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University of Maryland to the Big Ten — Why It Makes Sense

By: Brendan Darr
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Maryland Announces Move to Big Ten Conference
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University of Maryland President Wallace Loh announced on Monday afternoon that the Terrapins would be leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten Conference.  Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, will be leaving after 59 years in the conference for the greener pastures — both literally and figuratively — of the Big Ten.  Maryland will join the Big Ten officially on July 1, 2014 and begin competing in the Big Ten for the 2014-15 seasons.

So what did we learn from the press conference?  What questions are still left unanswered?  Plus, why I think it makes sense.

1. The $50 Million “Exit Sum” — What Becomes Of It?

This is, and will remain, the biggest issue from Maryland’s decision to leave the ACC. Wallace Loh and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson were asked to justify paying the $50 Million exit fee and somewhat ducked the question.  Pressed later on about how they could pay the exit fee, but cut eight sports because they didn’t have enough money.

Loh and Anderson clearly felt terrible cutting those sports, and that was incredibly evident today.  Loh said that the money that will go towards the buyout will enable the University to make more money once in the Big Ten and allow them to bring back some of those sports that were cut.  Neither Loh nor Anderson went in to specifics over what sports would be brought back, but mentioned that some would be back eventually.

“We will not have entered into this agreement with out a plan for the future to come, and that plan includes bringing back teams.” Said Loh.

The $50 Million will be a point of contention, but one that will be a private point of contention, and likely figured out in the court system.

2. The Sports That Were Cut — They Have Hope

This seems to be the best news of the day for those who were concerned it was all about the money.  Well, the sports that were cut may see a few of  them come back. When it is all about the money, whether that is said or not, seeing some of those sports brought back should calm the fears of those concerned that the tradition is being tarnished in order to get more money.

“Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and I, we made a plan to pull ourselves out of that financial hole, we were living paycheck-to-paycheck.” Said Loh.

That was the big reason those 8 sports were cut, and with the windfall that comes from the Big Ten money — an estimated $24.6 million that could increase to around $30 million (according to estimates) — it could easily bring them back.

3. We Cherish Our Time In The ACC — But We Can Make New Rivals

Everyone from Wallace Loh to Kevin Anderson down to the coaches thanked the ACC for being the home of the University of Maryland for the last 59 years, and while tradition is important, Maryland is poised to start new traditions and find new rivals.  The ACC landscape changed in 2003 when the conference added three teams from the Big East (Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College).

The double round-robin for Basketball was lost, and the ability to play all the teams in football once was gone.  Now with the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse — and eventually Notre Dame — this isn’t the same ACC that everyone is clamoring to be in love with.

Duke is on the schedule once in basketball every year — and twice in some years — but it isn’t a guaranteed home game every year.  The same goes for North Carolina.  The ACC thought so much of Maryland that they paired them with “rival” Pittsburgh for their partner to be played twice every year in basketball.  Ah yes, the storied Maryland-Pittsburgh rivalry.  Clearly the Terrapins weren’t being matched with Duke or North Carolina, or for that matter North Carolina State.  But why not Clemson or Florida State or Boston College?

These are great questions, but the simple answer is that the state of North Carolina finds itself superior to everyone else in the ACC.  When the Terrapins won a Championship in basketball in 2002, only then was the Maryland area considered to “host” an ACC Tournament.  In 2005, the tournament was held at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. and that was the first time it has been held north of the North Carolina since 1981.

Duke isn’t Maryland’s rival, they’ve told you so. North Carolina scoffs at Maryland.  Virginia is the only real loss here, but they seem to care more about Virginia Tech.

Maryland starts anew in the Big Ten, but already has an assumed “rival” in Penn State.  The Nittany Lions have been raiding the metro area for talent in football for decades and Maryland fans have always resented Penn State.  Maryland will be placed in the “Leaders” division along with Rutgers and join Indiana, Penn State, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin.  Illinois will move to the “Legends” division.  Indiana will make a great rival come basketball season, and Ohio State should be able to become one as well.

4.  The Academics — You Know, The Part That Is “Most Important”

Student-Athletes were not consulted in this decision, not one bit, but the overall student body will benefit from this decision.  Loh made that pretty clear right from the start, that while Athletics played a big role in this decision, the Academic side played a large role as well.

“This is not only about the sports fans… one has to look at the totality of the situation and somebody has to pay the bills.” Said Loh.

That’s an ominous line about how Maryland could not sustain itself in the ACC, but a great indicator to the type of financial support the University  will get from the Big Ten.  One of the biggest draws to the Big Ten was the CIC — the Committee for Institutional Cooperation between the research facilities between the Big Ten schools.  This is taken from the CIC’s website as a description:

Headquartered in the Midwest, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) is a consortium of the Big Ten member universities plus the University of Chicago. For more than half a century, these world-class research institutions have advanced their academic missions, generated unique opportunities for students and faculty, and served the common good by sharing expertise, leveraging campus resources, and collaborating on innovative programs. Governed and funded by the Provosts of the member universities, CIC mandates are coordinated by a staff from its Champaign, Illinois headquarters.

Essentially the CIC will bring in additional research grants and money to the University that it wouldn’t otherwise have.  This is a huge opportunity for the University, and President Loh and Chancellor Kirwin both reiterated that.  Kirwan referenced the academic mission is aided by the move, and that only the Ivy League has a more prestigious record of academics over the Big Ten.

This was taken from President Loh’s speech:

As president, my responsibility is to advance the good of the entire University — our academic excellence and financial well-being as well as the future of Maryland Athletics. We are a premier land-grant and research university, situated in a vibrant metropolitan region next to our nation’s capital. Our roots are in the mid-Atlantic, but our institutional reach and impact today is also national and international. Membership in the Big Ten and the CIC offers opportunities that match our strategic purposes. We cannot let pass these opportunities.

All-in-all this a great opportunity for the University of Maryland.  Despite the public outcry, especially from those outspoken alumni swearing to never donate again, this move is happening.  Now Maryland will have to just sit back and wait to count all the Midwestern dollars, but until then they will still have to compete in the ACC.

“I believe there will be some awkwardness.” Said Kevin Anderson.

Given what seems like an impending court case over the exit sum, and the late notice given by the University — President Loh let ACC Commissioner John Swofford know of Maryland’s intent at noon on Monday — I would tend to agree, Kevin.

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