Maryland mulling Big Ten affiliation

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Maryland is considering pursuing a move to the Big Ten, according to multiple published reports, with an announcement possible this week. 

A Maryland athletic department spokesman declined to comment Sunday. Athletic director Kevin Anderson did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Wallace D. Loh, the university’s president, declined to comment Sunday.

An ACC official said the conference had not heard anything from Maryland officials as of Sunday morning.

Any move on Maryland’s part would have to be approved by the school’s Board of Regents. The board’s Committee on Education Policy is scheduled to meet Monday morning in Baltimore.

One thing seems clear: Any move from Maryland’s will be predicated primarily on the school’s financial difficulties and the Big Ten’s ability to solve some of those woes.

Jim Delany, the Big Ten’s commissioner, told reporters in June the league distributed $284 million to its 12 current members, an average of nearly $23.7 million. The ACC announced a renegotiated television contract (the primary source of league revenue) in May that will provide an average of $17 million (starting at a lower figure and gradually rising) over the life of the 15-year deal.

There is, however, the pitfall of a $50 million exit fee the ACC instituted in September. Yet in the ongoing game of conference swapping in recent years, exit fees hardly have acted as a deterrent to keep schools in conferences.

It was the Big Ten who ignited the instability of the past three years when it announced in December 2009 it would investigate the possibility of expanding from 11 teams. It would invite only Nebraska, a large public school in the Midwest like so many longtime Big Ten institutions, to grow enough to earn the right to contest a conference title game.

Perhaps now, though, the conference wants more. Maryland would provide a toehold in the Washington and Baltimore television markets for the Big Ten. It would also likely lead to increased carriage of the Big Ten Network, which broadcasts football and basketball games as well as other sports, in this area.

It would also end a nearly six-decade relationship between Maryland and the ACC.

Maryland was a charter member of the conference when it was founded in 1953 as an eight-institution league, and only one school — South Carolina in 1971 — has withdrawn.

In the past decade, it has grown from a regionally compact nine-team league to a 15-team association effectively spanning the East Coast. Miami and Virginia Tech joined the league in 2004, with Boston College following the next year. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will begin play next year, while the league announced the addition of Notre Dame in all sports but football in September.

Maryland’s financial issues are well-documented. Last year, a university-created commission on athletics found the athletic department’s fundraising declined almost 40 percent between 2008 and 2011 and that deficits were expected to reach almost $8.7 million in 2013 and $17.2 million in 2017 if no action was taken.

The school ultimately cut seven sports earlier this year, dropping its athletic offerings from 27 programs to 20. The Big Ten sponsors championships in all but two of Maryland’s remaining sports: Men’s and women’s lacrosse.

Maryland football coach Randy Edsall shrugged off questions Sunday about the potential move, a day after his team fell to 4-7 with a loss to Florida State.

“My whole focus is trying to clean this thing up from Florida State and getting prepared for North Carolina, and making sure I do the best for these 17 seniors and our team to get a win down in North Carolina,” Edsall said.

Several outlets reported Rutgers likely would receive a Big Ten invitation if Maryland were to agree to join the league. That pairing, along with the presence of Penn State, would provide the Big Ten a contiguous presence from New Jersey to Nebraska and effectively bisect the growing geographic footprint the ACC has cultivated with its additions in the past 10 years.

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