"Ohio State fans in particular are sick of having to defend the league after winning 24 straight [2012 and '13] and still not getting the respect it deserves," said Luke Zimmermann, founder of the Buckeyes blog Land-Grant Holy Land. "This is not in their mind anything more than adding another Indiana or Purdue."
To which Delany says, "That's not a compelling comment to me. If the standard for expansion is you have to bring in Nebraska or Penn State, no one's ever going to expand. There's only a couple of those out there."
That's from a story in this week's Sports Illustrated on the Big Ten's frankly unpopular round of expansion, which adds Maryland and Rutgers to the conference.
SI's Stewart Mandel and I spoke at the end of April for about half an hour. He asked me to paint a picture of the average Ohio State fan's feelings (I happen to be an alum and manage a community of OSU supporters) on the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten. As I coordinate a team of writers who routinely interact through comments, over email, and across social media with hardcore and casual OSU partisans alike, I would call myself as qualified as anyone to talk about the most common kind of sentiments.
Through any kind of measurements, Ohio State fans aren't warm to the idea.
The most Pollyannaish Buckeyes recognize Maryland's recent basketball history and brief flirtation with being a top-third ACC football program in the 2000s and see potential. Our nation's capital is far from deplete of football and basketball talent, and in a perfect world, getting an extra chance to say hi to prospects when visiting College Park could represent a potential net benefit to those sorts of schools.
Welcome anyway, new guys!
Welcome anyway, new guys!
But almost no non-New York metro area Buckeyes were warm to the idea of adding historical footnote Rutgers to the fold to begin with. And the State University of New Jersey's nonstop bad PR has taken an already-open-to-second-guessing move and further turned the Big Ten into the butt of jokes. There is almost no athletic director with a worse reputation among fans than Julie Hermann, and whether Ohio State (and other Big Ten) fans like it or not, Hermann and the institution that keeps having to defend her are joining a group of college athletic programs that are almost constantly on the defensive.
In the interest of fairness, let's go ahead and put this out there, too: As a Washington D.C. Big Ten alumni working in and around sports media in the Mid-Atlantic, the addition of Maryland and Rutgers directly benefits me. Teams I care about will be coming within a reasonable commute more regularly. I can take in my alma mater in person in basketball at least semi-annually and in football every other year. I am the target demographic for this expansion. But as far as the quality of Ohio State football goes, this move does absolutely nothing for me.
The fact of the matter is that both Maryland and Rutgers are entering a league that's been chided by national fans for routinely falling short of the sport's powers the last eight years. Fairly or not, Ohio State's lack of consistent, positive showings in high-profile games has been conflated in that. And both Maryland and Rutgers are coming off a string of football seasons that no Wisconsin or Michigan State fan would embrace – much less Ohio State or Michigan fans.
While Nebraska hasn't experienced the same kind of success that Texas A&M or Missouri have upon joining college football's best league, you'll be hard-pressed to find much in the area of Nebraska buyer's remorse from Big Ten fans. The margin for error with Maryland and Rutgers, regardless of how many cable-viewing Big Ten alums live in the area, is razor-thin.
If Maryland and Rutgers replicate the same kind of instant impact that A&M and Missouri have produced on the field, even the most traditionalist Big Ten fans would celebrate that win for the league. But if the status quo continues, a conference of fans accustomed to having to throw punches underwater will only find sticking up for the league even harder.