As of today the world of the Big Ten is officially rocked. It's safe to say no one from the outside looking in saw this one coming. You've got to credit Jim Delany for keeping this sucker under the radar until the last possible moments. Seriously, is there a more awesome commissioner in the country? But, all of that aside the move east to add Maryland and soon to be Rutgers signals a big shift in the direction of a conference that is rooted in the Midwest.
The move is to be debated and scrutinized a million times over, but all of that is best left to our brethren over at the not so aptly named Delany's Dozen. Here at MadTown Badgers we are in the business of figuring out how this seismic shift affects our beloved Badgers, right?
Well, after a day or so of reflection it's clear Wisconsin could be in for some decent sized changes in a few ways. First off, the Badgers are about to gain anywhere from $4-6 million a year with the addition of the Big Ten network to the basic cable packages in the NY/NJ market (No. 1 in the country) and the Baltimore/DC market (No. 8). So, right there the Badgers are huge beneficiaries, especially on the heels of all the capital projects they are in the process of completing or designing.
Secondly the Badgers could be in for a major change in their demographics in terms of their division in the Big Ten. With the addition of two teams out east it makes zero sense for the Big Ten to even consider just adding one to one division and the other to the next division. What does make sense then? Taking Wisconsin and Illinois and moving them to the now named Legends division while switching the Wolverines of Michigan into the now named Leaders Division.
That would make geographical sense in so many ways. We could get rid of the crazy division names and just go simply east and west. Here's how I envision the divisions to look like should this move happen.
East: Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State, Indiana, Rutgers
West: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
It accomplishes two goals: 1) Make the divisions balanced competitively – both will have three bigger names and competitive teams as of late in them (OSU, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers in East – MSU, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin in West) and then 2) Make the divisions make geographical sense – the only school that could have a claim is Michigan State, but it's a minor one to say the least.
As a Wisconsin fan you have to like this alignment more than the current one. Yes, losing Ohio State every year on the schedule will suck, but I'd rather see games against the Gophers and Hawkeyes on the Badgers schedule. It just doesn't feel right not playing Eastern Iowa University every year anymore. Plus we would keep our budding rivalry with the Spartans to boot.
Wisconsin has long been trying to gain a foothold in recruiting the Maryland/DC corridor and the New Jersey area and have recently begun to make inroads in both areas, adding Maryland and Rutgers can only help recruit those talent and population rich areas.
Let's face facts, the Midwest is losing population these days to the south and east. Moving east only helps negate that talent drain in recruiting circles more naturally, rather than having to reach out to areas that don't have direct connections to the conference.
In the end this move really could be a positive from a Badgers point of view. It helps in adding more money to the coffers, moves the conference to more natural rivalries and geography, and lastly gets them a leg up in the areas the Badgers are already trying to cultivate in the east. What's not to lose if your Wisconsin?
Now of course all of this could change again in the near future as there's been speculation that these additions are the beginning of the conference going to 16 teams and those teams likely being Georgia Tech and North Carolina. At that point all bets are off as to how this conference looks to say the least.