LINCOLN — The University of Maryland became the 13th member of the Big Ten Conference on Monday. Rutgers University is expected to claim a 14th slot Tuesday.
So are there a No. 15 and a No. 16 on standby, which would turn the Big Ten into the country's first superconference?
“I don't know,'' University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman said Monday afternoon. “It depends on the circumstances.
“I think we're probably going to take a deep pause at this point. But things change.''
In this era of conference realignment — Nebraska took part in 2011 by moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten — change has become radical and rapid.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in September he was “very pleased'' with a 12-school membership. Before Nebraska joined, the league had stood pat for 20 years.
But when Maryland let the Big Ten know this month that it had interest in leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference, of which it is a 59-year founding member, the Big Ten was ready to act.
Delany said schools leaving one conference for another can cause turmoil.
“It's not the nicest side of what we're dealing with,'' he said. “If anybody is hurt in the process, I wish that weren't the case. But institutions pursue their own destiny. Conferences can be receptive or not.''
Delany declined to discuss further expansion, saying, “It's Maryland's day.''
Tom Osborne and Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska's current and future athletic director, also preferred not to comment until Rutgers is on board.
What will Nebraska and Iowa fans notice from the addition of two new schools?
>> Division changes: Big Ten athletic directors will review divisions in the next three to five months, Delany said. Early reports indicate that Maryland and Rutgers would join the eastern-leaning Leaders Division. Illinois is expected to move from the Leaders to the western-tilted Legends, of which Nebraska and Iowa are members.
>> The number of league football games: Schools currently play eight games per season. Nine is a strong possibility, Delany said, noting “our fans want to see these games.''
>> Added conference basketball games: Coaches want fewer than the current 18 games. Delany wants more, up to 22. “The compromise is somewhere in the middle,'' Delany said. “I hope we play more games.''
Perlman said Nebraska has many reasons for liking the Big Ten's move to the eastern seaboard.
“We have lot of alumni in Washington, D.C., and along the East Coast,'' he said. “When we played at Virginia Tech and at Wake Forest, we had big crowds of people who said to me, 'I wish you guys would play on the East Coast more often.'
“So from Nebraska's selfish point of view, it opens up opportunities for us, including some fairly significant recruiting markets.''
Maryland President Wallace Loh, a former provost at Iowa, bluntly stated that money was the No. 1 driver for moving to the Big Ten.
Two years ago, when Loh and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson came to Maryland, the school had an athletic budget deficit. Eight sports were cut in response. Loh vowed that he never wanted Terrapin athletics to face that again.
If projections on increased TV money are accurate, the Big Ten's annual per school payout could rise from $24 million now to $30 million to $35 million in a few years. The ACC's current payout per school is $17 million.
Maryland will begin studies to reinstate as many sports as possible.
Nebraska didn't have financial woes when it changed leagues, but did have worries about Big 12 stability and future revenue distribution.
“That's the great thing about the Big Ten — it's stable, even though we are now expanding again,'' Perlman said. “But the core is stable and the revenue is stable. That does give you comfort.''
Maryland and Rutgers are land-grant, research universities. Maryland has an enrollment of 37,000, and is located just outside Washington, D.C., in College Park, Md.
Rutgers is the State University of New Jersey with an enrollment of 58,000. The main campus is in Piscataway, N.J., on the south edge of the Newark/New York City metro area.
Lincoln is 1,205 miles from College Park and 1,285 miles from Piscataway.
Perlman said the geography of the moves isn't ideal for Husker travel, but noted that conferences are moving outside of their current geographic footprints to gain TV exposure and to take advantage of demographic shifts.
“It's actually easier to get access into Maryland and Rutgers than some places we go now,'' he said. “There will be some added costs, but the ease of travel won't be bad.''
Perlman said he has no second thoughts about Nebraska having changed leagues, and doubts that Maryland and Rutgers will either.
“Everything is good about it,'' he said. “It's been very welcoming, and this is a very collaborative conference. I didn't feel like the newbie for more than a couple of weeks after we actually got membership.''