So much for that peace and quiet.
When Notre Dame became the 14 1/2th member of the ACC in September, plenty figured the latest conference expansion and realignment cycle had finally reached an endgame. The dust had settled, with Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Missouri, West Virginia, TCU and Notre Dame (in a limited fashion) joining up with new or different power conferences that didn't always fit geographically.
The Big 10 had 12 teams and the Big 12 had 10. The Pac 10 changed its name to the Pac 12. The ACC and SEC grew to 14 full members.
Make no mistake, money is driving these moves. That's easy to confuse with greed, but with TV contracts skyrocketing in payouts, schools began to look toward financial security instead of traditional rivalries and associations. That's why Texas won't play Texas A&M, Mizzou and Kansas are done and the same goes for Notre Dame and Michigan after 2014.
So when rumors began flying about the Big 10 adding Maryland and Rutgers on Saturday, one observer of -- and participant in -- realignment wasn't exactly taken aback.
"I guess we've all learned never to predict that," Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said Saturday of stability in conference movement. "If this occurs, the timing is a surprise to me, sort of this happening when, not the fact of it but the timing of it is a little of a surprise."
For Maryland, the move was almost entirely financial -- that was overarching theme of Dr. Wallace Loh's press conference from College Park Monday. The cash-strapped athletic department in College Park needed a lifeline, with the Big Ten and its lucrative network providing just that (Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reported Maryland projects it'll earn $100 million more in the Big 10 though 2020). For the Big Ten, Maryland delivers the mid-Atlantic market for the Big Ten Network.
The same goes for Rutgers, which will be announced as the 14th member of the Big Ten Tuesday afternoon. The Piscataway, N.J.-based school is the closest FBS program to New York City, meaning the Big Ten Network will have serious pull on the nation's largest city.
"In this case, we were there at 12 quite happy, but change kept happening," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Monday. "Conferences were outside their region over and over and over again. … We thought given what had happen around the country, this was a natural response, and if they were interested in us, we were certainly interested in them."
It's about the money, too, for Rutgers -- most reports have the Big Ten's payout to its members at $24 million annually -- but it's also about keeping a program in a dying conference relevant. The Big East will be lumped with the Mountain West, MAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA in having one bid to one of college football's access bowls that'll be set up with the playoff format in 2014. The Big Ten provides far more stability for Rutgers than the Big East, which may wind up losing Boise State and San Diego State, too, according to a few reports Monday.
For the ACC, they'll need to add another member to avoid having the headache of an odd number of teams. Most likely, John Swofford & Co. will pick at the Big East carcass, with UConn and Louisville potentially being attractive options. The conference would love to get Notre Dame in as a full member, but given the school's deal with the Orange Bowl and NBC, that's unlikely.
And on the flip side, Notre Dame isn't regretting its decision to join the ACC, even if the conference is in flux for the immediate future.
"It doesn't have any impact," Swarbrick said of Maryland's then-rumored move. "It has absolutely zero impact, and it wouldn't change anything about our decision-making process. If we were going to engage in it today, it wouldn't change at all."