The proposal needs a simple majority of the board’s 16 members to pass. University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, who spearheaded the move, briefed the board on the proposal via telephone late Sunday afternoon.
The board members had not been formally briefed on the situation before the conference call with Loh. Multiple individuals with firsthand knowledge of the situation, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions, remained unsure of how the Board of Regents would vote, only saying that, as one put it, members “have a lot of questions.”
“Obviously there’s a financial incentive, but we need to know what else is involved,” one of those individuals said. “Is there any other reason besides money? What are the pros and cons? What does it mean to spread the size of your conference out? I don’t want to sit down and say I’ve made up my mind until I’ve heard all the data.”
Should the proposal pass, Maryland would next formally apply for membership in the Big Ten, whose Council of Presidents and Chancellors would then vote on the matter.
Earlier this year, Maryland eliminated seven varsity sports to close the athletic department’s multimillion-dollar budget deficit. Meanwhile, the Big Ten distributed $284 million in revenue to its 12 schools this fiscal year, a substantial portion of which derived from its contract with the Big Ten Network, which broadcasts the conference’s games to 73 million cable and satellite subscribers. Most of the schools received $24.6 million.
The ACC and ESPN announced a 15-year, $3.6 billion extension of their television agreement in May, divisible to about $17 million per school each year.
Such a move by Maryland would likely set into motion another round of realignment in college sports, as the major conferences seek stability through greater numbers and financial enrichment through lucrative television contracts. The Big Ten is expected to add another school along with Maryland, possibly Rutgers, which would bring with it the highly coveted New York television market. The ACC, meanwhile, would likely look to the Big East Conference to fill the void created by Maryland.
While Maryland would almost certainly benefit financially with a move to the Big Ten, there has been a backlash from fans and alumni, who claim the school is jettisoning tradition in favor of money. A Facebook group titled “Keep UMD in the ACC!” had more than 1,500 members as of Sunday night. Len Elmore, an all-American on the men’s basketball team in the 1970s who now works as a basketball commentator for ESPN, lamented to The Washington Post late Saturday night that Maryland is “looking for a money grab.”