Terps to the Big Ten?
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling gobsmacked by the University of Maryland’s seemingly sudden decision to bail on the conference it helped found and emigrate over to the Big Ten. It all happened so fast.
As I was a student athlete at Maryland in the 90’s, it hit especially close to home. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I couldn’t hold it in on this news. I’m doing my best to keep an open mind about it as things develop.
I’ll be honest: I don’t know how good or bad of a move this is. We have no idea what the real state of our athletic program is, what other factors were involved, or what the future holds. We can speculate and we can gnash our teeth, but it doesn’t really do any good, does it? What’s done is done.
I have heard that the only sports programs that are making money are football and basketball; the rest are losing money. That equation doesn’t work long-term.
I gained some respect for President Walt Loh after hearing him speak at the press conference yesterday (some great sound bytes here). That’s as natural and earnest as I’ve ever seen him. He didn’t use the P.R.-speak that we’ve come to expect at press conferences. He didn’t say this was the best thing that’s ever happened and that God had blessed this union. He didn’t pretend that everything was great and there was no uncertainty about anything.
He pretty much came out and said that they’d done what they had to do because, for one, their financial situation was so dire. And, notably, he said that he his responsibility is to the school, not to “any conference.” He’s right, and sometimes we forget that the sports program, while it may be a defining part of the school, is just that: a part of the school—it’s one piece of a larger institution that has its own priorities and concerns.
I got the feeling that Loh saw this as “taking one for the team” (pun intended) because he knew this was the only thing to do. I give the guy a lot of credit for making and owning decision that he had to know would be unpopular, even upsetting, for a lot of people.
Another interesting moment was when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney said, “You’re not joining a Midwestern conference. We’re moving here. We’re opening up offices on the East Coast. We’re not asking you to become us – we’re asking you to allow us to partner with you.” What?! Can you imagine anything even close to that coming from John Swofford or anyone at the ACC? (Oh, and I loved Athletic Director Kevin Anderson’s comment on a future relationship with Commissioner Swofford: “I believe there would be some awkwardness.” Yes, Kevin, there would be.)
Who knows how this will turn out? We can only wait and see. At the end of the day, though, I’m a Maryland fan no matter what. I’ll still be watching and supporting and hoping for the best.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I know I haven’t written in a while, and I probably won’t once the holidays get started again! I hope you all have an awesome holiday season.
- Brian Dunn