University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said the latest expansion of the Big Ten Conference is more about preparing for the future than fortifying the present.
It was announced Monday that Maryland will be leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference and joining the Big Ten beginning in 2014-15.
It's expected Rutgers will follow suit as early as Tuesday, bolting the Big East Conference to give the Big Ten 14 members spreading across 11 states.
Alvarez said when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany formally proposed the latest round of expansion to conference athletic directors — reprising Penn State in 1990 and Nebraska in 2010 — the foundation of his plan was built on shifting demographics, media contracts and beating other like-minded leagues to the enlargement punch.
"We're sitting in the Rust Belt," Alvarez said, recounting the message from Delany. "We lose population every year. That Eastern corridor keeps growing.
"With all the population (in Maryland, District of Columbia and New Jersey) you don't want one of those other leagues to come in there … and close us out of there and we're land-locked.
"He just didn't think that was good for our future," Alvarez said of Delany.
Gaining access to the roughly 7 million people that live in the Baltimore-Washington market as well as the nearly 9 million people who live in New Jersey — where Rutgers is the flagship institution — via the Big Ten Network is a major piece of the equation.
"When he goes back to the table to negotiate future TV contracts, this is something that will help protect us in the future," Alvarez said of Delany.
Just as Delany declined to address the Rutgers piece of the puzzle during a national teleconference Monday, Alvarez said he would only talk about the addition of Maryland.
"It's an AAU (American Association of Universities) university," he said, sitting in his Kellner Hall office Monday. "It's broad-based. They've had a good tradition over the years. I just think they're a good fit."
Alvarez acknowledged the latest expansion process moved quickly, but couldn't recall when it was first discussed or provide a specific timeline.
Alvarez said it was triggered when Notre Dame committed to the ACC in all sports but football, a move announced Sept. 12.
On Oct. 18, it was announced UW and Maryland had agreed to a home-and-home non-conference series for 2020 and 2021.
Those developments suggest Delany began making expansion plans roughly two months ago and he brought school officials such as Alvarez into the loop in the last month.
Alvarez said support in the Big Ten for Delany's expansion plan was unanimous.
The addition of Maryland and Rutgers raises questions about how the Leaders and Legends divisions will be aligned. Maryland president Wallace D. Loh reportedly told the school's board of regents the two new members would join UW in the Leaders, while Illinois would be shifted to the Legends.
"We as directors haven't sat down and talked about that," Alvarez said. "I'm sure there'll be a lot of discussion about it."
UW football coach Bret Bielema said during his weekly Monday news conference that expanding deeper into the East Coast would help recruiting.
"The reason we pursued a game with Maryland is because it was an attractive offer for us in recruiting, to be honest, to allow kids to go back home and play," he said.
After the Big Ten added Nebraska, Delany indicated the league was happy at 12 members and that expansion was on the back burner. Since that's changed, does Alvarez foresee more additions?
"I don't know. I'm not running the league," he said.
What Alvarez does know is adding Maryland — and, presumably, Rutgers — is a good thing.
"The benefit is our league has a bigger footprint, especially population-wise," he said. "It opens up more recruiting doors. There are more eyes on the Big Ten through the Big Ten Network. And another quality university (is added).
"I think this is a decision for the future of the Big Ten."