The heavy-hitters gathered in College Park on Tuesday night for the annual Shirley Povich Symposium, a panel forum inside the University of Maryland Stamp Student Union, to discuss the school’s conference switch to the Big Ten.
ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, former Maryland all-American and Board of Regents chair Tom McMillen, sports journalist Bonnie Bernstein, Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany all talked on the panel. Povich’s son Maury, the popular television host, moderated.
Nearly one year ago, on Nov. 19, 2012, Delany, Anderson and University President Wallace Loh gathered inside the same building to announce the move, formally approved by the Board of Regents and the conference’s presidents. “On this first anniversary, I’m reminded of the wisdom of that great American philosopher Yogi Berra, who said, ‘The future ain’t what it used to be,’” Loh said Tuesday.
The talking points trended mostly toward the familiar. It felt like a State of the Union Address, a packed house clapping after the conclusion of almost every sentence. The administrators Anderson and Delany talked about global footprints and academic benefits, as well as integrating Maryland into the conference starting on July 1, 2014.
“I’m not thinking 2013 or 2012,” Delany told the crowd. “I’m thinking assets and capacity. I think Maryland has the assets and the capacity to fully compete in the Big Ten, not only with the sports they have but the sports they’re going to add someday.”
Maryland cut seven sports on July 2, 2012, but Anderson said an anticipated budget balance by 2018 or 2019 should allow Maryland to “look at restoring some of the sports we no longer had.”
The alumni McMillen, Bernstein and Van Pelt discussed mixed emotions when the move was announced, but how all have since come around. McMillen was the only Board of Regents member to vote against the switch, though he did so primarily in opposition to a “hastily called-in” process that happened mostly in secret.
“We don’t have to speed this up.” he said. “We don’t have to make this decision with one piece of paper. It’s like Lockheed and Northrup making a merger with one piece of paper … When you’re in business with someone for 60 years, and you can’t pick up the phone for a confidentiality agreement, I don’t think that’s the way it should work.”
Other items of note:
>> On the travel differences between the ACC and Big Ten, Anderson said: “We looked at the travel, and the travel will not be much more than what we were experiencing in the ACC. Instead of buses we’ll be on airplanes, and the longest trip will be four hours.”
>> Delany said the Big Ten is currently looking at New York for new conference offices, anticipating “some space early in 2014.” He also speculated the conference might open a satellite office in Washington, and projected some Big Ten championships moving to the East Coast.
“I think we’ll have championships in the East,” he said. “I think we’ll have basketball championships in the East and other championships. We’re in two regions of the country and we expect to have championships in both regions of the country.”
>> Delany reiterated the comments he made during an interview last November about Maryland’s ongoing legal battle with the ACC over its roughly $52 million exit fee. Asked whether the Big Ten would help cover costs, Delany simply replied, “No.”
>> The very next question brought another one-word answer from Delany. Asked whether he would encourage a Maryland-Duke matchup in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, he said, “Yes.”
“I think the fans of both schools would like to do it,” Delany said in an interview after the event’s conclusion. “To be honest with you, a lot of people like to play Duke. There are a lot of people in the Big Ten who would like to play Duke and North Carolina. And there are probably a lot of people in the ACC that would like to play Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana. The answer is an easy yes, but ESPN decides the matchup after consultation with the conferences and we live with what they do.”
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has said the Blue Devils will not schedule Maryland for a nonconference matchup unless forced to do so.
>> Van Pelt drew a rousing applause when answering an audience-submitted question about the Maryland basketball teams not hosting Duke, North Carolina or North Carolina State for the first time since the ACC’s inception. “It’s garbage,” he said. “It’s complete garbage. It’s an embarrassment that they did this.”