Well it appears all of the speculation and weekend rumors were true: this morning the University of Maryland Board of Regents unanimously accepted a move away from the Atlantic Coast Conference to join the Big Ten, according to ESPN. Rutgers also appears to be packing their bags as well, giving the Big Ten fourteen teams.
Citing long-term ambiguity, the Terrapins decided that staying in the ACC–a conference in which it was a charter member–was not viable for the future. Although the ACC demands a $50 million buyout fee for schools looking to jump ship, Maryland’s expecting to talk down the number in order to make the move. They will start Big Ten play during the 2014-2015 academic year.
Disregarding West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 this year, Maryland’s splitting might be the most surprising. The ACC was just recently adding teams to the conference, not losing them. However, in big-time college athletics, the predator quickly becomes the prey. A conference that was shaping up nicely to become the best college basketball league around (with Syracuse and Pittsburgh scheduled to join the mix) will probably be on guard for other members’ departures, like an oft-theorized move of Florida State to the SEC or Big 12.
In terms of football, Maryland is a weak choice (Rutgers is better, but not by much), but look beyond the Terrapins’ gridiron prowess: the school boasts prestigious basketball, lacrosse and soccer programs and is a relatively elite public university. That will fit nicely with the Big Ten’s well-rounded mix of athletics and academics, and provides the best thing of all: access to the east coast media market. But just salivate over the Big Ten basketball tournament in a few years time: Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois and now Maryland.
The “grandfather” of college conferences might not be so ill-equipped after all.