Maryland Big Ten Commission report: Football practice facility seemingly still years away

On July 1, 2014, the University of Maryland will formally join the Big Ten. This means that, on July 1, 2014, the University of Maryland will formally become the only Big Ten school without an indoor practice facility, or without plans to build one.

The biggest potential upgrade on the horizon, squarely in the crosshairs of many fans, coaches and players alike, building such a facility must be financed by a capital fundraising campaign, and not university money, according to a report released by the school on Tuesday afternoon.

Among the bullet points in the report — Maryland athletics was $21 million in debt during the last academic year; the university has lent money to the athletics department; it will take years before the athletic department starts making money — perhaps the most eye-raising is the recommendation at the bottom of Page 7, under item No. 8. It reads: “Facilities needs, including practice fields, an indoor practice facility, and a Varsity Team House, should be viewed as capital expenses and should not be financed with revenues from the Big Ten.”

Now, that’s not to disparage the importance of building an indoor facility, University President Wallace D. Loh said in a telephone interview. He cited potential costs as anywhere between $50 and $80 million, and supported allocating Big Ten revenue for other areas instead.

“I’m prioritizing the Big Ten revenues for things such as academic support, training, nutrition, sports medicine and bringing back some teams, rather than $70 or $80 million for an indoor facility,” Loh said. “In my judgement, the things I’ve mentioned are more important priorities for a facility. Other people may disagree, but in my mind, providing students with three square meals, having trainers and nutrition and academic support so they can graduate on time, is more important than a shiny, new indoor facility.”

But the lack of “shiny, new indoor facility” has been a hot-button issue for years now and is more pertinent as Maryland prepares to leap to the Big Ten. Without a indoor facility, the supporters reason, how can the Terrapins compete against their Big Ten opponents, all of whom enjoy climate-controlled training in the winter? Even Northwestern announced plans for its indoor facility last fall.

Loh stressed the importance of building an indoor facility, which would not only level the offseason playing field for Maryland but potentially help attract incoming recruits, but said initial finances must come from a capital campaign, meaning deep-pocketed donors. But for an athletics department already millions of dollars in debt, yanking Big Ten revenue for an indoor facility is not financially feasible.

“That’s a huge chunk of money,” Loh said. “If you do that, there’s very little money left for other things. That doesn’t mean that’s not a high priority. It simply means, if we want an indoor athletic facility, as we definitely do want, we will begin a capital campaign for an indoor facility.”

Even if a donor — say, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank — came along tomorrow, Maryland still remains in the planning stages of the facility. Location, estimates and preliminary architectural designs have not been finalized. Loh said athletic department members have traveled to “three or four other institutions” to tour their facilities and take pictures, but declined to specify which ones.

Loh also did not rule out soliciting initial pledges through fundraising campaigns, and then approaching the state legislature to request a match of funds. Either way, Loh cast his support for building an indoor facility — just not with university money.

“Am I supportive of the University of Maryland becoming highly competitive in the Big Ten by having adequate facilities? The answer is yes,” Loh said. “I’m not closing the door. I’m enthusiastic about beginning that campaign. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and go to work. But we’re not there yet.”

>> Other items of note from the commission report:

1) The big takeaway can be found on page 17: “Even when factoring these increases into ICA spending, it is doubtful that the University will reach the per student-athlete spending of our Big Ten peers during the next twelve years.” In 2025, when incoming freshmen currently 5 years old matriculate into College Park, Maryland will finally be spending as much per athlete as its Big Ten peers.

2) Loh will allocate $500,000 of athletic department revenue, earned from its “pouring-rights agreement” with Pepsi, toward mental health resources for all students.

“We will be among the few universities in the country where some of the athletic revenue will go to support academic priorities, and that includes student financial aid, need-based aid for all students,” Loh said. It’s a relatively small blip on the budget’s radar, but Loh is championing this as a nationwide rarity. 

3) The commission recommended that “university-wide fundraising will be centrally coordinated out of the office of the Vice President of University Relations,” essentially a streamlining of the fundraising process. The commission also reworked the hierarchy, writing, “ICA’s [Department of Intercollegiate Athletics] fundraising operation should be expanded and the head of ICA’s fundraising group should report directly to the Office of the Vice President of University Relations, with a dotted reporting line to the Director of Athletics.”

4) Under item No. 16, the commission writes, “The costs and benefits of initiating ticketing for Olympic Sports should be aligned with common practices at other Big Ten athletic programs.” No pricing changes have been implemented yet, though a university spokesman mentioned wrestling as a sport Big Ten schools currently ticket for.

5) The men’s outdoor track and field team will be fully reinstated for the upcoming school year, but won’t receive the maximum 12.6 scholarships until Maryland joins the Big Ten. It was the only cut program to successfully raise enough money to receive a stay from Maryland, but will return to full varsity status this year.

6) A subset of the “Communications, Fundraising and Marketing Workgroup” discussed the Maryland marching band and Testudo mascot costume. The conclusion? “Enhancements to both are essential for the University to compete with its peers.  This includes investments in new equipment and staff.”

7) The commission’s full membership is listed below:

Co-Chairs

Mr. Barry P. Gossett
Principal, Gossett Group

Dr. Linda M. Clement
Vice President for Student Affairs

Members

Ms. Marjorie Baker
President, M-Club

Mr. Robert A. Bedingfield
Partner, Ernst & Young LLP

Mr. David Colón-Cabrera
President, Graduate Student Government

Dr. Nicholas J. Hadley
Faculty Athletic Representative; Chair, Athletic Council
Professor, Department of Physics

Mr. Clifford M. Kendall
Chairman, VSE Corporation

Mr. Kerry McCoy
Head Coach, Wrestling

Dr. Darryll Pines
Professor and Dean, A. James Clark School of Engineering

Mr. Colin Potts
President, Terrapin Club

Mr. Marvin H. Rabovsky
Chair, Executive Committee, University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees; President, Alliant Companies

Dr. Mary Ann Rankin
Senior Vice President and Provost
Professor, Department of Biology

Ms. Cathy Reese
Head Coach, Women’s Lacrosse

Ms. Anna Roth
Student-Athlete, Cross Country and Track
President, Student Athlete Advisory Council

Ms. Timmy F. Ruppersberger
President, University of Maryland Alumni Association Board of Governors

Mr. Harvey L. Sanders
Immediate Past Chair, University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees

Dr. Martha Nell Smith
Chair, University Senate
Professor, Department of English

Mr. Robert M. Specter
Former Vice President for Administration & Finance

Dr. Stephen B. Thomas
Professor, School of Public Health and Director, Maryland Center for Health Equity

Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill
Professor and Dean, College of Arts and Humanities

Ms. Tracye Turner
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Optimal Solutions Group, LLC

Mr. Peter B. Weiler
Vice President of University Relations

Ms. Samantha Zwerling
President, Student Government Association

MORE FROM THE POST ON THE COMMISSION’S REPORT

Maryland’s financial struggles to continue, despite Big Ten move.

— Tracee Hamilton: A bundle of financial contradictions.

Kevin Anderson optimistic on fundraising.

Read the commission report.

Maryland’s move to the Big Ten done with financial gains in mind.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.

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Alex Prewitt · August 13, 2013

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