With the Big 10 adding Rutgers and Maryland the college football landscape could take another dramatic shift.
When a tsunami happens the effects can be felt thousands of miles away. The same is true for when a Midwest based conference adds two teams from the east coast. In a move that was held secret until Saturday and confirmed on Monday the Big 10 has added Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers of the Big East.
The Scarlet Knights have had a fantastic season at 9-1 while Maryland has struggled under Randy Edsall. Neither was added for the athletic performance. All that the Big 10 sees is dollar signs when by adding schools in large urban populations. By making sure the leagues Big 10 Network is added in millions of new households by cable carriers they are assuring themselves of a big pay increase.
With the ACC losing Maryland they are likely to raid the Big East for a replacement (UConn or Louisville). That would mean the Big East would be down two key members and lose their footprint in New York/New Jersey/New England region.
Depending on what plays out the Mountain West could end up being a big winner or loser after this is all said and done.
Let's break down the scenarios.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
With the Big East depleted they would look to add even more schools immediately. The conference already stretch from coast to coast so you know that no school would be off limits for them. Their western division is already unbalanced, this could be their opportunity to further raid the Mountain West and create a true western division. Air Force has denied them before, maybe they would be persuaded to join if UNLV or Fresno State was also added. Adding more western schools would also appease Boise State and San Diego State who would enjoy reduced travel costs. These teams could then join Houston and SMU for a more compact western division.
As long as the Big East can offer a better TV contract than the Mountain West, they will continue to gain interest from other non AQ schools. With schools facing tighter and tighter budgets, administrators are looking for anyway to add to their coffers.
There have been a number of times that it seemed like the Mountain West was in a strong position to add schools or gain AQ status. Instead all we've seen is schools jumping for a new conferences and the Mountain West shrink.
If the Mountain West loses any more schools then the only FBS schools available to add are Idaho, New Mexico State or Texas State. Not a pretty picture.
BEST CASE SCENARIO
With the Big East facing further defections their new TV contract could certainly take a hit. That reduction may be enough for Boise State and San Diego State to reconsider their moves next year. Also with the best team from the "group of five" guaranteed a spot in one of the new championship games it means BYU is at a bigger disadvantage as an independent. The Cougars may find it better to join a conference where they would at least have guaranteed access.
In fact Brett McMurphy has reported that all three schools have had conversions with the Mountain West about coming back. Of course the only response from the three has been "deny, deny, deny". Even if just San Diego State and Boise return the Mountain West would better off. With 12 teams a conference championship would be possible and create even further income. Adding BYU would bring back a big rival for many schools and also help future TV negotiations. A 14th team could even be added for further reach.
The Mountain West would now be in a position where they are clearly the best non major football conference. They would have a great shot at making one of the championship games every. There could also be plenty of teams to qualify for the NCAA tournament as the Mountain West becomes an elite basketball conference.
WHAT TO DO
Be patient and wait to see what plays out. With so much up in the air, this could take several months to play out. Boise State took till the very last day to finally advise the Mountain West they were leaving. Expect lots of foot dragging for any team that may come back. Any school will look at all their options before returning to a conference they were so eager to leave.
Things have not worked out in favor of the Mountain West since realignment. I would not expect that pattern to change anytime soon. Don't let one positive report give you too much hope. We've gone down this road before and still never popped that bottle of champagne. The entire system of college football has been designed to hurt conferences like the Mountain West. Jim Delany wouldn't have it any other way.