Maryland moving to Big Ten (Updated)

Maryland basketball captain Jamar Smith holds up the ACC Championship trophy after the team’s 95-87 win in overtime over rival Duke in 2004. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan)

 

Updated, 12:15 p.m.

The University of Maryland will move to the Big Ten Conference, effectively ending 59 years within the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The school’s Board of Regents approved a bid to join the Big Ten this morning, and the conference has formally and unanimously accepted. Maryland’s move to the Big Ten will begin in the 2014-15 school year. 

“We just got the faxed approval letter,” a Maryland official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

The school will announce the move in a 3 p.m. press conference in the Stamp Student Union, followed by a national teleconference at 4 p.m. University President Wallace Loh, Chancellor Brit Kirwan, athletics director Kevin Anderson and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney are expected to address the media. 

University President Wallace Loh told the Diamondback, the student newspaper, that the move was made “to guarantee the long-term future of Maryland athletics.”

“No future president will have to worry about cutting teams or that Maryland athletics will be at risk,” Loh told the Diamondback. “Attendance among college-aged students is dropping. The reason is because this generation is completely wired, and they are getting their education and entertainment on tablets and mobile devices. Everyone thinks you make your money in seats. You make it on eyeballs on a screen.” 

Speaking with media members before a public committee meeting on education policy, regent Patricia Florestano explained the decision, explaining that there were “certainly discussions of the tradition of the ACC. The question is, what’s the future. We’ve got to look to the future.” 

In a public statement, ACC Commissioner John Swofford bid Maryland farewell, looking back on its history within the conference.

“Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated with the University of Maryland,” Swofford said. “Since our inception, they have been an outstanding member of our conference and we are sorry to see them exit. For the past 60 years the Atlantic Coast Conference has exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move forward.”

According to Florestano, there was a “long discussion” but she refuted earlier reports about voting distribution, saying that it was “not unanimous.” A second source, who requested anonymity based on the situation’s sensitivity, said the vote among regents was “almost” unanimous. 

Regent Tom McMillen, a former Maryland basketball player and U.S. Congressman, voted against the proposal, citing the rushed process as the basis for his dissension.

“I’m not saying the substance wasn’t meritorious,” McMillen told The Post by phone. “There are arguments for it. But when you rush a process, it’s antithetical. There was sympathy in some points, but it’s all about money. It’s all about money. That’s what it is.

“I voted against it. We should table it, and have input from those opposed to have all points of view. I would have loved to have heard from the coaches, the ACC, the players but that’s not the way it works.”

According to McMillen, “three or four” regents were not present to vote. A source told The Post Sunday that a majority vote was required to pass the motion. 

Florestano said the board of regents “perceived” that the University of Maryland’s financial future in the Big Ten was brighter, but that members are “still debating” the exact figure of the ACC’s $50 million exit fee.  

“Hopefully you can get by for less,” McMillen said. “There was nothing definitive. The issue is somewhat amorphous. There are arguments by the ACC and some by Maryland. I didn’t see paperwork to make one case or the other.”

Talks between the two sides had snowballed over the weekend, culminating in a Monday morning private telephone conference, where the 16 regents voted and approved the proposal, according to multiple reports. The switch would shore up a struggling athletics department’s finances, but angered some alumni and fans by leaving behind longstanding rivalries and tradition within the ACC. 

Multiple individuals with knowledge of the situation told The Post that the Board of Regents had received no formal briefing of the situation as of Monday morning, but were expected to speak with University President Wallace Loh on an afternoon conference call. The regents then reconvened via telephone on Monday morning to vote.  

Earlier this year, Maryland eliminated seven varsity sports due to the department’s multimillion-dollar deficit, and now will be subject to a $50 million exit fee from the ACC. During a September vote among university presidents, Loh was one of two to vote against the fee, citing “legal and philosophical grounds,” claiming that the fee would not hold up in court. 

The Big Ten, meanwhile, distributed $284 million in revenue to its 12 schools this fiscal year, most of which came from the wildly profitable Big Ten Network. Adding Maryland gives the Big Ten access to the valuable Washington D.C. television market. 

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