Delany's plan a gamble, but should be trusted

The landscape of college athletics has witnessed widespread changes recently, but through it all, Jim Delany has ensured comfort and stability as the Big Ten's commissioner. His latest plan, adding Maryland and Rutgers to the conference, will raise eyebrows, but he should be trusted.

At first, I figured it was another Internet-created rumor. Maryland and Rutgers joining the Big Ten? It didn't add up.

The college football landscape has witnessed widespread changes, but through it all, the Big Ten has maintained a comfortable, stable position. Commissioner Jim Delany got his wish, adding Nebraska as the conference's twelfth member. Augmented were two divisions, a championship game, and a slick new logo, too.

On Saturday, amidst a busy slate of Big Ten games, the rumors materialized into news. The Terrapins and Scarlet Knights are now poised to join their Midwestern neighbors.

Neither program offers a powerful punch to the tradition-rich conference. Maryland has claimed two national titles, both when Harry Truman served as president. Rutgers, college football's first program, has just three conference titles and those came as a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference.

When Delany added Penn State to the Big Ten in 1990, it was a no-brainer, bringing a giant to the fold. The same can be said for adding Nebraska in 2011, as it dawned a new day in the conference.

Delany has sworn his conference was inactive in expansion. Its window was shut, at least according to the commissioner's constant rhetoric. Yet, behind closed doors, he plotted planned.

Through changing times, Delany has been the Big Ten's rock, holding the conference constant and steady. He created the first conference television network—now the driving force behind further expansion. He represented his constituents desires while a new playoff model was constructed. He secured seven bowl games for the conference. Each took time and thoughtful, careful consideration.

The additions of Maryland and Rutgers will raise an eyebrow, but Delany has a plan and it should be trusted.

Both schools expand the conference's turf, meaning land from the heartland to the Jersey Shore part of Big Ten country. With that comes brand awareness and revenue, boosting all 14 members, not just the two new ones.

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reports that the Big Ten Network could reach an estimated 15 million households and equates to $200 million each year. Those numbers matter more than wins and losses. Reaching an east-coast market—namely New York City—would bring positive gains to each institution.

It's a bit risky, as no financial forecasts can be guaranteed. Maryland and Rutgers aren't quite Nebraska or Penn State, but there's potential reward for Delany's gamble.

The official announcement of the Big Ten's expansion is expected soon, possibly on Monday. Delany will stand before questions and criticism, but that's nothing new to him. The conference's leader should be trusted, because he has been right so many times before.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He resides on Chicago's north side.
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