Rutgers is in a Power 5 conference.
UCF still is not.
Let that sink in.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the Big Ten also grabbed Nebraska. The Great Expansion quickly turned to Great Depression.
Since joining the Big Ten in 2013, Rutgers has won exactly 20 football games and lost 44. That’s worse than Indiana, but at least Rutgers posted one winning season. Indiana hasn’t even managed that. Should we even discuss basketball? Rutgers was bounced Wednesday in its opening-round game of the Big Ten Tournament, completing its fifth consecutive losing season since coming on board. Its conference record during that span is 16-76. The nicest thing you can say about Rutgers basketball is that it makes the football program look down right respectable.
Nebraska? The football team averaged 9 wins under Bo Pelini, fired him and has been under .500 in 3 of the past 4 seasons. The basketball team just celebrated an opening round win in the B1G Tournament … over Rutgers … but has made the NCAA Tournament just once since arriving in 2011.
Buyer’s remorse? The Big Ten isn’t alone. A decade ago, when Power 5 conferences started poaching up-and-comers and stole from their own, plenty of mistakes were made. More mistakes than gains, actually.
Here are the 8 worst expansion decisions Power 5 conferences made.
8. ACC: Notre Dame
The Irish haven’t done anything to erode the ACC’s credibility, but the fact that the league still cannot get them to agree to join for football ranks as a huge swing and miss.
7. SEC: Missouri
The SEC fared better than most with expansion … and Texas A&M is about to explode. Missouri joined the league and quickly went to 2 SEC Championship Games in football. The Tigers haven’t done much of note in basketball, but they haven’t embarrassed the league, either.
Nobody could have expected UCF to become what it has, but if the SEC had the chance to go back to 2011 and pick based on what it knows now? Adding the Knights would be a natural fit in every way.
6. Pac-12: Colorado
Gonzaga hasn’t played football since 1941. But even if the Zags restarted in 2011 and struggled mightily, you’d still trade for the Zags’ basketball success alone. Colorado’s football team has averaged 4.25 wins per year since joining the Pac-12 in 2011-12 and has won 1 NCAA Tournament game.
Gonzaga soon will make its 21st consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Zags are a national brand, a better basketball brand than anything the Pac-12 offers. (Ask your kids who Lew Alcindor is.) Gonzaga has been for 4 consecutive Sweet 16s — which is more than Duke can say. It’s more than anybody else in the country can say.
5. ACC: Syracuse
It sounded perfect. Jim Boeheim joining Coach K and Roy Williams.
The reality is the ACC solved Syracuse’s vaunted zone the second time it saw it and the Orange haven’t been a conference force since, regardless of the hype. The 2016 Syracuse team that reached the Final Four? It finished 9-9 in the ACC.
The football team just posted its second winning season since joining the league in 2013.
4. Big Ten: Maryland
ACC fans were happy to get rid of Maryland and its nonstop complaints of Southern partisan politics.
They’re even happier now, watching Maryland fail to make a dent in basketball and suffer through 4 consecutive losing seasons in football.
At the time, the Big Ten thought it got over on the ACC, stealing a founding member. There hasn’t been a whole lot of laughing since.
Well, except for in North Carolina.
3. ACC: Louisville
It’s tough to argue with the fit or the performance on the field. The football team gave the ACC another Heisman Trophy winner. The basketball team gave the league yet another national champion. It’s everything else … and the strippers.
If the ACC had to do it all over again, they’d be better off picking UCF and its make-believe championships over Louisville and all of its legal and NCAA headaches.
2. Big Ten: Nebraska
In some ways, it was a perfect football fit.
Nebraska. Michigan. Ohio State. Penn State.
Paper champions. Legends and Leaders.
The reality is, Nebraska stopped playing championship football after Tom Osborne left, and the basketball program was in over its head from the first jump ball.
This screams Power 5 head coach, right? Celebrating a victory over Rutgers?
Nebraska coach Tim Miles went down hard but never stopped smiling!pic.twitter.com/V5GgRoQHyt
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 14, 2019
1. Big Ten: Rutgers
What were you thinking, Jim Delany? It was a head-scratcher then, and a fist-pounder now. We know the Big Ten was never interested in Rutgers, the university. It was only interested in Rutgers, the New York metro TV market.
The marriage has been a disaster. Rutgers was barely an average mid-major athletic program. The Big Ten never could make Notre Dame work and it panicked after the ACC did. It could have pursued Pitt earlier. It would have been better off stealing Syracuse. Boston College better fit the Big Ten profile. So did Missouri. Relative to Rutgers, almost anybody would have been a better fit.
Instead, the greedy league that created the expansion explosion chased the dollars and got what it deserved.