The center-hung video board at Verizon Center broadcasted Big Ten basketball highlights on a loop, just below the conference emblem with “B” in white and “1G” in blue. Logos for all 14 league members glowed around the building, forming a rainbow ring below the upper deck, and the University of Maryland’s lined up fourth from the left, nestled between Michigan and Iowa. On the second level, inside the Acela Club, a towering glass tournament trophy sat beside the dais, where the league’s latest flag would soon be planted.
The Big Ten formally announced Tuesday afternoon that its 2017 men’s basketball tournament would be played in the nation’s capital. Conference officials were joined at the news conference at Verizon Center by Maryland administrators and Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, who represented the league’s coaches.
“We’ve come here not to visit, but to live, to make friends, to try to be impactful and relevant,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. “But most importantly, to embrace the University of Maryland, both athletically and academically.”
As the conference’s eastern migration continues and Maryland’s official integration date on July 1 draws near, this marks the league’s latest attempt at making its new member feel at home, something Terrapins men’s basketball Coach Mark Turgeon and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson echoed in appreciation.
“When we first met with Jim we said we’re going to have a face on the East Coast,” Turgeon said. “A lot of times it’s lip service when you’re joining a league, but he came through as quickly he could come through. That means a lot to Maryland.”
“This is something that we dreamed of,” Anderson said. “The commissioner and my colleagues in the Big Ten acknowledged that we should be here. To do this immediately just tells us how welcome we are and how excited we are going into the Big Ten.”
Nearly 18 months have passed since Maryland announced it would leave the Atlantic Coast Conference in November 2012. The idea to ship the Big Ten tournament to Washington for its 20th installment arose almost immediately, Delany said. Deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia first visited Verizon Center shortly thereafter to begin talks.
But the league had contracts in place to hold its tournament in Indianapolis (Bankers Life Fieldhouse) and Chicago (United Center) through 2016, so discussions focused on 2017 did not materialize until the past five months. According to Delany, the formal agreement was signed less than two weeks ago. The message was clear.
“We’ve been thinking about how best to enter into the East,” Delany said. “We know big events are an important part of it.”
Though some Big Ten fans have bristled over traveling farther for a tournament that has never left the Midwest, which Delany dismissed as simple resistance to change, the league plans to keep scheduling events in Washington.
“I see us returning here,” Delany said. “I see there being a regular rotation. We have three institutions in the East and 11 institutions in the Midwest. I don’t know what the precise rotation will be, but I can tell you it will be here regularly over the coming decades.”