Money also figures to be a driving force for the Big Ten, long a juggernaut of mostly large public schools in the Midwest. With Maryland and potentially Rutgers in the fold, the conference would have a contiguous presence from New Jersey to Nebraska and effectively bisect the ACC’s touted geographic footprint along the East Coast.
The addition of the Washington and Baltimore markets that Maryland occupies, as well as the potential of the New York and Philadelphia markets that Rutgers straddles, provides the Big Ten a significant presence in major eastern markets. In turn, it means millions of additional households that could pay fees if cable operators opt to carry the Big Ten Network.
Maryland anticipates the trickle-down eventually will impact athletics and academics, with the school’s high-profile revenue sports of men’s basketball and football almost certain to benefit.
“Our budget is nowhere near where it needs to be,” men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon said. “I expect it to be a much better budget because of this move.”
While Maryland’s basketball program generally has thrived (it won the national championship in 2002 and tied for the ACC’s regular-season title as recently as 2010), its football team has lagged behind in recent years. Aside from a three-year run of 10-win seasons from 2001 through 2003, Maryland rarely has been a significant factor in the conference race.
A step up to the Big Ten figures to make football relevance a greater challenge but also will provide additional resources for the underfunded program.
“This is something that enhances the University of Maryland in totality,” football coach Randy Edsall said. “You’re talking about academics. You’re talking about athletics. Everybody benefits from this. I just think it was a tremendous opportunity that was presented to us, and it was something you really couldn’t turn down.”
Loh said discussions about a move to the Big Ten “began in earnest” over the past two weeks. He said he consulted experts to go over the financial impact and had conversations with a “limited” number of senior stakeholders at the university, as well as elected state officials, major donors, Board of Regents members and students.
In the end, he was determined to do what he believed was best for the university.
“Someone asked how intense this was,” said Loh, who arrived at Maryland in 2010 after serving as the provost at Big Ten member Iowa. “Suffice to say that I have not had much sleep over the last two and a half weeks because it’s been a very, very intense process.”
Now it’s over, and Maryland is leaving behind its home of six decades for a conference. It was where Randy White and Lefty Driesell, Boomer Esiason and Len Bias, Gary Williams and Ralph Friedgen, Joe Smith and Juan Dixon and countless others became recognized names.
And soon enough, after what is sure to be more than a year and a half of awkwardness, it will be where so much tradition in college athletics has been deposited: In the past.
“It’s going to take time for all of us to digest it,” Turgeon said, “But there’s no turning back.”