Walfish: Adding Rutgers, Maryland to Big Ten does Northwestern few favors

Josh Walfish, Gameday Editor

There are rumors swirling that at any moment Maryland and Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten as its 13th and 14th members.

Theoretically, it will transform the Big Ten into a power player in Division I athletics, but for Northwestern, the move would have minimal positive effect.

The Wildcats build their program on regional rivalries, as evidenced by the schedules for all 19 sports. There are some notable exceptions to the rule, mainly football and softball, but even these programs have a very heavy dose of the region. Athletic director Jim Phillips told The Daily two weeks ago that scheduling games with regional opponents is a crucial part of his philosophy.

Last time I checked, Maryland and New Jersey are not in the same area as Illinois. More games on the East Coast means fewer games in the Midwest and less time to build a brand in the region. It’s a net loss for NU.

Then there’s the competition perspective. What does having the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights in the conference do for the Cats?

Maryland’s athletics have been so bad in recent years that the students have become apathetic. The football team is 4-7 in a weak Atlantic Coast Conference and was just obliterated by Florida State at home Saturday. The men’s basketball team has been decent and would probably slot in at roughly the same Big Ten level as NU.

Rutgers’ major sports have been on the rise: The football team is 9-1, but then again, it plays in the absurdly weak Big East. Their only loss this season came at the hands of Kent State. The basketball team has hovered around .500 the last three seasons — but then again, they play in a ridiculously tough conference.

So if it doesn’t benefit the Cats regionally or in terms of competition, could it help NU financially? That must be a joke: You get more dough when you divide a pot by 12 than when you do it by 14. These are teams that most likely won’t bring in a ton of money, so I don’t expect the pot to get bigger by adding more teams.

There is only one place these additions will help the Cats, and that’s recruiting. The move will open up the Washington, D.C., metro area to NU, and it will also open up parts of New York and New Jersey. However, the Cats will always recruit the Midwest heavier than any other region of the country.

If NU can’t benefit competitively, financially or regionally, why should it vote to allow these two schools into the conference? NU is a founding member of the Big Ten and must use its power as a member to protect the best interests of the conference.

I applaud the Big Ten for trying to expand its footprint, but if it doesn’t benefit the member schools, why make the move? The only school this benefits is Penn State, because it gives them some regional allies. From NU’s perspective, this move makes little sense.

Therefore, I ask President Schapiro and Dr. Phillips to veto any move to bring Maryland and Rutgers to the conference. It won’t benefit this school and its rising athletic program.