The Big Ten's getting a third apartment.
No, you've already visited their pads in Indianapolis and Chicago, and they'll still split time between those, but as Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany reiterated on multiple times Tuesday, they'll be "living" out east, too.
As you've probably already seen your beat writer of choice react hyperbolically to, beginning in 2017, the league will add Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center to its annual rotation that also includes Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Chicago's suddenly arena-of-yesteryear, the United Center.
This isn't about raw numbers – the Big Ten routinely's had one of the most attended and tickets purchased postseason basketball tournament anywhere in the country – but they more than expect The House that Ted Leonsis Built to continue them on a path forward that will keep them in the upper echelon of nation's power conferences.
More than anything, contrary to the "Battleship" or "Risk" metaphors en vogue on social media, this is a move somewhere along the lines of a game of "Civilization". When you aim to expand your global presence, you look towards a luxury you don't have. But expansion like that is often few and far between. When you don't get perhaps the top lines of luxury, you target the next best thing.
Rest assured, the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia markets and even the white whale that New York City in college athletics represents aren't a Texas, a USC, or some other sort of distant power that would unquestionably resonate in spite of the geographic negatives. They're not even whatever much of the SEC's evolved into – whether that's built for some kind of permanent football 'majority' or not is a subject for another day – but the areas they encompass represent valuable footholds none the less.
Jim Delany and the Big Ten power brokers are nothing if not shrewd businessmen. The Big Ten Network, as Delany pointed out at the Big Ten's unveiling press conference today, wasn't widely popular initially, particularly with the fans most directly impacted by missing sometimes in upwards of multiple seasons of select football and basketball games. But with wide distribution through just about all of Big Ten country, BTN now serves as the model for the rest of college athletics. And while getting academic institutions of the caliber of Maryland and Rutgers fits into the Big Ten's broader mission statement, there's no disguising them as even in the same class as a Nebraska or heck, 1993's Penn State addition to the casual fan. But it has never been about what they specifically represented.
The landmass ranging from Northern Virginia to southern New England encompasses more Big Ten expats than almost anywhere else in the country. While probably no less than a third of the some 510,000 B1G alums there hail from the league's two newest additions, the conference is banking on the sum of the parts to show up en masse as the league establishes permanent residence along the Eastern seaboard.
2017 isn't far away in a strictly continuum perspective, but it's an eternity in college athletics. What Maryland basketball looks like then is anybody's guess. Mark Turgeon, the Terps' coach who was front and center at the press function today along with Delany and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson, for all we know could be coaching elsewhere by the time the first ever D.C. based Big Ten tourney tips off. But based on Maryland's history, wagering the Terps are at least in the upper half of the league, regardless of who's at the helm, probably wouldn't be much of a stretch.
If Maryland's anywhere near the kind of shape 1993 to 2002, when Sweet Sixteens were expectations and anything less was a failure of a season, the numbers will be there for a D.C. based basketball tournament. Any kind of early round exits could leave the Verizon Center looking awfully drafty on television, given the sheer travel burden expected to be put on the conference's more western body members. But that's a risk the league is more than willing to take.
As an Ohio State fan, the burden for now (though Delany didn't come out and say it, expect the league to take the temperature for a possible 2019 and beyond semi-annual appearance at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY) constitutes an hour extra of driving than you'd eat going to Chicago. While not the cost efficiency of visiting the likes of downtown Indianapolis, the walkability and convenient access to food/drink are largely the same (the former which is unquestionably a step up from the culinary options at hand in Indy).
The incidentals from a dollar and sense vantage overall will be more in line with Chitown, and while certainly not the bargain basement discount a weekend in the 317 constitutes, the ease of Metro transportation (you'll be able to get around sans car without incident) and the ability to spend your non-basketball moments doing touristy things you'd do on a non-basketball trip anyways (which Indianapolis would be scarce to ever occupy) will offset the slight bump in total price.
"Change is hard," Jim Delany admitted, owning up to his own lack of warm embrace when life and business happen as they tend to. While surely little consolation to the folks who feel like they're 'losing' something, the prospect of gaining diversity in postseason destinations falls far closer to the change introduced by the College Football Playoff's New Year's Day bowl inclusion of the Peach and Cotton Bowls than any of the inconveniences being trumpeted widely.
If you're the kind of fan willing to hop on a plane to see the Buckeyes face the third or fourth place SEC team in the years they don't make the field of four, you're probably already the sort who wouldn't mind mixing things up and taking the family or joining your old friends from college in our nation's capital or in Brooklyn. This may not be as comfortable and familiar as the typical sites have been, but if it opens the doors for even more Big Ten alums to experience what those still local already gets to, it's probably not all bad.
"Life goes on," Turgeon said about the ever changing college athletics landscape. While there's no chance any backers outside of the Maryland fanbase take to the transition with the kind of exuberance the once-and-former outsiders-in-their-own-conference will, having to go somewhere new and somewhere you might even vacation otherwise isn't the end of the world. But don't take my word for it: