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.