The University of Maryland just announced that they will be joining the Big Ten starting in 2014. During the press conference which was broadcast live on WBAL TV out of Baltimore, the financial benefits of joining the Big Ten were emphasized. Dr. Wallace D. Loh, president of the University of Maryland, said that thanks to the move to the B1G, never again would they have to tell a student they cannot represent the University of Maryland by playing the sport they love. His comments were in reference to a number of sports which had been cut due to financial constraints.
Big Ten commissioner James Delany said that the members of the Big Ten were “giddy” with excitement over the announcement.
President Loh also talked about the academic advantages of joining the B1G but when throughout the press conference, money kept coming back into the discussion.
It is expected that Rutgers will be soon to follow Maryland’s footsteps with an announcement that they will also be joining the Big Ten.
Although the financial advantages for the University of Maryland are obvious, the same can’t be said about the Big Ten. While University of Maryland will be able to reap the benefits of the Big Ten Network and other highly successful B1G revenue sources, this isn’t a move that greatly increases the B1G market share–at least from a television perspective. Yes, it will open up the Baltimore/Washington D.C television network but they compete heavily with the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens. Maryland (or Rutgers) don’t do much to raise the competitiveness of B1G football either. Basketball has much more potential.
For Maryland, they will be taking a big step down in lacrosse. It sounds though that Maryland will be looking to maintain a more difficult schedule outside of the B1G.
From an academic perspective, Maryland appears to be a good fit. It is a school similar in size and quality to many of the schools in the Big Ten. From a football perspective however, there is much to be desired. If anything, it might reduce the number of conference games as the divisions split into a play off format opening opportunities for out of conference play.
As you probably know by now, Rutgers and the B1G have confirmed their addition to the conference. What I didn’t fully recognize was the financial benefits of adding Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten. In the post above, I attributed the financial advantages to viewership suggesting that the competition from the NFL would trump the college football audience. However, as this article from Sports Illustrated points out, it isn’t about the numbers actually watching the games. It’s about the number of cable subscribers that will receive the Big Ten Network.
According to the Sports Illustrated article, the BTN gets a subscriber fee from the cable networks for every subscriber with the BTN in their channel selections. Cable providers outside of the Big Ten geographic area pay aorund 10 cents per subscriber per month. Providers in the B1G geographic area pay $1.10 per subscriber per month. With approximately 3.6 million cable subscribers in the Baltimore/Washington district alone, we’re talking a hefty chunk of change.
Of course you may remember that the Ohio cable providers haven’t always been so happy about paying the BTN network fees. As a Ohio ex-pat living in Maryland recently locked into a 2-year cable contract, I’m hoping that they can negotiate a decent settlement for all.