This is a new weekly column for BTPowerhouse that will cover a variety of Big Ten topics that might not deserve a detailed breakdown, but deserve mention. It will be similar to a news roundup with more thoughts and analysis.
So, let’s jump into our Morning Power Bar.
1. Ohio State football asking players to sign COVID-19 forms.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended society in a lot of different ways and the sports community has certainly not been immune. Many sporting events have been postponed, reorganized, or cancelled altogether. And while we all hope the world can get back to “normal,” or whatever that means in the near future, but it’s probably not going to happen for awhile, if at all. As such, schools are approaching this in a variety of different ways.
And one of those schools is Ohio State, who decided to do this:
Let’s be clear, informing people of their rights is a good thing. And in the same vein, waivers are often a good idea. They can be great for companies to avoid needless exposure and reduce costs. It can also serve as a nice negotiation tool between parties, making sure everybody knows about the details of their relationship.
But this . . . feels wrong.
Ohio State has one of the nation’s biggest and most well funded athletic departments in the country. And they, like everybody else, are pushing players to return to school to make sure their department’s source of income (i.e. college football) doesn’t run dry. Because if the college football season gets cancelled, or even interfered with, a lot of athletic departments are going to get gutted. Whether some want to acknowledge it or not, these offices have built their budgets almost entirely reliant on income from college football. And it’s why people are working so hard to bring back a game in light of such clear risk and uncertainty.
And in such a time of uncertainty, Ohio State (and I’m sure others) have clearly spent considerable time focusing on reducing their potential exposure to litigation. And while the language in these waivers isn’t particularly strong from the two-page document that has surfaced this week, there’s no arguing the intent here is to protect against litigation.
So, in short, Ohio State is pushing players back on campus during a pandemic to ensure it’s bottom line while trying to offset its risk against lawsuits from it’s players. If that isn’t reason alone to push player compensation forward, I’m not sure what is.
2. NCAA Moves 2020 NBA Draft Deadline.
With the delays in the NBA schedule and 2020 NBA Draft, the general consensus was that the NCAA would be moving the deadlines for players who have previously declared for the Draft. We’ve just been waiting to see that get finalized.
Well, those predictions proved to be true, as CBS Sports recently reported that the NCAA moved its deadline for players to return to school as August 3, 2020 or 10 days after a still-to-be-determined pre-draft NBA Draft combine, whichever is first. That’s good news for all the Big Ten players still considering their futures, including stars like Luka Garza, Aaron Henry, and Isaiah Livers, who could have huge impacst for their respective teams next season.
3. Realignment revisited.
Perhaps the most hottest discussed topic during any offseason in college sports has become conference realignment. And this offseason is an interesting one with regard to that topic as it marks an important anniversary. This year marks 10 years since news broke that Nebraska would be leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten and college sports changed forever. Nebraska would turn out to be the first domino in a long series of events, culminating in moves for the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac 12, and SEC and the eventual additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten as well.
Of course, those moves haven’t come without controversy. Many still have mixed feelings about the way teams moved and the Big Ten is no exception.
So, with hindsight, how are those moves looking?
Let’s start with the basics. Whether fans like it or not, conference realignment is driven by football. As I noted above, football is the money maker in college athletics and nothing else comes close. So, when teams are on the move, it’s going to be related to what happens on the gridiron. Again, you don’t have to like it, but it’s reality.
Moreover, not every addition is the same. Let’s look at the Big Ten’s last three additions in Maryland, Nebraska, and Rutgers over the last decade. The addition of Nebraska is starkly different than that of Maryland and Rutgers. The former was added to the league because of its expansive fan base, history on the gridiron, and cultural fit. But Maryland and Rutgers were brought in to expand the reach of the Big Ten Network and push it into places like Maryland and New Jersey.
More simply stated, Nebraska was added to the Big Ten because of its fit, while Maryland and Rutgers were added to increase revenue. Yes, they might have brought some nice things along, but we don’t have to lie here. We all know that’s why Jim Delany added the Terps and Scarlet Knights to the league in 2014.
And once we’ve accepted the reality of the situation, we can dive in a bit more.
With regard to Nebraska’s addition, I think it’s fair to feel a bit disappointed. The addition wasn’t a mistake, but the Huskers have struggled for the majority of their tenure in the league. The football team has missed a number of bowl games and the basketball team had one good season with a lot of underwhelming years outside it. Perhaps Nebraska can get things turned around with Scott Frost and Fred Hoiberg and feelings will change. From a positive perspective, the addition of Nebraska allowed the Big Ten to create divisions and a Big Ten championship game in football, which is extremely valuable.
As for Maryland and Rutgers, the Big Ten achieved their primary goal with those additions. The Big Ten Network expanded into Maryland and Rutgers, which brought in millions (if not more long-term) in additional TV revenue. It’s the reason why Delany made so much money toward the end of his tenure as Big Ten Commissioner.
However, it’s hard to argue either Maryland and Rutgers have advanced the league otherwise. Both teams have been atrocious on the football field and while the Terps have produced on the hardwood, they have yet to make a deep enough NCAA run to really change perception about the Big Ten. Of course, Rutgers is just starting to get competent on the hardwood. We’ll see what happens in the years to come, but it’s hard to get too excited about the early returns, unless you were invested in the Big Ten Network.
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