And there you have it. The next domino in the inane game of conference expansion has officially tumbled.
Following up on reports that first surfaced Saturday afternoon, the Big Ten confirmed Monday that Maryland is indeed leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. The school’s board of regents approved the move Monday morning, which came after the Big Ten approved Maryland’s application for admission.
The move will be effective beginning in 2014, meaning the Terps will play one lame-duck season in the ACC.
A press conference has been scheduled for 3 p.m. ET today to officially announce the move, with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany (pictured) in attendance.
“I did it to guarantee the long-term future of Maryland athletics,” university president Wallace Loh said in an interview with The Diamondback about the reasons behind the decision to leave the ACC. “No future president will have to worry about cutting teams or that Maryland athletics will be at risk.”
Due to financial concerns, the athletic department was forced recently to cut seven programs.
Maryland was one of the eight founding members of the ACC back in 1953, so it is ditching nearly six decades of history and tradition for… what exactly? That answer can be described with one simple color: green.
In the ACC’s television deal announced last year, member schools were expected to receive in the neighborhood of $17 million annually per institution. The Big Ten, on the other hand, will pay out nearly $25 million to every member but Nebraska, which as a new-ish member does not yet receive a full share.
That per-year, per-school number is expected to increase exponentially with the addition of Maryland and, likely, Rutgers. One report stated that, with the Big Ten Network expanding into the Washington D.C./Baltimore/New Jersey/New York City television markets, the network could realize an additional $100-$200 million annually with the increased conference footprint. While the $200 million figure is admittedly on the absurdly high-end, even the low-end would bring in an additional $7 million or so per school and push the annual per-member payout to between $30-$35 million for the near future. That figure could move to $40 million and beyond within several years.
Those numbers are very relevant for Maryland, particularly in the short-term as the ACC recently instituted a $50 million exit fee for any member that looked to leave. However, multiple reports indicate that Maryland believes it can cut the penalty by at least half if not more, with the Big Ten perhaps covering the initial payout in exchange for a percentage of Maryland’s future revenue.
With the conference and the network pulling in hundreds of millions annually, it’s something the Big Ten can afford to do for one of its own.
The addition of Maryland and Rutgers — that announcement could come as early as Tuesday — would give the Big Ten a footprint that stretches contiguously across 11 states, from Nebraska in the nation’s heartland to New Jersey on the Atlantic seaboard.
Certainly the recruiting corridors in the east, where the likes of Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan already do well, will open up a little more for the conference and could help middle-of-the-pack football members on that front. But make no mistake, money — Maryland and Rutgers being premiere academic and research institutions doesn’t hurt either — is the driving force behind this latest round of conference expansion.
Not the athletic programs at either school, not for some type of historical football relevance as was the case with Penn State and Nebraska. No, this is all about the hundreds of millions of dollars the Big Ten can stuff its coffers with by expanding its reach into those television markets.
Maryland and Rutgers brings nothing to the B1G brand but cable eyeballs, it’s as simple as that.
“[The Big Ten] is going national because of a phenomenon,” the school’s president said. “Attendance among college-aged students is dropping. The reason is because this generation is completely wired, and they are getting their education and entertainment on tablets and mobile devices. Everyone thinks you make your money in seats. You make it on eyeballs on a screen.”
It also, though, brings the question of divisional alignment to the table. The Big Ten is currently separated into two six-team divisions, and on the surface it would make the most sense to add both Maryland and Rutgers to geographic rival Penn State’s division, the Leaders.
Such a move would give the Leaders eight teams, meaning one current member of the division would need to shift. Illinois, given its geography, would appear to be a likely candidate to switch to the Legends division, which could give the conference the following divisional look: