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

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66 responses to “Terps to the Big Ten?”

  1. Doug Kornreich says :

    What is going to change in the equation of basketball and football making the revenue and everyone else losing money. That’s going to happen just as much in the Big 10 as the ACC. In fact, I believe those expenses will rise significantly, as the travel costs rise.
    As a former Terp athlete, I would be interested in your view of the effect on the students of all of the long-distance travel that is going to be required. The ACC has 8 schools closer than Ohio State is to College Park (only Penn State and Rutgers would be closer). It’s going to either mean lots of class time missed for really long van rides, or else a large number of airfares that didn’t used to happen.

    Also what happens to UMD Lacrosse as only 3 existing schools in the Big 10 even field a Lacrosse team (Rutgers would make 4 others)?

    As Mike Wise wrote in the Washington Post:

    There was no impact study, no open discussion. At the state’s largest public institution of higher learning, there was no genuine process of deliberation. Three educational careerists — University President Wallace Loh, Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan — went into a star chamber, played God and mocked self-governance.

    “This is a real bad omen for college sports,” Tom McMillen said.

    The former all-American off Lefty Driesell’s early 1970s Terrapins teams, who became a Rhodes Scholar and a three-time Democratic congressman, was apparently the lone voice of dissent among the Board of Regents on Monday, when the vote was held to move to the Big Ten.

    . . .

    “We had two days to swallow this and we only heard from one side,” McMillen said. “We didn’t have anyone from the ACC come in and tell us why we shouldn’t leave. We didn’t talk to the athletes or the coaches and hear their concerns on both ends.

    “If you’re a freshman athlete, you should be allowed to move schools based on the fact that no one said you were going to be catching plane rides to Lincoln, Nebraska, and Iowa City, Iowa, when they recruited you. I feel for them. We’re doing this in a vacuum.”

    Anyway I’m curious about your reaction to McMillen’s view . . .

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