UPDATED, 12:56 p.m. with John Swofford statement: Maryland has left the ACC to join the Big Ten. Rutgers is expected to follow suit, leaving the Big East.
Maryland will reportedly begin Big Ten play in 2014-15. Until the ACC can find a replacement, it leaves the conference with an uneven 13 teams. Maryland was a charter member of the ACC at the league’s formation in 1953. It is just the second school to leave the ACC since its founding in 1953, following South Carolina in 1971.
“Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated with the University of Maryland,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “Since our inception, they have been an outstanding member of our conference and we are sorry to see them exit. For the past 60 years the Atlantic Coast Conference has exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move forward.”
The athletic department has faced considerable financial stress, cutting seven teams over the summer. The Big Ten’s television revenues were undoubtedly a factor. The Big Ten distributed $284 million to its 12 teams for the 2012 fiscal year, a per-school average of $23.7 million.
ACC teams will receive $12.3 million in the current fiscal year, although the league will re-do its ESPN deal as a result of Notre Dame’s contract to play five ACC games annually. (It’s likely Maryland’s departure will also figure into negotiations.)
Consider this: According to reports from ESPN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in May and June, Big Ten newcomer Nebraska did not receive a full share, drawing about $14 million while the other 11 schools took $24.6 million.
While the addition of Maryland and Rutgers will likely cause the Big Ten’s television deals to be re-done, were the math to hold, Maryland would receive more in a partial share as a Big Ten member than it would as a full ACC member.
There is the matter of the $50 million exit fee, instituted in September, to leave the ACC. It is interesting to note that Maryland president Wallace Loh voted against the fee increase, from $20 million, on “legal and philosophical grounds.” Florida State was the only other school to vote against it.
Loh told the Post that he disagreed with “punishing people if they simply exit a relationship.” The article also stated that Loh repeatedly praised the school’s relationship with the ACC and that it would continue to be a part of the league for years to come.
The obvious possibility to fill the 14th spot would be Notre Dame, which entered a deal with the ACC to join the conference for every sport but football and play five games annually against ACC football teams. The rise of the Fighting Irish on the football field likely lessens that possibility. Given the team’s declining stature in recent seasons, the school’s bargaining power with both the BCS and NBC had likely shrunk. However, with Notre Dame (at least for this season) a national title contender, its viability to remain an independent with a seat at the BCS table and to command a better television contract (presumably from NBC) than it could as a full ACC member has probably improved.
From a competition standpoint, how the ACC handles 13 teams, particularly in football, is going to be a bit of a challenge. The Big Ten was not separated into divisions when it was an 11-team league and did not face the predicament of one division with seven teams and the other with six, which would be the ACC’s lot starting in 2014 if it cannot find a 14th member.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog