Maryland Moves To The Big 10

Everyone who follows college sports has been weighing in on University of Maryland’s recent decision to leave the ACC in favor of the Big 10 conference.  Maryland and Big 10 officials alike seem very pleased with the move, but I’d like to add my opinion to the mix with a wide-angled view of the situation.

Let’s start out with the positives.  

  1. Maryland will be better off financially.

    According to one Big 10 official, Maryland projects to make $32 million when it joins the Big 10 in the 2014-15 season.  Had the Terps stayed in the ACC, they’d get a projected payout of $20 million.  In 2017, the Big Ten negotiates its new television contract, however.  Current projections suggest that the Big Ten payout that year will be in the realm of $43 million per university, compared to the $24 million per university that the ACC projects to pay out that year.

    Here’s an overview of Maryland’s projected payout schedule with the Big 10 versus the ACC through the next 7 years:

    2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
    Maryland Big 10 20 32 32 32
    Maryland ACC 20 20 20 20
    Difference 0 12 12 12
     .
    2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 7-year total
    Maryland Big 10 43 43 43 116
    Maryland ACC 24 24 24 80
    Difference 19 19 19 36

    With more money coming into Maryland’s coffers in the coming years, the University will be able to balance it’s athletic department’s budget, and expand programs and facilities throughout the campus.  This is possibly the largest talking point surrounding the decision to switch conferences

  2. Maryland’s football competition will be a bit better.
    .
    Away games will be played in larger venues, garnering more national exposure for the university.  A comparison between Maryland’s current division rivals versus what they’ll see when they move shows that they lose a top 10 ranked program in Florida State, but gain one in Ohio State.  In addition to that swap, they’ll also gain a few more top 50 programs, so their overall level of competition will increase.

Now lets look at some of the negatives associated with Maryland moving to the Big 10.

  1. Maryland’s football program isn’t even the “cash cow” in the first place.
    .
    In the fiscal year of 2011, Maryland’s football program saw revenues of $-0.065 million.  That’s right… Maryland’s football program saw NEGATIVE revenues.  That means that football spent more money than it brought in.  Maryland’s basketball program on the other hand, saw revenues of $ 4.48 million that year.
    .
    Despite the football program’s struggles to bring in revenues, several large scale projects have been completed in the program’s honor in the last several years.  The Gossett Team House, headquarters of the football team, has been upgraded several times in the past decade, and in 2006, Maryland began a $50.8 million project to create 64 luxury suites and 440 mezzanine seats at Byrd Stadium, the school’s football field.  (Math question: how long would it take to pay off a $50.8 million debt with the football program making $-0.065 million a year?)  The luxury suite project was completed in 2009, and nearly 1/3 luxury suites remain unsold today even though they were available over two years ago.
    .
    In addition to expensive construction projects which haven’t yielded dividends, Maryland also essentially threw away $2 million in the 2011-12 football season when new athletic director Kevin Anderson bought out the final year of head coach Ralph Friedgen’s contract.  The buyout bizarrely occurred in December of 2010 following a 9-4 winning season.  The athletic department was supposedly bleeding money, and still decided to throw away $2 million dollars rather than just waiting one more year for the contract to expire.  What poor judgement by leadership.  At least when Maryland’s prior head basketball coach Gary Williams makes $400,000 a year, the basketball program can arguably support it.
    .
  2. The quality of Maryland’s competition in other sports will plummet.
    .
    Basketball
    Given the above financial information regarding the revenues of the basketball and football programs at Maryland, you’d suspect that the university’s leadership would want to support the earnings of the basketball program, which has long been the university’s “cash cow.”  This is not really the case however, as Maryland’s basketball competition in the Big 10 pales in comparison to what they’re leaving behind in the ACC.
    .
    ACC teams have won the National Championship 6 times since the 2000 season.  Maryland and Syracuse each won once, while Duke and North Carolina each won twice.  The last time the Big 10 had a National Champion in basketball was in 2000, when Michigan State won the title.  ACC teams have won essentially half of the National Championships in the 2000s.  Maryland will now lose that competition, and the quality players who seek it when deciding which University they’ll attend.  With rumors that UConn and possibly Louisville could now be joining the ACC, even the stellar Women’s Basketball program at Maryland will be missing out on some great opportunities for competition.
    .
    Lacrosse
    1987 was the last time a current ACC university failed to make it to the finals in men’s lacrosse.  That’s 25 consecutive years that an ACC team has represented the conference in the National Championship.  Feel free to check me on this, but I imagine that sort of dominance is unmatched by any conference in any other men’s college sport.  It’s just staggering.  The Big 10 on the other hand, has had zero representatives in the men’s lacrosse Championship since it began in 1971.In many ways, lacrosse is a sport which has it’s roots in Maryland, with 33 (roughly 40%) of the 84 teams to ever participate in an NCAA national championship game hailing from the state of Maryland.  The picture is perhaps a bit better for the women’s side of the sport (Northwestern has won 7 national titles in the past 8 seasons), but this is nonetheless a utterly catastrophic loss for Maryland sports, from the collegiate level all the way down to the pee wees.
    .
    Soccer
    Since the 2000 season, ACC teams have appeared in the National Championship game for men’s soccer 7 times.  ACC teams have won the Championship 6 times (Maryland and UNC won twice each, while Wake Forest and Virginia won once each).  From the Big 10, only Indiana and Ohio State have both made appearances in the Championship game during that time period, with Indiana winning it twice.  While Indiana is a perennial soccer powerhouse, the rest of the field in the Big 10 is not of the same quality as the ACC at this point in time.  The picture is even darker for women’s competition in the sport.  ACC schools have combined for 23 NCAA championships in women’s soccer since the 1982 inception.  No other university has more than two.
    .
    Women’s Field Hockey
    Maryland’s women have won the National Championship in field hockey 5 times in the last 7 years.  They’ve appeared in the finals 11 times in the 31 years that the sport has had an NCAA title game (and won 8 of those).  The only university with more all-time wins in Women’s Field Hockey is Old Dominion (with 1 more than Maryland).  Since the 2000 season, 20 of the 24 teams to participate in the finals have been ACC teams.  Only once did a team from the Big 10 represent the conference in the championship game (Michigan in the 2001 season).

It’s understandable to leave a dying conference for greener pastures, but the ACC has not only increased in size in recent years, but also in quality.  So as of 2014-15, Maryland will be making more money than before, and their football program will have better competition than before.  It’s a shame that Maryland’s leadership hasn’t shown the ability to adequately manage their finances before, and they probably won’t learn now.  Maryland’s athletic department is similar to a consumer who constantly lives in debt.  They’ll make more money, they’ll spend more money, and they’ll still be in debt.

Sacrificed for the slight bump in PROJECTED revenues are all the truly important athletic programs, both financially (basketball) and culturally (lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey).

But the decision has been made.  Maryland, one of the seven original charter members of the ACC, when it was established in 1953, is leaving for the Big 10.

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