Maryland Secedes From the ACC, Will Join Big Ten in 2014Posted by mpatton on November 19th, 2012
Maryland is leaving the ACC to join the Big Ten along with Rutgers. Unsurprisingly the move sparked mixed opinions from all sides. Maryland’s move is the first time since South Carolina left in 1971 that a charter member of the ACC has joined another conference, which says a lot about the current state of college athletics. Objectively–at least in the long run — Maryland’s administration made the obvious decision. The Terrapin athletic department has financially struggled mightily the last few years, and the Big Ten offers significantly more television revenue than the ACC. The caveat is the ACC’s recently negotiated $50 million exit fee (which Maryland and Florida State opposed at the time), a fee so steep will decimate the athletic department’s short-term finances.
Look for the ACC to really stick to its guns regarding the exit fee, but Maryland probably won’t pay the full penalty. Contracts require diligence in order to be enforced, and Maryland will probably argue that the massive exit fee is punitive — especially considering the fact that the school didn’t support the massive exit fee hike. That said, if other schools smell instability and see a way around the exit fee, the ACC could be in trouble. If Maryland is forced to pay the full exit fee, the only two feasible options are a massive capital campaign or some sort of assistance from a third party (including the Big Ten).
Subjectively, as a fan of the ACC, it’s disappointing to see Maryland go. The Duke – Maryland rivalry of the last decade made for incredible theater despite the conference not making the two schools primary partners. Who could forget Jason Williams’ Miracle Minute? The national championship? Len Bias? The Terrapins’ ACC Championship against NC State in 1974 might be the best game of college basketball ever played. Gary Williams and Lefty Driesell will always be ACC legends: one for his national championship; and the latter for popularizing Midnight Madness and forcing the inclusion of at-larges in March Madness.
The fact is Maryland is a huge part of the ACC’s history. And it’s the first time that ACC fans have to truly come to grips with the fact that things are changing. Rivalries will end. Shouts of future basketball superiority will ring hollow against the cement walls of bank vaults, huge television revenues, and third-tier rights. But don’t blame Maryland and its Board of Regents. Their decision makes sense. It’s also the same attitude the ACC had when it poached Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East and the same attitude the Big East has when raiding Conference USA long before that. College athletics are about making money. New rivalries will grow.
I just hope Mike Krzyzewski and Mark Turgeon aren’t about to let their rivalry die.