For nearly 60 years, the University of Maryland’s most highly anticipated athletic events have come against schools such as North Carolina, Duke and Virginia. The Terrapins’ athletic identity was linked to the South and a tradition-rich affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference, with its core of schools from Florida through the Carolinas and into the Mid-Atlantic.
On Monday, the university system’s Board of Regents voted to abandon that past for what university officials vigorously touted as a more secure financial future. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, Maryland’s athletic department — which has faced debilitating financial woes in recent years — will compete in the powerful Big Ten, a conference with deep roots in the Midwest. It is the latest upheaval in the landscape of college athletics, which no longer conforms to traditional geographic boundaries.
Comparing the change in travel distance for the Univeristy of Maryland's move to the Big Ten Conference.
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Transparency takes a hit in U-Md.’s move from the ACC.
University System of Maryland regents met twice in secret to decide if it would endorse the move to the Big Ten Conference, huddles that experts say appear to have violated the state’s open-meetings law.
Maryland is joining the Big Ten and ending nearly six decades in the ACC to shore up its athletic finances.
“Membership in the Big Ten is in the strategic interest of the University of Maryland,” university President Wallace D. Loh said. “Number one, by being members of the Big Ten Conference, we will be able to ensure the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for decades to come.”
Reaction from many Terrapins fans and students was decidedly negative as their school abandoned its longtime affiliation with like-minded and nearby institutions for a new but ill-defined relationship with schools that to many seemed far away and unfamiliar.
Senior men’s soccer defender Taylor Kemp was one of many who took to Twitter to express his remorse. “Moving to the big 10?” he wrote. “I came to maryland to play in the ACC, there goes a lot of tradition and pride #ACCforlife”
Maryland’s athletic ties will now be to Michigan, Ohio State and other Midwest schools, a shift in orientation that even in their opening remarks Monday officials from both the school and the Big Ten conference acknowledged would be unsettling to some longtime fans and alumni. “I know that there’s some ambivalence,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. “I know that there’s some anger.”
With those emotions as a backdrop, Loh — standing in front of 15 Maryland coaches at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union — emphatically outlined the case for making the move. The financial implications could be wide-ranging for a department that this year cut seven varsity sports because of funding problems.
Loh said talks with the Big Ten intensified over the last two weeks. Maryland is subject to a $50 million exit fee from the ACC, though Loh said Monday that the exact figure “is something we will discuss in private with the ACC.” But Loh said that new revenue, largely generated by the Big Ten’s own television network, will offset that, and more.
The Big Ten said it paid out roughly $23.7 million to each of its 12 member schools in the most recent fiscal year, and the conference is in position to renegotiate its television deal in 2017, which will likely yield more money. In May, the ACC signed a new television deal with ESPN that will bring in roughly $15 million per school annually through 2027. Even with other revenue from the ACC — which recently added Notre Dame for all sports other than football — Maryland officials believe the financial windfall from the Big Ten will far outweigh the benefits of staying.