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No peace: Conference realignment revs up again

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No peace: Conference realignment revs up again

Just when it looked as if there would be peace, that the conferences were done realigning, the Big Ten struck another blow that will send shock waves across the country.

Financially strapped Maryland grabbed the Big Ten's lifeline on Monday, agreeing to become the conference's new southern base along the East Coast.

On Tuesday, Rutgers will gleefully jump aboard, too, and complete the Big Ten's new Mid-Atlantic bookends.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said the move was about demographics and claiming new territory, to keep the conference vibrant and competitive for decades to come.

Simply put: The Midwest is not growing fast enough to sustain the Big Ten long term, so it needs to go where the people are.

It was a move not for 2014, when the Terps and Scarlet Knights will settle into the Leaders Division with Ohio State and Wisconsin, but with an eye toward 2030.

``I think the best of both worlds is to have traditions, but also to be able to pivot toward creative innovations when the opportunity presents or is required,'' he said.

Delany noted how when the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 expanded, they planted their flags on new turf.

The Big 12 took West Virginia. The SEC added Texas A&M and Missouri, a school not far from what has always been considered Big Ten territory.

It should be noted that Maryland is about half as far from Atlanta as it is from Lincoln, Neb..

``We're very proud of the fact that the Big Ten has been Midwest-centric,'' Michigan athletic director David Brandon said. ``But with population growth and shifts that have taken place over time, we know we need to grow into those areas where's there's more people, fans, alums and recruits.''

So what's next for college football's most powerful and prominent conferences.

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ACC

When the ACC added Notre Dame, without its football program, and increased its exit fee to $50 million, the conventional wisdom was that the league had been locked down.

But Maryland's departure is a reminder that the ACC is not on equal footing with the Big Ten - or the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 for that matter because football drives revenue and ACC football generally lags behind the other four.

SI.com reported that Maryland officials forecast the Big Ten will be paying each of its members $43 million in shared TV and media rights in 2017. The ACC projection for that season is $24 million per member.

There were rumblings of discontent coming from Florida State circles last summer, and rumors about Clemson and even Virginia Tech looking for better football competition.

Now those will no doubt start again.

``All of this conference jumping seems as if it keeps going and going,'' Florida State President Eric Barron said. ``I don't necessarily understand it. The ACC is a fine conference, a fine conference academically and a fine conference athletically.''

As for replacing Maryland, the ACC has already been getting phone calls from potential applicants, and should be familiar with the candidates since the league just went through the expansion process last year. That resulted in Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving the Big East for the ACC. They arrive next year.

The ACC will look toward the Big East again. Connecticut and Louisville have both made it clear they'd like to upgrade. Maybe South Florida or Central Florida get into the mix.

This should not take long.

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BIG EAST

Another conference that had to be thinking it was in the clear. The Big East just landed the access point it needed in college football's new postseason, rolled out its divisional alignment for its rebuilt 12-team football conference, which starts next year, and now it's scrambling again - while trying to negotiate a crucial TV deal.

New Commissioner Mike Aresco's job just got even tougher.

With Rutgers leaving, the Big East loses one of its best chips, a football member in the New York media market. Losing Connecticut would also chip into the Big East's foothold in the New York metropolitan area.

The Big Apple is becoming Big Ten and ACC country, and that's a big problem for the Big East.

The league countered its eastern losses by building a west wing with Boise State and San Diego State, and dipping into Texas with SMU and Houston. Are all those schools still on board with joining next year?

The Big East was already looking west for a 14th member to balance out the conference when Navy joins in 2015. BYU and Air Force are the top targets. Now it might need both, and one more because the pickings are slim in the east.

Then the football members have to figure out if it's worth sharing whatever revenue they do get from the new TV deal with St. John's, Georgetown and the five other non-football members.

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BIG 12

Currently with 10 members, and apparently happy that way, the Big 12 in many ways holds the key to whether conference realignment turns into a frenzy again.

Chuck Neinas, who spent about 10 months as the Big 12's interim commissioner and helped hold the conference together when Texas A&M and Missouri left, said there is still no indication from the league's leaders that they want to go back to 12 members.

``Let's face it, they're making as much money as for the (Sugar Bowl) as the SEC and as the Pac-12 and Big Ten are making for the Rose Bowl and they only have to share it with 10 teams,'' he said in a phone interview Monday.

The new deal the Big 12 and SEC just signed with ESPN for the rights to the Sugar Bowl will pay the conferences about $40 million apiece per year.

Plus, the Big 12's new television deal included a grant of rights that makes it all but impossible for its current members to leave for the next dozen years.

``My feeling is there is stability there. I'd be very surprised if they looked at expansion,'' Neinas said.

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PAC-12

Commissioner Larry Scott tried to go really big a couple years ago, when he targeted Texas and half the Big 12.

The Pac-12 settled for Utah and Colorado, then passed at a shot to possibly grab Oklahoma and Oklahoma State without Texas, because the conference leaders weren't ready to share their newfound riches.

With the Big 12 teams off the table, the Pac-12 simply doesn't have a lot of schools to choose from even if it did want to expand.

``They're in a difficult spot geographically,'' Neinas said.

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SEC

The SEC has shown no desire to add members in states where it already has members.

That precludes the SEC from adding the most desirable and logical programs, such as Florida State and Clemson. That also knocks Louisville and Georgia Tech off the list.

Until the SEC ends that ``gentlemen's agreement,'' as Neinas called it, it's potential for growth is limited. Not that it really needs to grow as it works on starting its own network, a la the Big Ten.

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AP sports writers Larry Lage in Detroit and Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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Ravens' Jimmy Smith suspended for multiple games without pay

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Ravens' Jimmy Smith suspended for multiple games without pay

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has been suspended for four games without pay for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The suspension, announced Tuesday, stems from Smith's behavior toward his ex-girlfriend.

The Ravens released a statement that in part read: "The Ravens fully support the NFL's decision. The NFL found evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors by Jimmy toward his former girlfriend that showed a pattern of improper conduct. Our player's behavior was inappropriate and wrong."

The suspension will take effect after the final mandated roster cuts on Sept. 1 and extend through Baltimore's game at Pittsburgh on Sept. 30.

Smith, in a statement issued by the Ravens, said: "I promise that I have already learned much and will continue to learn more from this experience. ... I take full responsibility for my past conduct."

Smith will be allowed to participate in all of the Ravens' preseason activities, including games. The 30-year-old is one of Baltimore's best defensive backs.

The team said it reviewed the case to decide whether to keep Smith on the roster.

"We convened a group of Ravens women and men executives, not directly involved with our football operations, to review the matter. We also engaged in conversations with Jimmy about his past behavior and his intention to change," the statement said.

"Additionally, it is our understanding that following a long-running and difficult custody dispute with his former girlfriend and mother of his son, Jimmy has resolved his custody and support issues."

As a result, the Ravens will allow Smith to return after his suspension.

"Jimmy has acknowledged his behaviors were wrong and accepts full responsibility for them. He has completed a clinical evaluation and has agreed to undertake any follow-up care or treatment that may be recommended. ... Jimmy has assured us that he is fully dedicated to making this change. He also understands the consequences if he does not."

Smith has played seven seasons for Baltimore since being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. He started in 12 games last season before an Achilles tendon injury forced him to miss the team's final four games. During those four weeks, he chose to accept an NFL suspension for using performance enhancers.

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Two other Redskins RBs intend to learn whatever they can from Adrian Peterson

Two other Redskins RBs intend to learn whatever they can from Adrian Peterson

A few weeks ago, running backs coach Randy Jordan floated a hypothetical out to his unit: If you could start a franchise with any guy, who would you pick?

Rob Kelley's answer was Adrian Peterson. And as fate would have it, Peterson is now a part of Kelley's franchise, a fact that has the third-year back floored. 

"I was kind of amazed," Kelley said on Tuesday, which was Peterson's first day as a 'Skin. "I have a opportunity to play with Adrian Peterson, it feels surreal."

Kapri Bibbs' reaction was much of the same.

"It's amazing having him in the building," he told reporters. "I couldn't hope for anything better."

Samaje Perine wasn't in a position to speak to the media by the time the locker room was closed, but at least in the eyes of Kelley and Bibbs, Peterson's arrival is something to embrace. It's not too often you get to go through drills and meetings with a guy who's going to have a bust in Canton sometime soon.

"I don't think there really is a cap to that," Bibbs answered when asked what he's hoping to pick up from Washington's new No. 26. "There's not too much you can learn from him."

"I got him here, what can I learn from him?" Kelley said in reponse to a similar question. "What can I gain from this situation? How can I make myself a better player by watching him?"

Bibbs revealed that Peterson is already "spilling information" to him, which lines up with Peterson saying at the podium in Ashburn he wants to come in and be a positive influence on the rest of the group.

However, Peterson also said in his presser that he "without a doubt" wants to be the starter, and if that does eventually happen, it'll come at the expense of someone else's spot on the roster or someone else's reps in a game, whether that be a Kelley, a Bibbs or a Perine.

That's not something that bothers two of the options already in the Burgundy and Gold's backfield, though.

"I'm always gonna come in every single day, regardless," Bibbs said when Peterson's resume and talents were brought up as something that could pressure him.

Kelley isn't stressed, either.

"Right now, I'm just putting my head down and working and trying to get better."

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