In the last major round of conference realignment, the Big Ten poached Maryland from the ACC, and Rutgers from the AAC (formerly of the Big East). Half a decade later, those moves have drawn very mixed reviews, as the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights have struggled to play up to the rest of the league in the major sports.
The major reason for those two additions that are often cited are the markets in which the programs exist. Rutgers is the closest Power Five program to New York City, while Maryland is just outside Washington, D.C. and close to Baltimore.
The Maryland move was also a shot across the bow of the ACC. The league wound up essentially replacing UMD with Louisville.
According to Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, the moves were as much defensive as offensive.
In a recent column about the legacy of retiring Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, Gene Smith defended the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, with an interesting bit about Penn State.
Since joining the league in 1993, Penn State was on a bit of a geographic island, with the rest of the league squarely in the Midwest.
Smith admits that there was a fear that the ACC could poach Penn State, so part of the selling point on adding Maryland and Rutgers was to give PSU some neighboring programs.
From the Toledo Blade:
“People will talk about Rutgers’ competitive performance,” Smith told me. “However, when you think about our presence on the East Coast, it’s significant. Whether Ohio State goes to play at Rutgers or Michigan plays at Rutgers, the revenue generated significantly impacts our young people. I hope that people will pause and just think about the great things that [Delany’s] done to help our young people and institutions.”
He added: “Here’s one thing that people seem to forget about our move with Rutgers and Maryland. At the time, the ACC was looking to expand. Part of our move was to protect Penn State. Everyone forgets we had a teammate and partner institution that was on a [geographic] island, so what we did, beyond gaining exposure, is we further brought in a valued partner in Penn State. Had Penn State defected to the ACC, what would the conversation have been then?”
There is still a pretty big gap in revenues between the ACC and Big Ten, so it seems a bit unlikely that Penn State would have jumped ship, but if Smith is willing to put that out there, there is likely at least something to it.