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Terps strike gold with Big Ten, or did they?

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Published on: Thursday, November 29, 2012

By Daniel Kucin

There is no question that the University of Maryland’s athletics program has been in disarray over the past decade, and news of a conference realignment announced last week made a huge impact on the department’s spending and bargaining power.

On Nov. 20, the University of Maryland announced it will move to the Big Ten in 2014, losing ties with the Atlantic Coast Conference after holding its seat in the conference since 1953.

“Membership in the Big Ten is the strategic interest of the University of Maryland,” University of Maryland President Wallace Loh said. “We will be able to insure the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for decades to come.”

Really? This seems to be a surprising anecdote considering that Maryland accepted this invitation knowing that they would have to fork over $50 million dollars in order to be accepted. Bringing stability to a program that has had a steady attendance of nearly 40,000 fans or more for its football program each year seems to be pretty successful in my book.

Moving to the Big Ten conference to some seems like a no brainer considering that the estimated revenue the contract will make each year should total over $24 million. That’s great, right?

Well, considering they were already pulling in a substantial amount of income a year with a $3.6 billion contract between ESPN and the ACC, it seems to be small change.

However, things look slightly tilted when you tack on the millions spent in making the transition. How do you bring stability to a program that has been in shambles over the years that lead to extreme tuition hikes and cutting seven teams?

Shifting to a conference that generally has Midwest teams seems confusing and odd. Maryland’s recruiting class has been subpar for a very long time, and it preposterous to believe that the Terps have enough notoriety to influence more signings over perennial powerhouses such as Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska.

But wait! Rutgers has accepted to play in the Big Ten as well! Great, another heavy hitter to fit right in with such a powerful conference that has more spending power, more talent and more leverage!

Loh believes taking a strong financial hit should fade away over time should Maryland find a strong fan base from the move. However, this decision may have lost many diehard fans because the Terps will  not play the same conference rivalry games that gave Maryland substance for over 59 years. By leaving the ACC, Maryland fans will lose the intensity of Duke vs. Maryland in Comcast Center, and you most certainly won’t be able to conjure the amount of fans that used to attend games from the University of Virginia, N.C. State and Duke.

“From a tradition standpoint, it’s probably disappointing for someone like me because I go back to the old-school ACC, when guys like Len Bias and John Lucas were playing,” said Phil Booth Sr., who is the father of 2014 basketball prospect Phil Booth, of Mount St. Joseph. “But the ACC has changed some over the years.”

Bottom line, Maryland will have to start from scratch as the new kid on the block — even having to crawl back from the debt they have cornered themselves into. I honestly don’t think moving to a more superior conference will make more people want to attend or play for Maryland when there are so many better wining programs to choose from. Time will tell, and the only good news from this situation is that when you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up. Eventually.

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