After careful consideration, I point out that
In short: Fine. Whatevs. Things change. Way of the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as sentimental and traditional as the next guy. I grew up in
I did my own sort of four corners offense in College Park in the late 1970s and early '80s, toggling between Cole, Byrd Stadium, classrooms and the Rendezvous (the 'Vous, for all of you College Park denizens of a certain vintage). I yelled at Jerry Claiborne to throw a pass, at Lefty to run a play, and at bartenders during Happy Hour.
But the Maryland and the ACC of my youth no longer exist.
Maryland used to be the ACC’s northernmost outpost of a tight, collegial fraternity. Now, it’s a convenient layover between the league’s snow belt and sun belt.
The ACC soon will have nearly as many former
All that said, Maryland is headed to the Big Ten for one reason only. The athletic department is in a financial wringer because former athletic director Debbie Yow managed the budget the way teenagers manage credit cards. Attendance also dropped significantly for football and hoops.
According to the school, the department faced an $8.7 million deficit in 2013 that would escalate to $17.2 million by 2017, if nothing was done. Last summer the school announced that it would cut seven sports for financial reasons.
From the Big Ten’s side, Maryland, as well as
If the numbers being thrown around for Big Ten membership are even close to accurate, it would be practically ir-freakin'-responsible for Maryland not to jump. In 2014, Big Ten schools will receive $32 million apiece from the conference's TV deals, while ACC schools will receive approximately $24 million, according to the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports.
With the D.C.-Maryland TV market and the Rutgers/New Jersey market, that number is projected to rise annually and reach $45 million per school in 2019. Crazy.
What all of this says, or rather what it reinforces, is that college athletics at the highest level are a money grab. Period. Anyone who says differently is lying or willfully ignorant. It's dressed up with baby-faced kids and cheerleaders and leafy campuses with ivy-covered buildings, which contribute to a gauzy nostalgia that often provides a shield from real scrutiny.
My buddy Doug is a longtime Maryland football season ticket holder, basketball fan and periodic contributor. Though the move nibbles at the traditionalist in him, he takes the competitive view: if more money will permit the athletic department to be solvent and to compete, then off to Columbus and Camp Randall and Ann Arbor we go.
As he pointed out, while Maryland-
Financial windfall aside, years of following Joe Krivak, Mark Duffner, Ron Vanderlinden, the Fridge and now
"I've watched Maryland lose in the same ACC stadiums for years," he said. "This gives me a chance to travel and watch them lose in different places."
Doug eagerly anticipates connecting with Big Ten fans. Honeymoon period. Old material becomes new.
"Midwesterners are really nice people," he said. "I think it'll take them 3-5 years to fully appreciate how abrasive and obnoxious we are."
And hey, what do you know, as I'm typing this, the monthly alumni association e-newsletter appears in my inbox. Let's have a look: holiday shopping tips; a big fire in 1912 that torched the campus; a photo gallery of fall scenery on campus … aaaaand here we are: University of Maryland to join Big Ten Conference. Fourth item down.
Granted, alumni newsletters aren't just for sports fans. But wouldn't such a seismic move, one that's portrayed as beneficial to the entire university, merit more prominent mention?
That’s the other part of this. Maryland president Wallace Loh, chancellor Brit Kirwan and the other honchos talked up how the Big Ten move would benefit the entire school, that it would link the university with other like-minded schools, etc. Yeah, thank goodness the alma mater finally disassociates from academic lightweights such as
The Big Ten move helps the entire school inasmuch as the TV money windfall might prevent them from further soaking students, parents and taxpayers with increases and hidden fees that would make cable and phone companies blush.
By the way, with the copious amounts of TV money everyone will pull in, explain to me again why "cost of attendance" and extra stipends are a non-starter for scholarship athletes.
My wish is that in future conference realignment chatter, whenever a big-time college administrator talks about academic missions and student-athlete welfare, that someone behind him or her blasts one of those little hand-held airhorns, as a kind of B.S. alarm.
Former Maryland hoops star Tom McMillen, an ex-Congressman and current member of the Board of Regents, blistered the process in a
That's not how a university conducts business. That's how a business conducts business.