The Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland in 2014. It was different than previous football additions. A Big Ten invitation was a rarified event. Penn State (No. 11) and Nebraska (No. 12) were storied programs with multiple national titles. Even Michigan State (No. 10) was coming off a 26-1 run and a national title in 1953. Rutgers and Maryland? The schools had combined for one top 10 AP finish since 1956.

Not surprisingly, the move has not worked out on the field. Rutgers has gone just 4-21 in conference play. Maryland, 8-17, has not been much better. Paradigms change quickly in college football. Maybe young D.J. Durkin gets something going with the Terps. But, the prognosis for neither program in a division with the great B1G powers is optimistic.

Maryland did bring along a solid basketball program, for what that’s worth. Rutgers, absent from the NCAA Tournament since 1991, has brought only embarrassing athletic department scandals.

How the teams fared has been irrelevant. The additions were never about the competition. It was all about money. Adding Maryland and Rutgers was a cynical ploy to add the large and growing New York and D.C. television markets to the Big Ten’s “conference footprint.”

The Big Ten Network gets millions of more subscribers paying the in-market fee of $1 per month on their basic cable packages. A “national” conference doing important things in populous East Coast cities is a better pitch to advertisers than snow, corn, and depressed manufacturing. This has been lucrative for schools with conference revenue ballooning. It has been lucrative for Jim Delany, due to receive a reported $20 million in bonuses, for amateur athletics administration.

Adding Rutgers and Maryland is a windfall if the cable model stays intact. As we’ve learned from the countless ESPN in decline pieces, that model is crumbling. Subscribers are leaving in a steady trickle. Technological innovation – fast, reliable Internet from another source – could break the dam.

We’ve reached the point where outrageous live sports rights figures will diminish. It’s hard to see ESPN or FOX shelling out stupid money for college football today, much less in five or six years. The Big Ten negotiating a shorter TV deal to hasten the next round of negotiations no longer looks like a masterstroke.

A Big Ten Network reliant on active subscribers and ad revenue may not be viable in its present form. The network’s best bet would be bundling with Fox News (median age viewer: 68) for the future, which may not be a long-term strategy.

Cable’s death carries uncertainty. There’s no precise gauge of what will happen. What I can predict is there will be a profound shift toward quality of games vs. volume of games.

Teams will need to fill their stadiums to make money. Having two of the seven home games be against live opponents won’t be a viable business strategy. Non-conference scheduling will have to be better. So will conference scheduling.

Whatever outlet is streaming college football games in the 2020s will not want the bloated buffet of games. The present model favors the conferences. ESPN and FOX need live sports content to get cable providers to carry multiple networks. That changes if you’re dealing with Apple or Amazon.

We could see a model where the ten best Big Ten football games per season are on Amazon Prime. The Big Ten is streaming the rest of its football package and almost all of regular season college basketball on its own.

Cable subscribers no longer matter in that scenario. Fans who watch do, the very fans the Big Ten blithely disregarded. Rutgers and Maryland become dead weight.

Those two schools dilute the product. They drag on attendance when they show up to Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. They drag on television revenue. Mich/OSU/PSU are playing Maryland and Rutgers vs. sellable games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Iowa. They are also two extra mouths to feed when it comes to distributing the diminished revenue Mich/OSU/PSU are producing.

Adding Rutgers and Maryland made short-term financial sense for the Big Ten. Making the product worse may have grave consequences in the intermediate to long-term when the Big Ten is courting active viewers rather than a cable footprint. Of course, those handling said consequences would not be Jim Delany and the present set of school athletics administrators.

About Ty Duffy

Ty is a freelance writer/editor based outside Detroit. He's a Michigan Man. He enjoys dogs, whiskey, yoga, and composing pithy career summaries. Contact him at tyduffy@gmail.com.

  • Aaron M

    Under the author’s projected scenario where the B1G is streaming its regular season basketball, Maryland would be in the top 2-3 in the conference for pulling an audience. It won’t make up for football losses, but neither will it at Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, or Illinois. And Nebraska and Penn State would be nothing but dead weight to the basketball side. Simply put, if cable dies, the problem for the B1G is much larger than Maryland and Rutgers.

    • Morris Zwick

      Exactly. And the following statements are wrong: “They drag on attendance when they show up to Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State.” Wrong. They sell out those games regardless. “They drag on television revenue.” Perhaps you should look at the most watched basketball games in conference this past season. And as far as football, those fans will watch whomever they play. “Mich/OSU/PSU are playing Maryland and Rutgers vs. sellable games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Iowa.” Again, those games are already sold out. In addition, where are the largest populations of B1G alums outside of Chicago? The DC area and NYC. So those fans get to actually attend games (albeit at away stadiums). There is no question the shakeout is coming as far as TV, and Nick Saban is correct: the FBS really only has room for about 64 teams as far as revenue, which means FOUR 16 team conferences. Consolidation is not done. And when that happens, you want pay-TV eyeballs as ticket revenue will never catch up with the leverage you get on media.

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    • Christopher K. Smith

      There’s a difference with teams that have a history in the conference.

      • TheB1GTerp

        Yea no crap, but if you’re talking dollars, it really doesn’t matter does it?

        So you are happy with OSU, UM, and PSU paying for Purdue and Indiana, but not happy with paying less to MD & RU?

        Why because a hundred years ago Purdue founded the conference. I appreciate the loyalty, but the article is about financial liability.

        • Christopher K. Smith

          You’re right Purdue is the ONE school below Rutgers and Maryland in revenue (reference below for you to see for yourself). But It’s unlikely they would drop them. So dropping two of the three lowest revenue generators, who also happen to have NO history in B1G makes financial sense.

          http://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/finances/

          • Christopher K. Smith

            3 Ohio State Big Ten $170,789,765 $166,811,018 $0 0.00
            5 Michigan Big Ten $163,850,616 $157,872,099 $266,467 0.16
            11 Wisconsin Big Ten $132,788,726 $130,433,373 $2,805,000 2.11
            12 Penn State Big Ten $132,248,076 $129,349,149 $0 0.00
            16 Michigan State Big Ten $123,034,495 $121,892,394 $1,012,631 0.82
            19 Minnesota Big Ten $113,506,279 $110,673,824 $7,055,984 6.22
            20 Iowa Big Ten $113,249,020 $116,168,740 $650,000 0.57
            22 Nebraska Big Ten $112,142,961 $103,745,775 $0 0.00
            31 Illinois Big Ten $96,249,500 $102,912,910 $3,652,455 3.79
            32 Indiana Big Ten $95,216,762 $94,190,256 $2,168,073 2.28
            36 Maryland Big Ten $94,101,697 $94,101,697 $15,419,438 16.39
            40 Rutgers Big Ten $83,974,159 $83,974,159 $28,610,673 34.07
            47 Purdue Big Ten $78,699,976

          • KThrone

            Why does it make financial sense?
            It certainly doesn’t make any sense now, the B1G is making so much more money now because they have ACCESS to the NYC, Baltimore and Washington D.C. market.

            What does Purdue give them? Nothing, but a team that wins the B1G, and generates the least revenue.

            I wouldn’t drop anyone, there are teams that are better, but someone has got to lose and that’s what Purdue and Rutgers are for.

  • James Johnson

    You can say about any conference that has its own network.

  • e51

    If anything, Big 10 is in the best position if cable goes down. They can sell individually. If you want B1G, you pay B1G. They have more control over their own than any other conference.

    • Dale Moog

      No, the cable bubble is a great thing for the PAC 12 because the own 100% of the pac12 network. They could simply move them to an online model very easy. They would still keep deals with ESPN and OR FOX and the rest of the content would be streamed by the conference. This played out as a poor growth plan early but had them best positioned when the cable bubble burst. The ACC and SEC have wholly owned networks with ESPN they are beholden to the cable rights ESPN is able collect and the B1G has a partnership with FOX who owns 51% of BTN they are beholden to FOX for cable rights as well the other big winner would be BYU who has their own cable network they can broadcast games on. they control 100% of the rights fees.

      • Walt_Gekko

        And along with Temple and UConn, BYU would be a prime candidate for the Big 12 if it does expand. BYU’s network could be a starting point for a Big 12 TV Network that BYU likely would retain majority ownership but allow the conference to use the network for events.

  • Bscotch Bscotch

    Bundling w/Fox News? Any idea how many other cable channels FOX owns/controls?

  • BaconSkittles

    Why mention MSU’s title in 1953 and ignore that “The 1953 NCAA football season finished with the Maryland Terrapins capturing the AP, INS, and UPI national championship”?

    • Because the Big 10 didn’t invite the Terrapins into the conference in 1953 like they did MSU. What don’t you get about his point? They offered MSU when MSU was at an apex. They offered Maryland simply because of money.

      • BaconSkittles

        Yeah, I get that…. it was more of a “why ignore 1953” and then pick an arbitrary date of 1956 to represent the UMD and RU success? Why not highlight the past 20 years? Don’t you think that would be a better indicator of the current programs?

        Which isn’t as egregious as failing to see the obvious reasons why the Big10 would want reach in the DC/NYC market, given how transient both cities are. OR failing to acknowledge the historically top-heavy conference that is already diluted by programs such as Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, NW, Minnesota, Illinois. Or being flat out wrong about attendance. OR understating the draw of other sports to the Network. OR not doing any research about the Network itself.

        Bad take is bad.

  • Matt

    Let’s just start and end with cable is not going to die in the next 30 years. Period.

    • Respected Citizen

      30 years is a long time. It only took ten years for cellphones to make home land lines irrelevant.

      • good example, bro.

        https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/4/15544596/american-households-now-use-cellphones-more-than-landlines

        Barely less than half of households still have land lines, and households without land lines are disproportionately poor.

        The death of landlines next year has been a thing for at least ten years now.

        Same thing with cable. Cord-cutters are loud and young so everybody thinks there’s a lot more of them than there really are.

        • Respected Citizen

          “The government’s survey found that more than 70 percent of adults between 25 and 34 were wireless only.”

          Do you believe that these people, and people under 25, will add landlines as they get older? And why would they?

          • Some will. Some won’t. Some dedicated wireless only folks relent and get a landline when they get kids and need a common household number. But even if zero will, it’s typical blow-up-your-assedness to claim that landlines are already irrelevant. It’s going to be a long time before they are irrrlevant.

            Same thing with cordcutters.

          • Nathan Walter

            My dad works in the phone industry, namely business telecommunications. I sent him this and he responded,

            “As they are today? Yes, landlines will be irrelevant. Most services are moving to VOIP. But you will continue to see landlines predominantly for business use and largely irrelevant for residential use.”

            Sure, you’ll always have people who have them. But there are people who still own and use their Tamagotchi toys. When do we say they are irrelevant? 70% of homes not using them? 80%? 100%?

          • It’s absurd to consider them irrelevant until only a small fraction of homes use them. That’s the fucking point of all this. It’s typical cyber-wanker-smell-your-own-fartsism to think that because ‘only’ 48% of households have landlines that they’re irrelevant.

          • Nathan Walter

            I’m not necessarily saying they are completely irrelevant, but as one who is close to the industry, I can tell you: many people in the industry think they will be very, very soon.

            The reality is, phone companies are losing way more customers than they are signing up new customers. It’s a fast-dwindling service with low customer retention rates and few new sign-ups. In the business sense, they are irrelevant.

            The technology is already changing in favor of them being irrelevant. Same with cord-cutting. Internet providers are beefing up internet services because cutting the cord requires faster internet (more Hulu requires more internet). Mobile companies are beefing up their services because a transition to mobile-only requires more range and faster, more reliable LTE capabilities.
            Companies are lowering their prices, offering better packages and consumer options. They are all moving on as though landlines are irrelevant. And they are already preparing themselves for cable to be irrelevant.

          • The direction is obvious. The pace is not.

            Ten years ago I worked with people who insisted that the following year (2008!), nobody would use cable anymore.

            Do more people now in 2017 get their content online than in 2007? Sure! But do most people still watch TV from cable today, eleven years after the bleeding-edgers assured us they would not? Yes!

          • Nathan Walter

            The question is: how many people are signing up versus leaving?

            These companies know they are borrowed time with traditional cable/satellite packages. They know they can’t continue a pace where 2+M subscribers leave a year. (By the way, as that number grows, the prices for packages will grow, thus accelerating the pace.)

            The investment most companies are already making is in streaming services. They see the writing on the wall and are already moving away from traditional cable offerings.

          • Respected Citizen

            Do you have a ham radio?

          • Are you the kind of idiot who thinks that’s a relevant comparison?

            I’m a middle aged dude, a few of my colleagues have cut the cord but most still have it. The millenials working for me are tilted more towards not having traditional cable, but some still do.

          • Respected Citizen
        • Nathan Walter

          Through my dealings with DirecTV since cutting cable, I’ve realized how desperate they are.

          I have 29 pieces of mail (TWENTY-NINE) sent to me since January, when we cut it. Add in over 10 phone calls. All of them desperate for me to come back. Offering “rates as low as $19.99”, customer service reps insulting me for not wishing to re-install cable in my home, and calling me dumb for thinking Hulu, Netflix, and MLB.tv will tickle my TV-watching fancy.

          This very likely isn’t just a bunch of young cord-cutters being loud online. DirecTV and Dish Network are changing the way they interact with customers because of this issue. It’s a growing problem, and they recognize it.

          • It’s corded / satelitted providers competing with each other. I have a wired connection via U-Verse and get a piece of mail every month from the other 2 wired providers I could have at my house trying to get me to switch.

          • Nathan Walter

            I received very little from Dish or any other cable provider while I had DirecTV. In fact, all I got was a visit from some guy trying to get me to switch to Dish. (Since cutting the cord, I still get nothing from Dish).

            Now, it’s full on badgering. I’m receiving comically low offers just so they can get me to join again. Their agents insult you when you say no. 1-2 pieces of mail per week from DirecTV… the same exact letter, mind you.

            Trust me, this isn’t them trying to compete with one another. This is a desperate play to get subscribers again.

  • MrBull

    First…other then the NY tv market adding Rutgers was and still is a serious step back for the overall quality of the Big Ten…the adding of Maryland was not much better, but, just another average conference filler…Notre Dame is the team that should have been added…however, Notre Dame has a much view of itself then their actual ‘ability in Football and basketball’ compared to their ‘tv and marketing value’…
    Second…who really cares what ‘whining and crying’ Ty Duffy has to write…the dude is clueless…

    • Walt_Gekko

      Notre Dame likely will eventually wind up a full member of the ACC if they have to join a conference in football.

      • MrBull

        Only when the tv $$$$ dry up for ND to have their own tv package…plus ND in the ACC is absurd as Nebraska in the Big Ten….Nebraska should still be in the Big 12, a natural fit…just as ND was, is and will always be a natural fit for the Big Ten…

  • NoneOfYourBizzness

    Rutgers and Maryland. Lolololololol.

  • TheB1GTerp

    There is so much wrong with this article, The guy has on a little bit of knowledge, and just wants to crap on Rutgers and Maryland, and the sky is falling.

    #1 If the subscription model goes, EVERY conference is in trouble. Notice I said subscription. I still am fairly certain you will see subscription pop up for mobile devices, streaming services as well as cable. You already have ESPN and Fox standard on the new streaming service for Hulu, youtube, and sling. Twitter and Amazon Prime are also very interested in broadcasting sports. If the demand wasn’t there, they wouldn’t be bidding

    #2 The same would be the case for Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Illinois or any school that generally gets low ratings. Tier one deals are based on the ratings you are likely to get. OSU, UM, PSU, and somewhat MSU/Nebraska are the ones that really get on Tier 1 (local TV). This is also where the majority of the money comes from. Which guess what? Tier 1 doesn’t really need cable subscriptions. Michigan, PSU, and OSU are doing very well for the conference, and they do need to play other teams. Tier 3 deals like that with BTN is gravy. More than half of the Big Ten would be really hurt because only their fans really care, they aren’t national brands.

    #3 What the hell was the half thought out idea of going on Fox News? Is this guy on crack? BTN is 51% owned by Fox. How do you think it got carriage? Because it wasn’t the Big Ten doing it, it was Fox. Fox has a lot of weight in the NYC area. The YES network which carries Yankee games is part of Fox. If you want the YES network and Fox, you are going to have to take FS1, FS2, BTN, FoxNews, Fox Life, National Geographic Channel, FXX, and FX. So again, the BTN is ALREADY backed by Fox and has carriage and will be fine.

    Also from this same site, even bad bowls, get good ratings, so as someone pointed out, even Purdue could draw on a streaming service pretty well.
    http://awfulannouncing.com/ncaa/4-takeaways-from-2016-2017-bowl-game-ratings.html

  • Mike Laughlin

    Missouri and Kansas should have been brought in first

  • 2pcj

    In addition to making a series of lazy assumptions, this piece is poorly written. I’ve never considered AA as one of those sites where you tolerate the terrible writing because the larger point is interesting, but more of this crap and I’ll have a re-think.

  • Walt_Gekko

    Actually, I suspect we will see the Big 12 eventually go this route and look to expand its footprint into the northeast by adding Temple (bringing in the Philadelphia TV market that is #5 and only 90 miles from New York) and Connecticut (bringing in most of New England plus to a lesser extent the NYC market). Such a move could cement Temple, which in the last decade has gone from THE laughingstock of college football to a program that won the American Conference (AAC) last season and could be in line to move further (and such a move to the Big 12 could help cement a new on-campus stadium that actually could wind even being part of a bid by Philadelphia to land the 2028 Summer Olympics (if LA doesn’t get the 2024 games). Such a move would give the Big 12 as close a presence to New York as it likely will ever get and help with ad buyers if they do create a new Big 12 TV network.

  • Truth

    I completely agree and said so before we even signed these two dogs. Delany doesn’t deserve a nickel for this. What he deserves is an option: if, and only if, these two prove to be positive for the conference 10 or 15 years from now, THEN he (or his estate) gets some money.

  • Shawn Diiorio

    It was smart for Rutgers and Maryland to get in though.

  • rollwhip

    These pieces are always weird because they behave as if the broadcasters are providing the product. They aren’t. Why would the Big Ten sign some bullshit deal with Amazon?

    No content producers behave that way now and they won’t in the future– they have leverage. So this idea there’s going to be cheap streaming everywhere and people producing the product have no choice but to go along makes little sense, especially for live events. Maybe there will be changes in ad models, but large population centers will still matter because you’ll get more targeting where people actually live.

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  • Conundrum

    The biggest mistake the B1G made was Rutgers over UConn. Much better athletic relevance and similar NYC penetration. Plus, the B1G grabs New England eyeballs for its Network.