Editorial: College football is not about fans

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To show fans of “amateur sports” just how much more money can be made in college football over college basketball, just look at the recent news of Maryland departing the renowned Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten.

Maryland is a college known for its men’s basketball program, and it is in the ACC, a conference renowned for its basketball teams. Maryland is shedding longtime rivalries with the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Virginia and heading for the Big Ten to play, um, teams like Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern. It’s hard to see the fan interest.

But remember: It’s not about the fans. It’s about the TV market. It’s especially about the TV market during football games.

Email newsletter signup

The Big Ten schools own the Big Ten Network. The member schools want Maryland for the Baltimore and Washington markets, and they want Rutgers, a member of the Big East Conference, for the New York and New Jersey markets. That’s more eyeballs to Big Ten games and not to Big East or ACC games.

The addition of the two schools gives Big Ten member Penn State regional rivals and keeps eastern recruiting strong. It also counters Notre Dame’s alliance with the ACC. Notre Dame, lest we forget, is a big-time football school smack in the middle of Big Ten geography but not in the Big Ten.

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers brings the Big Ten to 14 teams, on par with the size of the powerhouse Southeastern Conference and two teams ahead of the Pac-12 Conference. Perhaps the Big Ten, which hasn’t been 10 teams since 1988, is waiting to hit 16 teams before changing its name.

Which two schools are next? Our guess is Boston College and the University of Connecticut.

What’s ironic is that the conference was commonly known around the turn of the 20th century as the Western Conference. The Western Conference has moved eastward quite a bit.