D.A.: Big Ten Getting What It Deserves With Maryland And Rutgers

The Big Ten's "arranged marriage" with Maryland and Rutgers didn't make sense from the start. Now? It's a nightmare.

Damon Amendolara
October 31, 2018 - 12:42 pm

USA Today Images

Let the record state that Tuesday, October 30 was not a good day for the Big Ten. After a long, tumultuous battle within Maryland's administration, embattled D.J. Durkin was retained as head coach. A short drive north, Rutgers dismissed linebacker Izaia Bullock after being arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder. As an added cherry on top, Ohio State's Urban Meyer explained how a cyst in his brain has caused debilitating headaches for years. By the way, the first college football playoff rankings were released and the conference did not appear in the top four. Michigan came in at No. 5. 

Meyer's health status is startling, and would explain his looks of sheer pain often on the sidelines. One could understand if commissioner Jim Delaney could relate to that agony as he watched Tuesday's events unfurl. The Terps situation is a black eye for everyone involved, as Wallace Toh announced he would exit stage left in the spring, yet Durkin returns. The Board of Regents essentially admitted athletics is a mess, but the mess wasn't all Durkin's. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Maryland culture. 

The aftermath of offensive lineman Jordan McNair's death has been ugly. Fingers have been pointed, rationalizations have been made. Some former players have described a disastrous vibe inside those walls, inevitably leading to counter accusations of betrayal and vendettas. McNair's father upon hearing the news that Durkin would return said, "I feel like I've been punched in the stomach, and somebody spit in my face." Terrible Tuesday continued.  

Durkin may not be specifically responsible for the lackadaisical efforts of his training staff to save McNair, but when a child dies on the field and there's culpability in those employed to protect him, there must be severe repercussions. Durkin should have been fired. Nothing is as important (recruiting classes, conference wins, staff stability) as that death, and now the blowback is aggressive from critics on campus and nationally. Maryland has screwed this up beyond repair. Speaking of morbid storylines, Rutgers linebacker Bullock allegedly "initiated a plot to murder the family members of an acquaintance." Getting smashed 42-13 by Buffalo is no longer the low point of the Scarlet Knights' football season. 

The funny thing is Maryland and Rutgers shouldn't even be part of the Big Ten. They were brought in because of recent expansion, as the Big Ten sought more eyeballs for its television network. All those households in New York and New Jersey and Baltimore and D.C. were enough for the decision makers to ignore how awkward the fits were. These are coastal campuses in a midwestern league. Terps fans will always be ACC. Flyover country isn't Sopranos. The football programs were and still are afterthoughts. Rutgers has gone through a slight rebuild since it helped create the game in the 1869. Only about 150 years of bad luck. Meantime, no one has feared the turtle since Boomer Esiason was slinging it 30 years ago. The league ignored the muck, and now that sludge is dripping all over their heads. 

The irony is, the biggest benefit these two schools bring may not even be applicable in the next TV deal. Cable bundles are breaking up. The industry is in the middle of a major shift. What happens if college athletics (and sports in general) are broadcast over internet platforms like Google or Amazon? Then no conference needs TV watchers in major markets. They only need a WiFi signal to any laptop or a cell tower nearby. The farmer in Iowa means the same as the guy in a studio apartment in Jersey City.

This was an arranged marriage that is showing its fallacies just a few years in. The Big Ten never needed Maryland and Rutgers. It would survive (and thrive) without two miserable football programs weighing in down. The Scarlet Knights have one win this season, over Texas Southern. Which is actually not the low point of the Chris Ash era. That would be losing 78-0 to Michigan two years ago. At home. That 29-0 second quarter was the turning point. Other than that, it was a nail biter. 

The Terps' high point in the Big Ten is a .500 record and a Foster Farms Bowl, while trying to act like they share anything in common with Nebraska and Indiana besides a team color. It's been so ugly this week one has to wonder if the league power brokers admit their mistakes in private. The land grab looked garish then. It looks suicidal now. The terror of this misjudged conference realignment will not quiet down anytime soon. Happy Halloween, Big Ten. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.