LINCOLN — The University of Maryland became the 13th member of the Big Ten Conference on Monday. Rutgers University is expected to claim a 14th slot today.
With Nebraska in only its second year of Big Ten competition and still adjusting to its new surroundings, the addition of two new schools in 2014 means there will be further adjustments in store.
»Division changes: Big Ten athletic directors will review divisions in the next three to five months, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. Early reports indicate that Maryland and Rutgers would join the eastern-leaning Leaders Division. Illinois is expected to move from the Leaders to the western-tilted Legends, of which Nebraska and Iowa are members.
»The number of league football games: Schools currently play eight games per season. Nine is a strong possibility, Delany said, noting that “our fans want to see these games.''
»Added conference basketball games: Coaches want fewer than the current 18 games. Delany wants more, up to 22. “The compromise is somewhere in the middle,'' Delany said. “I hope we play more games.''
In this era of conference realignment — Nebraska took part in 2011 by moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten — change has become radical and rapid. Could there be a No. 15 and a No. 16 on standby for membership, which would turn the Big Ten into the country's first superconference?
“I don't know,'' University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman said Monday afternoon. “It depends on the circumstances.
“I think we're probably going to take a deep pause at this point. But things change.''
Delany declined to discuss further expansion, saying, “It's Maryland's day.''
Tom Osborne and Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska's current and future athletic directors, also preferred not to comment until Rutgers is on board.
Perlman said Nebraska has many reasons for liking the Big Ten's move to the Eastern Seaboard.
“We have lot of alumni in Washington, D.C., and along the East Coast,'' he said. “When we played at Virginia Tech and at Wake Forest, we had big crowds of people who said to me, 'I wish you guys would play on the East Coast more often.'
“So from Nebraska's selfish point of view, it opens up opportunities for us, including some fairly significant recruiting markets.''
Maryland President Wallace Loh, a former provost at Iowa, bluntly stated that money was the No. 1 driver for moving to the Big Ten.
Two years ago, when Loh and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson came to Maryland, the school had an athletic budget deficit. Eight sports were cut in response. Loh vowed that he never wanted Terrapin athletics to face that again.
If projections on increased TV money are accurate, the Big Ten's annual payout per school could rise from $24 million now to $30 million to $35 million in a few years. The ACC's current payout per school is $17 million.
Maryland will begin studies to reinstate as many sports as possible.
Nebraska didn't have financial troubles when it changed leagues but did have worries about Big 12 stability and revenue distribution.
“That's the great thing about the Big Ten — it's stable, even though we are now expanding again,'' Perlman said. “But the core is stable and the revenue is stable. That does give you comfort.''
Maryland and Rutgers are land-grant, research universities. Maryland has an enrollment of 37,000, and is located just outside Washington, D.C., in College Park, Md.
Rutgers is the State University of New Jersey with an enrollment of 58,000. The main campus is in Piscataway, N.J., on the south edge of the Newark/New York City metro area.
Lincoln is 1,205 miles from College Park and 1,285 miles from Piscataway.
Perlman said the geography isn't ideal for Husker travel, but he noted that conferences are moving outside their current geographic footprints to gain TV exposure and to take advantage of demographic shifts.
“It's actually easier to get access into Maryland and Rutgers than some places we go now,'' he said. “There will be some added costs, but the ease of travel won't be bad.''
Perlman said he has no second thoughts about Nebraska's having changed leagues, and doubts that Maryland and Rutgers will either.
“Everything is good about it,'' he said. “It's been very welcoming, and this is a very collaborative conference. I didn't feel like the newbie for more than a couple of weeks after we actually got membership.''
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Location: College Park, Md.
Colors: Red, white, black and gold
What's a terrapin? The Diamondback Terrapin, a giant turtle, is Maryland's state reptile. In 1962, football coach H.C. Byrd requested the mascot to be the terrapin. The team used to be called the “Old Liners.”)
Distance from Lincoln: 1,205 miles (20 hours, 24 minutes by car)
Academics: A member of the prestigious AAU, UM is ranked No. 19 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. It has 30 academic programs in the U.S News Top 10. Maryland has produced four Nobel Prize winners since 1997.
Famous alumni: Jim Henson (Muppets creator), Boomer Esiason (NFL star), Carl Bernstein (Watergate reporter), Sergey Brin (Google co-founder), David Simon (TV writer/director), Connie Chung (TV news anchor), Larry David (Seinfeld creator).
Contact the writer: 402-444-1024, firstname.lastname@example.org