It's official: the University of Maryland is moving from the ACC to the Big Ten conference. The University's Board of Regents approved this move this morning. It should go into effect in 2014, and has implications for Terrapin athletics and academics. Washington Post sports reporter Alex Prewitt joined WAMU All Things Considered Host from College Park with the latest.
What is behind Maryland's push to join the Big Ten?
"It's really financial at this stage. A lot of the people that were talking about the issue at College Park were talking about academics, and that's all well and good, but at the end of the day, this is a financial play for Maryland, and a very beneficial one at that. A couple months ago in July, Maryland had to cut seven varsity sports from its program because of financial difficulties that the athletics department was having. But moving to the Big Ten, which has an extremely lucrative deal with its Big Ten television network actually provides Maryland with a lot more money down the road. Over the last fiscal year, the Big Ten has paid out$23.7 million to each of its 12 members, and Maryland would of course be the 13th. The ACC only recently made a deal with ESPN, which would bring about $15 million per school annually through 2027. So obviously, this is just a tremendous deal for Maryland from a financial standpoint."
What would Maryland use the extra money for?
"They talked a little bit about that, and it seems as though they're committed to putting at least some of those funds into scholarship programs or financial aids for needy students who weren't going to be student athletes, but it does seem as though a lot of the money is going to help out their athletics programs. Both President Wallace Loh and Athletics Director Kevin Anderson spoke at length today during their press conference about bringing back some of those seven sports that they originally cut. They said they're going to reform the commission that made the decision to cut those programs dating to last November. It's very possible that that could happen. They're going to go through the process, they're going to look at the data, they're going to see what could happen. But it does seem like a lot of those resources could go towards saving those programs that they had to cut because of financial difficulties."
There is also a $50 million exit fee to leave the ACC. How will the Terps handle that cost?
"Back on Sept. 13, in addition to adding Notre Dame, the ACC council voted 10-2 to increase their exit fee from $20 million to $50 million. The actual definition, according to the ACC bylaw is three times the school's operating budget, which is obviously a very stiff penalty in the eyes of some. Actually, UMD president Wallace Loh was one of the two individuals on the council to vote against it. At the time, he said it was based on legal and philosophical grounds. He said that he viewed it as punitive damage, and it was not really an incentivefor other teams to join. Then again, at the time, he said that Maryland was going to be a member of the ACC for years to come, but he said over the last few weeks, things have snowballed."
"Going back to the fee, it does seem as though Maryland might receive help elsewhere. University president Wallace Loh says there is no way that taxpayers. It's very possible that they could broker a deal with the ACC where they pay less than that. It's very possible that there could be mediation, as is often the case in these scenarios. Or the Big Ten could even step in and say, 'Here's a loan, we're going to pay some money out of your television deal.'"