The University of Maryland, College Park has been a part of the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) for 60 years and as of July 1st, 2014, that will be no more. They will be moving to the Big Ten (B1G). That means no more rivalries with Duke or UNC, unhappy fans, and loads of criticism. However, it will bring the athletic program out of debt.
The ACC was founded in 1953 by Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest. Georgia Tech joined in 1979, Florida State joined in 1991, Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004, Boston College in 2005, and Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse joined just this year with Louisville set to join next year. With so many new members joining and set to join, why are the ‘Terps choosing now to jump ship?
Debt is the answer to that question. Maryland stated that in 2012, they operated with $21 million in debt, from what they called “past financial decisions” and that the ACC was withholding $15 million dollars in revenue from Maryland. In order to leave the ACC though, they will have to pay $52 million dollars in exit fees. So, by my math, they are about $37 million dollar in debt.
Talk about ‘walking around’ money.
To keep the athletics afloat, Maryland has loaned their athletic program $20 million dollars. “That’s borrowed money,” Maryland President Wallace D. Loh told The Washington Post. “That’s not a gift to athletics. Unless we get [money] back from the ACC, athletics has to pay that back.”
In order to cut costs, Maryland has also cut seven sports: Men’s and women’s swimming; men’s tennis; women’s water polo; acrobatics and tumbling; and the school’s men’s cross-country and indoor track and field. The cuts are estimated to save the ‘Terps $17 million dollars by 2017.
The big reason why Maryland chose the Big Ten is the conference payouts. When Maryland joins the Big Ten for the 2014 season, they will immediately make $32 million in revenue, $12 million more than the ACC’s $20 million payout to their schools. The Big Ten’s payout to Maryland will increase to $33 million in 2015, $34.5 million in 2016, and then it will jump to $43 million in 2017 after the Big Ten renews their TV contract. Then the payout will increase to $44 million in 2018 and $45 million in 2019.
UMD already has plans for the revenue as well: 50% will be set aside into a reserve fund and the other 50% will be given to the school to repay their loan to the athletic department and cover other debts. Everything is great at a glance over: the school gets out of debt, the athletic program thrives, but what has everyone heated up and drawing the criticism?
The answer to that is rooted into all college sports around the country: tradition. “I think a lot of the criticism comes from fans who don’t want change and want to see the old rivalries,” said former UMD student Bret Woods. “You’re losing the history. They’ve been in the ACC for a long time now.”
In addition, the ‘Terps will not have a home basketball game this year against rivals Duke and UNC. Some fans believe the ACC is punishing the ‘Terps by allowing that to happen.
Still, many believe what Maryland is doing is wrong. “My initial thought, which I’m still thinking, was, ‘I don’t like it.’” Dr. Barry Bodt told exploreharford.com “I’m a traditionalist, and what Maryland is doing, in effect, is turning its back on six decades of ACC sports,” said Bodt, who graduated from UMD in 1980.
The crowd seems to be split somewhat, though, “Of course, money is a big factor in this decision, but I think in the long run you’re going to see an improvement in this,” Jack Scarbath, Maryland’s starting quarterback from the early 1950s, also told exploreharford.com, “If you evaluate what [UMD] will receive from [switching conferences], and the athletic closeness of some of the programs in the Big Ten, or we should call in the Big 27 now, it’s going to help the University.”
Personally, I can see both sides of the argument. One side doesn’t want to disrupt tradition and the other side wants the school to be financially stable and support more sports.
UMD also plans for a $50 to $80 million Football practice facility to be built in the future. UMD President William D. Loh plans on “…prioritizing the Big Ten revenues for things such as academic support, training, nutrition, sports medicine and bringing back some teams, rather than $70 or $80 million for an indoor facility.” So make of that what you will.
Financially, Maryland’s future does seem bright. Whether it can start new traditions and compete in the Big Ten however, remains to be seen.