COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Choosing to look toward the future rather than honor the past, Maryland joined the Big Ten on Monday, bolting from the Atlantic Coast Conference in a move driven by the school's budget woes.
Maryland was a charter member of the ACC, which was founded in 1953. Tradition and history, however, were not as important to school President Wallace D. Loh as the opportunity to be linked with the prosperous Big Ten.
"By being a member of the Big Ten Conference, we are able to ensure financially stability for Maryland athletics for decades to come," Loh said, speaking at a news conference with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson. Delany said Maryland's entry was approved unanimously by the conference's 12 presidents.
Maryland officials also touted an academic element to the shift. Big Ten schools participate in an academic exchange known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, and Loh was adamant that element was a key in considering a move. ACC officials used such an argument when they originally pursued conference expansion in 2003, taking the University of Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East.
Loh and other school officials involved in the decision decided that the potential money to be made in the Big Ten was more significant than the $50 million exit fee and the tradition associated with belonging to the same conference for 59 years.
"I am very aware that for many of our Terps fans and alumni, their reaction is stunned and disappointed. But we will always cherish the memories, the rivalries, the tradition of the ACC," Loh said. "For those alumni and Terp fans, I will now say this: I made this decision as best as I could ... to do what is best for the University of Maryland for the long haul."
Maryland eliminated seven sports programs earlier this year, and Loh said the shift to the Big Ten could provide enough of a windfall to restore some of those sports. Discontinued were men's tennis, women's water polo, men's and women's swimming, acrobatics and tumbling, men's cross country and men's indoor track and field.
Maryland will become the southernmost member of the Big Ten member starting, in July 2014. 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.
Maryland 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.
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.
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