COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Choosing to look toward the future rather than honor the past, Maryland joined the Big Ten on Monday, bolting from the Atlantic Coast Conference in a move driven by the school’s budget problems.
Maryland was a charter member of the ACC, which was founded in 1953. Tradition and history, however, were not as important to school president Wallace D. Loh as the opportunity to be linked with the prosperous Big Ten.
“By being a member of the Big Ten Conference, we are able to ensure financial stability for Maryland athletics for decades to come,” Loh said at a news conference with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and athletic director Kevin Anderson.
Loh and other school officials involved in the decision decided that the potential money to be made in the Big Ten was more significant than the $50 million ACC exit fee and the tradition associated with belonging to the same conference for 59 years.
“I am very aware that for many of our Terps fans and alumni, their reaction is stunned and disappointed. But we will always cherish the memories, the rivalries, the tradition of the ACC,” Loh said. “For those alumni and Terp fans, I will now say this: I made this decision as best as I could … to do what is best for the University of Maryland for the long haul.”
Maryland eliminated seven sports programs earlier this year, and Loh said the shift to the Big Ten could provide enough of a windfall to restore some of them.
Maryland will become the southernmost member of the Big Ten starting in July 2014. Rutgers is expected follow suit by today, splitting from the Big East and making it an even 14 schools in the Big Ten, although Delany would not confirm that.
But he had no problem explaining why the Big Ten would be interested in stretching its boundaries from the Midwest.
“We realize that all of the major conferences are slightly outside of their footprint,” he said. “We believe the association is one that will benefit both of us.”
Money was the driving force.
“Somebody has to pay the bills,” Loh said. “I want to leave a legacy for decade to come, long after I’m gone, that no president is going to wonder if Maryland athletics as we know it is going to survive.”
Besides, Loh noted, the ACC isn’t exactly the cozy little group it was 59 years ago. Notre Dame was recently added to the conference, though it will remain a football independent and play five games against ACC teams.
“The world of the ACC as we have known it has changed, and the job of the president is not just to look at the past and the present, but to look to the future.”
Maryland gives the Big Ten a presence in the major media market of Washington. D.C. Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J., and about 40 miles south of New York City, puts the Big Ten in the country’s largest media market.