Maryland leaving ACC to join Big Ten in 2014

NEW YORK — Maryland is joining the Big
Ten, leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference in a shocker of a move in
the world of conference realignment that was driven by the school’s
budget woes.

The announcement came Monday at a news
conference with school President Wallace D. Loh, Big Ten Commissioner
Jim Delany and athletic director Kevin Anderson.

“The membership of the Big Ten enables
us to guarantee the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for a
long, long, long time,” Loh said.

Loh added that Maryland athletics has
been living “paycheck to paycheck.” The school had eliminated seven
sports programs earlier this year.

“The director and I are absolutely
committed to begin the process to reinstate some of the teams we had to
terminate,” Loh said.

Maryland will become the southernmost member of the Big Ten member starting in 2014.

“Really in the last year it’s become so
obvious that major conferences are expanding outside of their regions,”
Delany told the AP in an interview before Maryland’s news conference on
campus in College Park. “You have multiple major conferences all in
multiple regions.

“It seemed to us that there was a
paradigm shift occurring around us. And therefore the question is how do
you respond to that in a way that stay true to yourself, but is also
only responsive not to the world you want but the world that you live
in.”

Rutgers is expected follow suit by
Tuesday, splitting from the Big East and making it an even 14 schools in
the Big Ten, though Delany would not confirm that.

The Terrapins were a charter member of the ACC, which was founded in 1953.

“Our best wishes are extended to all of
the people associated with the University of Maryland,” ACC
Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “Since our inception,
they have been an outstanding member of our conference and we are sorry
to see them exit. For the past 60 years the Atlantic Coast Conference
has exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our
foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move forward.”

There was speculation last week the Big
Ten and Maryland were talking. On Saturday, it became clear the
discussions were serious.

“Space is not the divide that it was once upon a time,” Delany said.

Maryland also gives the Big Ten a presence in the major media market of Washington. D.C.

Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J., and
about 40 miles south of New York City, puts the Big Ten in the country’s
largest media market, and most heavily populated area.

Delany said demographics were a huge
part of this decision. The population is not growing as quickly in the
Big Ten’s current Midwestern footprint as it is in other areas of the
country, and it has hampered the Big Ten’s ability to recruit,
especially in football, its signature sport. The Big Ten felt it needed
to change that.

“We think demographics have fueled our growth the last 100 years,” Delany said.

“We’re not growing at the same rate as
others, the questions is if you project out to 2030, what do we need to
do? I think we need to stay true to ourselves as far as our philosophy,
the balance, the kind of institutions we interface with.

“But also if we want to continue to
succeed. Success is often, in many cases, empowered by demographic
advantage. And that was being eroded both by consolidation by other
conferences around the country, some into our natural, historic area.
Also by a different growth rate, some people are growing by 3 or 4
percent some by 1 percent.

“What we’re doing is not creating a new
paradigm, we’re responding to a new paradigm but for very kind of
historic reasons. We understand that success requires a dynamic
involvement with rich demographics.”

For both schools, the move should come
with long-term financial gain. The Big Ten reportedly paid its members
$24.6 million in shared television and media rights revenues this year.

There will be some financial matters to
resolve in the short term though. After the ACC added Notre Dame as a
member in all sports but football and hockey in September, the league
voted to raise the exit fee to $50 million. Maryland was one of two
schools that voted against the increased exit fee.

The Big East’s exit fee is $10 million,
but the league also requires a 27-month notification period for
departing members. That means Rutgers will not be able to join the Big
ten until 2015 without working out some kind of deal with the Big East.

Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have all negotiated early withdrawals from the Big East in the past year.

The ACC could now be in the market for
another member and it would not be surprising if it looks to the Big
East, yet again. Connecticut would seem a perfect fit after Pitt and
Syracuse join next season.

The Big Ten added Nebraska in 2010 to
go to 12 members, and Delany had given every indication that the
conference was happy to stay at that number. The conference had given no
indication it was in the expansion market.

The question now is whether this sparks
more realignment from conferences that weren’t even affected. The Big
12 has indicated it is comfortable with its current 10 members,
including newcomers West Virginia and TCU, but there has always been
some sentiment within the conference to at some point go back to 12 —
at least.

The Southeastern Conference reached 14 members this season with the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri.

The Big East, which has plans to become
a 12-team, four-time zone conference next season, could be in real
trouble again — especially if UConn is wooed by the ACC. The Big East
was hoping that adding Boise State and San Diego State, and maybe
persuading BYU to join, would make it a strong enough football
conference to justify its far-flung nature and make up for its lack of
traditional powers and rivalries.

But if it sustains more losses, while
trying to negotiate a pivotal new television deal, will Boise State and
San Diego State renege on their commitments to the Big East?

And will Maryland’s departure spur other ACC schools — such as Florida State — to eye a new home?

For now, though, Maryland is the latest
school to forsake tradition to potentially gain more revenue. The Terps
have mostly been a middling football program for several decades,
though its men’s basketball teams have been consistently strong, winning
a national title in 2002.

Maryland this year cut seven sports
programs because of budget concerns and has been having a hard time
filling its newly renovated football stadium.