Maryland uber-booster favors move
Under Armour founder and Maryland uber-booster Kevin Plank is "100 percent" behind the Terrapins moving from the ACC to the Big Ten, a regent told ESPN on Sunday.
The University System of Maryland's Board of Regents will meet at 9 a.m. Monday to vote whether to accept an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference, a source told ESPN.
Plank is "heavily involved behind the scenes with board members," a regent told ESPN on Sunday. The source added that several of the 17 board members were "miffed" that they were not included in the process until the late stages, so the vote could be close.
Plank declined comment at Saturday's game but insisted he is not involved in Maryland's athletic decisions.
If Maryland goes from the ACC to the Big Ten, Rutgers of the Big East will then follow suit, a source said. The Rutgers announcement could be as early as Tuesday, sources said. The addition of Maryland and Rutgers would give the Big Ten 14 members as the league gears toward negotiations on a new media rights deal when its first-tier rights expire in 2017.
There is not a consensus among Maryland athletic department officials, a source said. The school is leaning toward the move but there is still time for the school to decide to stay in the ACC, according to the source.
Maryland president Wallace Loh has been handling the conversation with Big Ten officials, a source said.
One stumbling block for Maryland could be finances. Maryland's athletic department has recently dropped sports because of budget issues, and the ACC recently raised its exit fee to $50 million.
Maryland and Florida State were the only two of 12 schools that voted against a $50 million exit fee out of the ACC, but lost the vote. Loh was quoted in the Washington Post on Sept. 13 that he was against the hike from $20-50 million on "legal and philosophical" grounds. The Post reported that Loh said Maryland planned to be in the ACC for years to come.
A source told ESPN that the Big Ten has been itchy about further expansion since Notre Dame made its official move to the ACC two months ago in all sports other than football. The source said the Big Ten can justify Maryland and then possibly Rutgers since they are all contiguous states to the Big Ten footprint.
One source told ESPN that Loh and athletic director Kevin Anderson don't have ACC ties so there wouldn't be a strong emotional pull to stay with the conference. Loh is a former provost at Big Ten member Iowa.
However, the chancellor of the Maryland system, Brit Kirwan, has been on the Maryland campus for 30 years and has strong affiliation for being a charter member of the ACC, according to a source.
One source with Maryland ties said there is a strong affinity for the ACC and making the move to the Big Ten may not be a unanimous decision among the school's board of regents.
Rutgers' exit fee from the Big East would be less expensive. The buyout to leave the Big East is $10 million if the school provides 27 months' notice. However, the league has allowed West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse to leave the league without honoring the 27-month requirement by paying a higher exit fee.
The addition of the two East Coast schools would dramatically stretch the Big Ten's footprint. With Maryland holding down the Beltway, Rutgers offering up the New York market and Penn State's strong eastern ties, the league has a solid anchor in the mid-Atlantic states.
Maryland and Rutgers also would make the nation's richest conference even wealthier. Last season, each Big Ten school received a record $24.6 million in shared revenue, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. One source said the success of the Big Ten Network is an intriguing factor for Maryland.
If the two schools join the Big Ten, it would reopen what many thought was a stable time in the conference realignment process. The Big Ten joins the SEC as a legitimate 14-team superconference, while the ACC drops to 13 football members and likely will pursue another all-sports member to get back to 14. Connecticut would emerge as the most likely candidate to fill Maryland's spot in the ACC.
Dana O'Neil, Brett McMurphy and Andy Katz are college sports reporters for ESPN.