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).