Today I was invited to Ohio State’s homecoming game. What traditional Big Ten team is the opponent this year? That’s right — Rutgers. Wait, what?
Oh, yeah. Ugh. This is the year the Big Ten adds the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Maryland Terrapins to the conference. I don’t know whether Ohio State will be any good this year — I’ll write something about that later this week — but I know that Rutgers and Maryland aren’t likely to increase the Buckeyes’ strength of schedule any. Last year the Scarlet Knights were 6-7 in whatever conference they were in (was it the Big East?) and the Terrapins were a hardy 7-6 in the ACC. Will they be any better this year? Heck if I know, but I do know that a homecoming game against Rutgers doesn’t exactly get the blood pumping.
I get what the Big Ten is doing. College sports these days is all about money, and money flows from TV revenue. The Big Ten wants the Big Ten Network to be carried on the cable packages in the big media markets on the East Coast, and it also hopes to increase sales of jerseys, hats, and other paraphernalia. Does that mean lots of New Yorkers and inside-the-Beltway types will decide to watch Big Ten football this year and wear Big Ten gear? I doubt it — unless they’re alums and were going to be watching the games, anyway. I’m not sure that New Yorkers pay any attention whatsoever to college football, and the main sport in D.C. is politics. But there’s probably enough Big Ten alums in the two markets to make cable companies include the Big Ten Network, and that’s what matters.
I think adding Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten is lame, and when I see the devious looking Maryland Terrapin sporting the Big Ten logo, as in the illustration accompanying this post, I cringe. They may make a lot of money through this expansion, but they’ve really undercut the tradition in a conference that had a tradition second to none. No amount of money is worth that.