Maryland to leave ACC for Big Ten in a move driven by cable revenue
Maryland announced Monday it will leave the ACC for the Big Ten starting in 2014
The move is driven by cable revenue; Jim Delany expects it to start a cultural shift
Rutgers is expected to follow, offering Big Ten access to major East Coast markets
Maryland will join the Big Ten conference in 2014 after a vote by its Board of Regents on Monday to end a 59-year relationship with the ACC. The impetus of the move, primarily, is to help save an athletic department struggling financially and to set up a huge potential payday for the Big Ten through increased cable revenue.
In a telephone interview on Monday afternoon, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany declined to talk about the potential of Rutgers joining the league. But a source with direct knowledge of the discussion confirmed that the announcement of Rutgers joining the Big Ten will come on Tuesday.
Delany cited the shifting college sports landscape and the potential market benefits as the reasons behind the Big Ten's latest expansion.
"Eventually, it was obvious to us that the paradigm had shifted and it was necessary to start looking," Delany said. "Three months ago, we said to ourselves, 'Where do we go from here?' The ACC is at 14.5 members. Ultimately, Notre Dame could someday become a member if they need a 16. Are we going to be passive and watch it?"
With the Maryland move, the Big Ten now expands into the lucrative Washington D.C. market, and it will reach the New York market with the addition of Rutgers. Delany acknowledged the additions will pull the Big Ten from its traditional Midwest roots and will serve as a cultural shift.
"We don't expect to dominate," he said. "We expect to be relevant in time. It will take time and is a long-term play."
Delany said the league plans on setting up offices on the East Coast, although he said he's not aware of a specific location yet. He also said there's a cultural melding that will need to take place over time.
"Obviously this Big Ten is not your grandfather's Big Ten," he said. "Obviously, the Big East and ACC are not your grandfather's Big East and ACC either."
According to interviews with athletic directors and television executives from around college football, the most interesting thing about the Big Ten's play is that it will take on two programs with little significant football tradition. (Maryland has a strong basketball program, but basketball is rarely a strong consideration in realignment scenarios.) Rutgers has never won the Big East in football, and Maryland has won just one ACC football title since 1985. But considering the fertile recruiting grounds and population centers both sit on, there's an obvious motivation to tap into those regions.
Delany expressed confidence that Big Ten affiliation can lift Maryland's football future significantly.
"To be honest with you, I don't understand why Maryland isn't more successful and I expect them to be more successful," he said. "I think of the location, and I can't help but think the core elements of success are in place -- players and resources and television. I would be very surprised if you look at the Maryland program in 10 years and don't see a robust basketball and football program. I think they'll be good."
The major value of Maryland, however, stems from its cable television potential. A prominent television executive told SI.com on Sunday that the Big Ten's Maryland-Rutgers play could yield as much as $200 million. The most realistic number for the league, once it attempts to get the Big Ten Network on televisions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic corridor, is somewhere between $100 and $150 million.
When asked about the contentious cable climate, Delany said, "I don't want to predict a problem. We've got great partners and grown the Big Ten network over time. This is an interesting opportunity for us and them."
And to start a new era of Big Ten football, Delany referenced an old Maryland saying.
"We fear the turtle," he said, "but today we embrace it."
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