Updated: December 19, 2012 4:04PM
CHAMPAIGN — Some big noise about the Big Ten came out of the East on Saturday. Multiple sources, including ESPN.com and CBSsports.com, reported that Maryland is in serious discussions regarding joining the conference of Legends and Leaders.
Rutgers also could join the Big Ten as a 14th member, ESPN.com said, adding that an announcement could come Monday.
Efforts to confirm the reports through Big Ten sources were unsuccessful. That in itself might be a clue: With no one willing to knock down the expansion news, that could mean there’s substance to it.
It makes sense from the standpoint that the Next Big Thing in college sports — a handful of ‘‘super conferences’’ — is getting nearer and nearer.
This looks like a response to Notre Dame’s decision to align with the ACC. Adding Maryland and Rutgers would give the Big Ten a serious TV profile in the New York and Washington markets.
And as the Pac-12’s recent TV machinations show — a reported 12-year, $3 billion TV contract with ESPN and Fox — the sky’s the limit for the Big Ten, which has a bigger upside than the West Coast league.
In a measure of how big the stakes are, Maryland, which recently dropped seven sports because of budget problems, is said to be interested in joining the Big Ten even though it would be required to pay a $50 million exit fee to the ACC.
Sources told ESPN.com that Maryland president Wallace Loh has been handling the negotiations, and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson has briefed key staffers on the situation.
As boggling as it might seem, the addition of Maryland and Rutgers might only be a stepping stone to a 16-school conference. Speculation has grown that the college-sports landscape will evolve into four 16-team super leagues in the future.
It’s possible the future is nearer than people thought.