Maryland to the Big Ten Makes No Sense

So much for the talks of realignment dying down after the Notre Dame move.

The University of Maryland is in talks of leaving the ACC for the Big Ten (B1G) Conference, and an announcement could come Monday morning.  College president Wallace Loh and athletics director Kevin Anderson are spearheading the talks with the B1G.

Look, I understand why Maryland would want to make the move.  Their athletics department has been operating in the red the last few seasons.  It had to cut seven sports, notably men’s cross country and indoor track and field last July!  And keep in mind that only Maryland and Florida State voted against the $50 million exit fee when the ACC brought in Notre Dame.

While I understand why Maryland would be looking to jump ship, that doesn’t mean I think it makes any sense.

First, there is that $50 million exit fee.  For a school that is supposedly cash-strapped, that may pose quite an obstacle.  Sure the B1G may pay most of the fee for Maryland, but Maryland would have to pay the B1G back by taking in lower percentages of conference revenue for “x” number of years.

And sure, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank is able to pull $50 million from his mattress (actually from selling a portion of his shares in his company) to help buttress the exit fee.  My question would be why didn’t use that money to save some of Maryland’s eliminated sports programs?

Second, it doesn’t make any sense from a logistics standpoint.  How would fans travel from the east coast to all those Midwestern schools in the B1G?  Hell, it’s not like Maryland fans travel all that great to begin with.  With all the extra $$$ Maryland will be getting, it would be spending most of it on added travel for its other sports.  Imagine having its baseball, softball, volleyball and lacrosse teams traveling back and forth from the Midwest during the week.

And while Maryland would have a natural rival of sorts with Penn State, you mean to tell me fans would come to see Rutgers, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State on an annual basis?  And Maryland administrators will not like seeing Ohio State and Michigan fans take over home games.

It’s quite simple: Maryland is an east coast school about to jump to a Midwestern conference.  It just won’t be a good cultural fit.

As for the B1G, I know it’s trying to expand its footprint in the Washington, DC and New York City markets.  The only problem is those two markets are pro sports-dominated markets.  I can tell you from living in the DC area that no one cares about Maryland Terrapins football.  Hell, people here care more about Georgetown basketball than Maryland basketball.

Oh, and one more thing: the Big Ten Network is ALREADY OFFERED in the cable companies in this area (Comcast and Cox), so it’s not like the Big Ten presence is NOT here.  So, if the B1G is looking to tap MORE into the DC market by adding Maryland, would that guarantee more eyeballs to the Big Ten Network?  I’m not buying it.

But as always, money makes the world go ’round – so much so that it almost always trumps common sense.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. JAG says:

    You make many good points. I think conferences are adding teams from a defensive standpoint. “We’d better get them before someone else does”. If the Big Ten feels that 4 superconferences of 16 teams each is inevitable, then they might as well grab the best available schools now.

    It’s certainly not a perfect fit. I assume that the non revenue sports will limit themselves to playing schools in their region. But if adding four schools is a foregone conclusion, Rutgers and Maryland are good choices. $50 million is a big nut to crack. But if that’s the price you pay for moving from the red to the black, you find a way to work it out.

    You’re right. Maryland doesn’t really light up the DC market. But the area is so densely populated, they still attract more viewers than West Virginia or Cincinnati would. Establishing a presence in the nation’s capital might be beneficial for the conference politically. Same with having a school in the NY market, the financial capital of the nation.

    Politics makes strange bedfellows. Good piece, sir.

  2. Maryland was going NOWHERE in Football. They needed to make a move or just lose more money! It is not like the ACC fans Travel well anywhere.! So the Terps will welcome OSU, Mich, and Penn State Fans! I would like to travel to the BIG House, The Horseshoe, & Happy Valley on road trips! Those are GREAT Places to Watch College football! ACC=Basketball. Big10=Football1 BIG BANK TAKES little bank! HELLO $$$!

  3. Great article. I agree with a lot of your points. But, Jim Delaney and the B1G rarely make the mistakes that most other conferences do. I believe that only the B1G, the SEC and the PAC-12 have avoided losing teams during these tumultuous last few years. And, although mocking B1G football is a favorite internet past time, the B1G is still the wealthiest conference with 3 of the nation’s 4 biggest football stadiums. I suspect they know what they are doing in terms of TV revenue.

    As a Penn State fan, I hated the idea of joining a midwestern conference back in the 1990’s. Minnesota and Indiana will never feel like rivals the way Syracuse and Pitt did. But, I have grown to embrace the B1G football culture. And, I am excited that some old familiar, east coast foes will be joining the conference.

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