When University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh announced on Nov. 19 that Maryland was leaving the ACC after 59 years for the Big Ten, he won over many dissenters with a promise.
Four months after Maryland discontinued seven varsity sports to help offset the athletic department’s multimillion-dollar deficit, Loh said he was “absolutely committed to begin the process, to reinstate some of the teams [Maryland] had to terminate.”
But in an interview Friday, Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said that while Maryland is indeed committed to beginning the process, full reinstatement may take years.
Maryland will not join the Big Ten until July 1, 2014, leaving a year and a half until the university begins reaping the financial benefits. Only then, Anderson said, will the Terrapins finally be in a position to support bringing back any combination of men’s and women’s swimming, men’s tennis, women’s water polo, acrobatics and tumbling, as well as men’s cross-country and men’s indoor track and field.
Until then, Anderson said, Maryland plans to re-form the 17-member commission that originally recommended the cuts last November. This time, however, the commission will serve as a bridge into the future for Maryland, easing the overall transition from the ACC to the Big Ten while additionally surveying the potential for reinstating the terminated sports.
“I know President Loh is looking at reconstituting the commission, but the commission will be different,” Anderson said. “We’re looking at … how we transcend into the Big Ten from the ACC, then we’ll be putting some models and financial planning together to show how we’ll take our money and plan it out for the future, so we can provide the stability and start to build a reserve back, so we have some money that we can put away for a rainy day, or just do some things that if we have to make an investment in these young men and women, we can do so.”
Maryland will continue to back the men’s outdoor track and field team, which saved itself from the chopping block with a successful fundraising campaign that is still ongoing. At the news conference announcing Maryland’s decision, both Anderson and Loh relayed the heart-wrenching experience of informing student-athletes that their programs would be cut, a sentiment Anderson repeated Friday in his Comcast Center office, saying he still has nightmares about looking athletes in the eyes and delivering the news.
“When I see those young people on campus, and they look at me, I know what they’re thinking. I’m the guy who told them they can’t play anymore. It bothers me, “Anderson said. ” I have to do what’s right for the department. I can’t answer that question now, because we’ll make sure that whatever we do this time, we’ll make sure we have all the information and data to give them the best experience possible.
“I can’t tell you what ultimately will happen. But what I think will happen, until we become a member of the Big Ten, I think there’s one possibility, that we’ll continue, if anything, to host men’s track, because we’re still going through the fundraising portion of that. That’s not going to stop as we do this. Other than that, I would think that we wouldn’t reestablish any of the other sports until we become a member of the Big Ten.”
As for the timetable of Maryland’s financial stability, Anderson said he and other university officials had projected that the athletic department would be “out of deficit spending” in 2019 had the Terrapins remained in the ACC. While he declined to give further specifics, Anderson projected that Maryland now will be “out of deficit spending and have eliminated the debt” far sooner than 2019.
Had Maryland not decided to leap from the ACC to the Big Ten, however, Anderson did not anticipate the athletic department sinking into more dire financial straits.
“I don’t foresee us cutting any other teams,” Anderson said. “If we were going to be a member of the ACC, we would have been okay. We had a plan to get us out of the deficit spending. We would have been challenged in many areas, but I think we have a plan in place and we understand what we need to do. We could have met that challenge, but the Big Ten will help us overcome those challenges.”
>> Anderson said that figuring out the future of Maryland’s lacrosse programs will continue to be a high priority for the athletic department. Anderson has been communicating with coaches John Tillman and Cathy Reese about Maryland’s multiple options, which include forging ahead in the Big Ten or becoming an independent like Johns Hopkins.
:We were very concerned about our lacrosse community, and how we’d be able to compete both programs in the Big Ten with where they stand now,” Anderson said.
The addition of Maryland and Rutgers brings the Big Ten to five men’s lacrosse teams and six women’s teams. The NCAA requires a conference to have six teams in order for its champion to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, so the men’s side would need to add a program in order to make it a full conference. Anderson said the Big Ten has indicated that it would like Maryland to help spearhead the conference’s push into automatic-qualifying territory, but has understood from the beginning that Maryland will do what is best for its programs, whatever that may be.