Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Honestly, Maryland Refreshingly Honest About Big Ten Money Grab

College sports fans are a hell of a lot smarter than they were a decade ago about how the conference-realignment sausage gets made. As the University of Maryland announced its intention to join the Big Ten, it became the first school willing to give the unwashed masses that kind of credit.

Instead of blathering on about "academic culture" and "ideological fit" and "Delany's ass looks hot in a pair of Wranglers" and all the other reasons people give for awkward hookups, Maryland president Wallace Loh and athletic director Kevin Anderson looked dead into the camera lenses and microphones and pulled back the usual curtain of bullshit.

It's all about the Benjamins, baby.

The Big Ten reportedly paid its members $24 million last year, compared to the $17M on offer from the ACC. Research analysts contacted by USA Today indicate that the value of the Big Ten's TV revenue could reach as much as $35M by 2017, thanks to the expanded footprint created by Maryland and Rutgers coming aboard.

Of course, this is all contingent on Rutgers actually delivering the New York market as expected. Remember, this is the same place where price wars with cable companies took the Knicks, Rangers and even the mighty Yankees off the air for months at a time. Good luck to anyone who thinks NYC cable operators are going to get hosed in negotiations to carry the Big Ten Network so some dudes in Jersey can watch Rutgers vs. Nebraska.

Of course, some dudes in Jersey know how to get stuff done.

News Corp. owns 51% of the BTN and also a chunk of the YES Network. Oh, and anything with the name "Fox" on it as well. According to the Wall Street Journal, New York cable customer who want anything Fox-branded, like Fox News, may also have to carry BTN and YES as baggage. Perhaps the above picture should have Rupert Murdoch photoshopped into Tony Soprano's place?

Anyway, back to the numbers.

SI's Pete Thamel got even more optimistic figures, projecting the 2017 payout as high as $43M. Definitely helps one understand how a department so impoverished that it has to start laying off athletes can stomach a $50M exit fee that the ACC says is binding.

Wait, laying off athletes? Yup, you heard.

The Terrapin athletic department had to discontinue seven sports teams in July due to budget strain. According to Anderson, "No future Maryland athletic director will ever have to look in young men's and young women's eyes and say you can't play here anymore."

It's an altruistic slant on the tried-and-true money grab, making Loh and Anderson into the Robin Hood and Little John of the college-sports set. Self-serving? Sure. But it's 1000% more honest than most of the crap that presidents, commissioners and AD's have spewed in the past decade or so.

I may be the only one, but I'm highly refreshed by Loh and Anderson's approach. Better than Rutgers', ferdamnsure.

As far as the on-court product, Maryland could add something substantial if Mark Turgeon can continue reeling in strong recruiting classes. That, of course, will be predicated on him getting Eastern seaboard kids excited about playing Ohio State and Michigan State instead of Duke and North Carolina. No guarantee there, but at least they'll always have swank Under Armour gear to wear.

As long as these get burned and never spoken of again.

In Rutgers' case, the NYC media (particularly Jon Rothstein) have been trying to pump up RU hoop while St. John's struggles to get itself back on the national radar. Right now, the young Scarlet Knights look perfectly capable of whacking America East teams (yet, strangely docile against the MAAC) and then standing politely to the side while the Big East's big boys play games that matter.

Not much should change in the Notorious B1G. After all, the New York recruits already disregard Rutgers when the chances to play at Madison Square Garden are plentiful. How are you gonna get these kids amped about playing in Indianapolis or Chicago, let alone Madison, Wisconsin or Lincoln, Nebraska?

Say what you like about realignment, and I usually do, but these new interlopers into my favorite conference will be greeted with a resounding "meh."

Maryland and Rutgers are simply ticks landing on a very big dog's back and seeking to suck out whatever they can. I can give Maryland's administration credit for being honest about it, and that's the first truly nice thing I've ever been able to say about all this football-driven pablum.

Enjoy cashing the checks and getting your student-athletes' faces beaten in, fellas.

1 comment:

  1. Yes they will get their faces beaten in hard