SBD/June 20, 2014/Colleges

Delany Defends Big Ten's Move East, Says Realignment Trend Left Him No Choice

Delany said the Big Ten is a two-region conference now
Maryland and Rutgers officially join the Big Ten on July 1, and the addition of the schools is both the “boldest and most divisive initiative” of Commissioner Jim Delany’s 25-year tenure, according to Stewart Mandel of SI. The expansion could “yield lucrative cable subscriber fees and open new recruiting territory,” but could also “alienate the existing fan base and further dilute an already struggling football league.” Delany in recent months has been "building bridges to the East,” including awarding the '17 men's basketball tournament to DC and opening a "second office" in N.Y. He said, "We're a two-region conference now. We're not going to visit the East. We're going to live in the East." Mandel noted this “doesn't sit well with many folks back in the Midwest.” However, Delany believes the conference “had no choice” but to go east. As the Big Ten's population moves South and West, its base is “rapidly shrinking.” The conference had long claimed the “most populous footprint of any conference,” but suddenly ranked a “distant third” following expansion by the SEC and ACC. A lawsuit filed last year by Maryland against the ACC over the league's $52M exit fee claims that reps from two ACC schools at one point “contacted two Big Ten schools about joining.” Delany said, "That's when it changed. Once people start getting on our doorstep and calling our institutions, then I think it's important to be able to be offensive and defensive. We came to the conclusion there was more risk in sitting still than there was in exploring other opportunities." Mandel notes it may be a "decade or more before we know whether Delany's move was right," and the success is dependent on Rutgers "overcoming its propensity to self-destruct and Maryland's returning to glory in the two revenue sports” (SI, 6/23 issue).
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