Basketball will certainly be different, but right now the Big Ten is a stronger basketball conference top-to-bottom than the ACC. With Indiana back on the national map, it has a half-dozen top tier programs, including Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue — all teams that are Sweet 16 caliber almost every year. The ACC? It has been a two-team league for most of the last 10 years.
The one real stumbling block for Maryland is the $50 million buyout the ACC’s university presidents approved earlier this fall, when Notre Dame joined the league as a full member in all sports but football. It is now apparent why Maryland President Wallace D. Loh was one of two who voted no on the issue. Loh told The Washington Post two months ago that he doesn’t think a buyout that punitive will hold up in court.
Perhaps. Most courts have ruled in the past that a private organization has the right to make its own rules. Either way, shelling out $50 million or even half that (if Maryland can bargain with the league) isn’t going to look good for a school that just dropped seven sports because of a budget crisis.
That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, though, because long term, Maryland stands to make back the $50 million and more in only a few years.
So, let’s add it all up. Tradition has ceased to exist in college athletics, so it shouldn’t even be part of the conversation. There will be a lot more money waiting for Maryland’s budget-strapped athletic department in the Big Ten. The conference is run by Jim Delaney, one of the less savory individuals in college athletics, but also — as he proved by being so far out in front in maximizing TV dollars with the Big Ten Network — one of the smartest.
Football would be helped in terms of recruiting and ticket sales and fan interest. Basketball would stay about the same — games against Ohio State and Michigan State wouldn’t stir up the Maryland crowd like the Duke games do, but some would say that’s a good thing. The games would still be sellouts.
Travel for non-revenue teams would be pretty similar — Miami and Boston and Syracuse aren’t a lot easier to get to than Columbus or Chicago or even Minneapolis.
If Maryland makes the jump, Loh is going to trying to sell this as an academic move. That will be the blathering of an academic. The move is about money and there are, literally, millions of reasons to do it.
For more by the author, visit his blog at feinsteinonthebrink.com. To read his previous columns for The Washington Post, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.