a BCS bowl game, and the payout that brings, than any Pac-12 member. And Big-10 Commissioner Jim Delaney said the conference would consider further expansion, noting that "Population does matter. To say that important institutions, whether they're political, financial or media don't matter, is wrong."
Football money drives the bus, so it might be time for the Pac-12 to proactively make a move for the future, and look at Boise and San Diego as expansion possibilities, before someone else beats them to it.