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Randy Edsall is 4-7 in his second season coaching Maryland football, and the long-struggling program has failed to draw in its 54,000-seat stadium.

Luis M. Alvarez, Associated Press

Big Ten revenue is behind Maryland's push to move

  • Article by: ALEX PREWITT
  • Washington Post
  • November 18, 2012 - 9:32 PM

Maryland was poised Sunday to end its 59-year affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference and jump to the Big Ten Conference, a move that would eliminate a number of the school's longstanding college sports rivalries but, in the view of those behind the proposal, shore up the finances of an athletic department that has fallen on rocky budgetary times.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland will meet early Monday morning in a private session in Baltimore to decide whether Maryland should join the 12-member Big Ten, which is looking to expand its geographic and financial footprint.

The proposal needs a simple majority of the board's 16 members to pass. University President Wallace Loh, who spearheaded the move, briefed the board on the proposal via telephone late Sunday afternoon.

The board members had not been formally briefed on the situation before the conference call with Loh. Multiple individuals with firsthand knowledge of the situation, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions, remained unsure of how the Board of Regents would vote, only saying that, as one put it, members "have a lot of questions."

"Obviously there's a financial incentive, but we need to know what else is involved," one of those individuals said. "Is there any other reason besides money? What are the pros and cons? What does it mean to spread the size of your conference out? I don't want to sit down and say I've made up my mind until I've heard all the data."

Should the proposal pass, Maryland would next formally apply for membership in the Big Ten, whose Council of Presidents and Chancellors would then vote on the matter.

Earlier this year, Maryland eliminated seven varsity sports to close the athletic department's multimillion-dollar budget deficit. The Terrapins can't sell out the luxury boxes at the newly renovated Tyser Tower inside Byrd Stadium, this season averaging 36,022 fans in a stadium that seats 54,000.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten distributed $284 million in revenue to its 12 schools this fiscal year, a substantial portion of which derived from the Big Ten Network, which broadcasts games to 73 million cable and satellite subscribers. Most of the schools received $24.6 million.

The ACC and ESPN announced a 15-year, $3.6 billion extension of their television agreement in May, divisible to about $17 million per school each year.

Such a move by Maryland would likely set into motion another round of realignment in college sports. The Big Ten is expected to add another school along with Maryland, possibly Rutgers. The ACC, meanwhile, will likely look to the Big East to fill the void created by Maryland.

While the Terrapins would almost certainly benefit financially with a move to the Big Ten, there has been a backlash from fans and alumni, who claim the school is jettisoning tradition in favor of money. A Facebook group titled "Keep UMD in the ACC!" had more than 1,500 members as of Sunday night. Len Elmore, an All-America on the men's basketball team in the 1970s who now works as a commentator for ESPN, lamented to the Washington Post late Saturday night that Maryland is "looking for a money grab."

But former Terrapins men's basketball coach Gary Williams, a Maryland graduate who also coached at Ohio State, voiced support for the move in a telephone interview Sunday night.

"If you want to be successful in basketball and football, that takes certain finances to do that," Williams said. "We shouldn't feel bad about doing what other schools have done to increase the exposure, to increase the validity of their programs."

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