Conference Realignment Rumors: Maryland Headed to Big Ten?

The Rumor Mill’s Back: Is Maryland Plotting a Move to the Big Ten?

What would college football’s stretch run be without rumors about conference expansion? As SB Nation’s Testudo Times details, there’s a strong sense out there that Maryland may be headed to the Big Ten for 2014. Yes, we’ve certainly heard this before. One can just trace back to July 2012 to find the last time one or two ACC schools were “definitely leaving” for greener pastures. And that was before the $50 million exit fee was approved by conference members (only dissenters were Maryland and Florida State).

So while I won’t automatically discount the move, consider this: Maryland’s athletic department has been losing money for six consecutive years now. To deal with this issue, they’re planning to cut at least seven of the school’s 27 varsity sports. Florida State has also been in a similar situation, yet continues to come up in realignment talks. Do we honestly believe either school can just hand over $50 million — possibly more if they chose to depart early? I find it hard to believe. Penn State‘s $60 million fine from the NCAA seemed pretty crippling, and they have four years to pay that off. So again, how is a school like Maryland supposed to be able to afford such a hefty price tag on their departure?

Price tag aside, though, what are some of the other factors that could weigh heavily for Maryland to either stay put or head to the Midwest? I’m glad you asked…

Geography: It’s long been thought that the Big Ten bylaws required any expansion team’s state to border another current member. Obviously, the league could change this if they felt it necessary, but in Maryland’s case, they pass this test — touching Pennsylvania’s southern border.

AAU Membership: Just one Big Ten member (Nebraska) is not part of the Association of American Universities (AAU), but Maryland passes this test too, having been part of the AAU since 1969.

Television Market: Maryland owns a pretty sizable portion of both the Washington D.C. and Baltimore markets, which at this point largely tune in to ACC games on Saturdays. The first rule of realignment is usually expanding into new markets, and this certainly accomplishes that. It would drive the Big Ten’s footprint further into the coveted east coast market, and really drive a wedge into the middle of the ACC.

Football Success: Football drives the train for television contracts, so obviously the Big Ten would want to add a strong football school. While the Terps bring with them two national titles, they were from 50 years ago (1951, 1953) and the team’s longest extended period of success was from the mid 70s to the mid 80s. Since then, inconsistency’s been a theme, but that’s nothing B1G TV money couldn’t fix. Plus, historical success and pedigree does matter in conference realignment, as evidenced by the ACC’s additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. None of those teams have won a national championship in the last 23 years, but all three are a brand in some way shape or form, with impressive win totals and titles also in tow.

Rivals: The Terrapins have no true rivalries with any of the Big Ten’s current members, though their semi-regular bouts with Penn State were formerly a source of comedy when PSU took 35 of the teams’ 37 meetings over an 80-year stretch. Unfortunately for college football, this aspect of the “fit” question doesn’t really have much effect, though.

Begrudgingly, this move does work out for Maryland in many ways. In fact, virtually all, except for the financial piece. On top of the $50 million exit fee, they’d also need to undertake a significant investment to upgrade facilities and catch up to their new conference peers. It’s not impossible, but there’s still a steep learning curve when upgrading to a “more competitive” conference (I only used the quotations since the Big Ten’s superiority is largely perception, not fact), as our own Hokie Mark detailed this past week.

So will the Terps make the move? I’m not sure. Fans seem to be split on whether it’s good for the program or not, and again, they don’t really have the ability to take on the ACC’s exit fee right now. But stranger things have happened. Should they depart, there’s also the issue of who’s coming with. Now, this is where things could get more frightening for the ACC. The chief name in all hypothetical discussions seems to be Rutgers, whose only real draw is a proximity to New York City. Should that be the case, however (and I’m laughing at the B!G if it is), the ACC’s in a simple situation where it just adds Connecticut and continues on with its existence, nearly uninterrupted. The other possibility — bringing another ACC team along with them — is the bigger problem. In the past, we’ve taken a look at which conference members would be most likely to leave, and Maryland is the only school within the geographic range of the Big Ten. There was that Georgia Tech rumor some time ago, but I’ll mostly write that off as nonsense. The North Carolina schools — save NC State — aren’t going anywhere, and the Wolfpack don’t have the academic standing or marketability to make a move up north. Virginia and Virginia Tech, along with Pitt and Syracuse, are also likely to remain where they’re at.

Again, everything here is hypothetical, and I’m still extremely skeptical Maryland will leave. I thought the playoff negotiations sort of stopped the realignment carousel, but I guess that’s never really the case. Nonetheless, hoping this all disappears, and the league stays intact as is.

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13 thoughts on “Conference Realignment Rumors: Maryland Headed to Big Ten?

  1. I’ll have a more detailed response later, but my short response is “I hate the Big Ten.” I understand some of the logic behind a potential move but really don’t like the idea for the Terps.

    • I just feel like it’ll be a struggle for contention. In the ACC, Maryland has an opportunity to at least compete for a conference title every year. In the B1G, they’ll be relegated to the likes of Indiana.

      • The difference between MD and the second-tier Big Ten schools is the size of the TV market. Big TV market + Big 10 will no doubt improve recruiting for football, and to some degree basketball. As a PSU graduate alum and a MD undergraduate alum, it would be a big step up for MD both from an athetic program and academic standpoint. I am all for it, with the exception of when PSU and MD play one another.

        • I’d agree with the market, though there’s also the issue of how many of those eyes are actually watching college football. If we’re just looking at pure volume of numbers, New York, Miami and D.C. would be enormous markets for college football. But since D.C. is a pro sports town of mostly transplants with their own rooting interests, I don’t think that number’s as high as we’d like to think it is. Plus, there’s the segmentation between Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech, in terms of fan bases. The entire state of Maryland probably isn’t much better.

          Again, not discounting the market, but it’s definitely not as strong as the population numbers would indicate.

  2. As long as this doesn’t affect my panthers in any way, shape or form I don’t care. I know football drives the conferences but having Pitt, UConn, Duke, UNC, Cuse in the same conference would make things very, very interesting basketball wise.

    And I could imagine that the ACC would be decent top to bottom, with UConn more towards the bottom and Pitt/Cuse being upper middle.

    • I think UConn-for-Maryland is a pretty even trade in terms of football (right now). Definitely changing my tune on that front, however. Would much rather get Louisville. UConn will always be available.

        • No part of me could possibly feel bad for the Big East here. It decided it wanted to be a basketball conference, and then jumped into football with no strategy whatsoever. When football-playing members like Miami, Virginia Tech, SU and Pitt all implored the league to make move to solidify the football side, the Providence braintrust refused. The Big East made their bed. I have no pity for them.

  3. At first when I read this, I just glanced and thought it was a heresay, but then I saw the reports had validity. I have mixed feelings, as the team I cheer for is a long ways from College Park, and the Big 10 likely won’t add a regional rival for Nebraska. Of course, the good news for Maryland is with their cash flow problems, they can always count on Husker fans to either fill their stadium or just buy their home games.

  4. This is a really abbreviated summary of how I see things.

    The main reason this may happen from the Big Ten’s side is that they will get access to the DC / MD markets (and NJ / NYC with Rutgers). This, in my opinion, is the MAJOR OVERRIDING reason they want UMD and Rutgers. It not only gets them greater east coast exposure, but gets them much more money in carriage fees for the Big Ten Network.

    ——-

    Pros for Maryland:

    The Big Ten pays out much more money per year than the ACC does (by quite a bit).

    The CIC is an excellent resource for the school, bringing in research money and helping schools collaborate.

    There might be better bowl games available.

    The Big Ten is full of land-grant institutions, which Maryland is one of (not that I see that as a huge deal).

    ——-

    Neutral:

    Both the ACC and Big Ten have great academic institutions.

    Both the ACC and Big Ten have decent Olympic sports (although the ACC may be better).

    ——-

    Cons for Maryland:

    It is doubtful that Maryland football will EVER win a conference championship.

    Maryland has virtually no football history at all with the Big Ten. They’ve only played 49 games against current Big Ten teams (all throughout history), and most of those were against then-independent Penn State. Terps overall record: 4-44-1.

    Maryland football recruiting will be destroyed from North Carolina southward. Anyone who wants to play in the Big Ten from down south will go to a better football school than Maryland (and there are several B1G options for that).

    Big Ten basketball has good teams but the style of play is lame.

    The Big Ten does not sponsor lacrosse.

    60 years of tradition is thrown out the window. The great basketball games against Duke, UNC, NC State will be no more. (It’s really more than that, considering how long they played some of the same opponents in the Southern Conference.)

    Maryland goes from being a conference charter member to a newbie nobody in a new conference, with no familiar partners. At least in the ACC, the new teams see some familiar faces, since there are multiple ex-Big East teams.

    Maryland is NOT A MIDWESTERN SCHOOL. The Big Ten is a midwestern conference.

    ——-

    I’m disgusted. It sounds like the decision has already been made (although I don’t know that for a fact). Uber-booster Kevin Plank (owner of Under Armour) is really in favor of the move. I hate it.

    I do want to say one other thing. I have a lot of respect for the Big Ten – they’re great in football and very, very good in basketball. I just don’t think Maryland belongs in that conference.

    To me, the best plan moving forward for Maryland would be to insist that the ACC do some things that it should have already done: create a real ACC TV Network, create its own version of the CIC, and for @#$%’s sake stop putting everything conference-related in Greensboro and/or North Carolina.

    Yuck.

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