Posted: 2:44 p.m. Saturday, April 20, 2013
By Ben Broman
Hallelujah and praise be to Juan: when Maryland officially joins the Big Ten in 2014, we won't have any silly, nonsensical divisional names to memorize. Instead of pushing on with its much-panned Leaders-Legends alignment, the Big Ten will name its new divisions East-West, with a perfectly-georgraphical alignment.
The Big Ten will replace Legends and Leaders with East and West when Maryland and Rutgers join the league in 2014, league sources told ESPN.
The proposed Big Ten West includes the six teams located in the Central time zone -- Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin -- plus Purdue, sources said.
The proposed Big Ten East includes Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.
"Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams]," a source said.
I kind of thought this was a necessary eventuality, if not immediately then at least at some point down the road. The Big Ten clearly has its eyes set on being the premier northeastern conference - defining northeastern as "northern and above SEC territory" - and that means more expansion within the foreseeable future. That being the case, any non-geographic alignment was off the table. You can play around with this type of nonsensical strength-based alignment when everyone's pretty much in the same area, but when you start factoring in flights from Jersey and DC to Lincoln, it becomes impossible to maintain for travel (and class) restrictions. I would've assumed Maryland received some assurances that this was at the very least being strongly considered, if not outright decided.
And if Maryland, an athletic department as in the red as any in the country, needed it to jump the ACC's kind-of-sinking ship, you can be sure Virginia or North Carolina would definitely require it. This makes the conference viable for further expansion.
That's good news. So, too, is the fact that Maryland won't have crazy travel. Indiana's a trip but not a killer one, and most of the rest in the East aren't distances any crazier than some of the ACC Atlantic teams (Boston College, anyone?).
The bad news: look at that football lineup. Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State all in the same year? Yikes. The years when the off-teams are Nebraska and Wisconsin are gonna be hell. Of course, it's also a sales point in recruiting, and I'm still of the opinion that an overloaded schedule isn't a big roadblock for the future of the football program: recruits, especially second-tier Midwestern recruits, are going to salivate at that, and there are still going to be six winnable games on the schedule every single year. And that one year that Stefon Diggs hits all the great Midwestern football cathedrals on his Farewell Tour is going to make it all worth it.
I'm just glad we get to avoid the potentially-distressing question of whether Maryland is a Legend or a Leader. (Leader for life, baby.)