Big Ten Athletics
Big Ten Joins College Football’s Cash Grab With Addition of Maryland, Rutgers
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even Gene Smith couldn’t deny the obvious on Monday, expansion in college football is now, officially, all about the Benjamins.
Smith did his best to package the Big Ten’s decision to add the University of Maryland as a way to strengthen the conference by adding new, fertile, recruiting grounds on the Atlantic coast. He talked about footprints and fanbases, about academics and basketball prowess.
He even mentioned lacrosse.
At the end of the day, however, the Big Ten made a business decision to add Maryland as the 13th team to the oldest conference in Division I college athletics. They will announce a similar one on Tuesday with the addition of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
“You can't skirt the fact that financially it assists us,” Smith said, “as we move forward towards our television agreement that expires in 2017.”
According to USA Today, increased subscriber fees from the Maryland and Rutgers metro markets could push each school's payout from the Big Ten Network to $10 million per year. And with the league set to negotiate its first-tier rights in 2017, the per-school payout could rise to as much as $35 million, according to Jeff Nelson, director of analytics for Chicago-based Navigate Research.
Each school in the Big Ten currently receives $24 million annually from the conference’s television network, which means the move will be a financial boon for Maryland as well. A founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1953, the Terrapins will have to negotiate their $50 million exit fee with the ACC, but that is a small price to pay for long-term financial stability for an athletic department that was taking on water.
“Membership in the Big Ten is in the strategic interest of the University of Maryland,” Maryland President Dr. Wallace Loh said during his impressive news conference on Monday.
“We will be able to insure the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for decades to come.”
This move wasn’t just about money, but certainly wasn’t about football, or at least creating the most tradition-rich environment for college football in the country. The Terrapins play in a 54,000-seat stadium in College Park, Md. For those who have been there, it’s not exactly Camp Randall Stadium.
The school has “claimed” two national championships and 11 ACC titles, but Maryland has won just 11 bowl games. Ever. The school went 11 years without a postseason berth from 1990-2001, but the Terrapins went to seven bowl games in 10 seasons under Ralph Friedgen.
That's the same Ralph Friedgen who reportedly burned his Maryland diploma after he was fired following an 8-4 season in 2010. The school has produced some good football players throughout the years, including NFL Hall-of-Famer Randy White and former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason.
The Terrapins have had success on the hardwood, at least while Gary Williams was there, but even the former Ohio State hoops coach knows it was cash that drove the bus for Maryland’s unexpected exit from the ACC.
“If you want to be successful in basketball and football, that takes certain finances to do that,” Williams told The Washington Post.
“Why would Syracuse and Pitt go to the ACC? Why would Nebraska go to Big Ten? The answer is pretty obvious. We shouldn’t feel bad about doing what other schools have done to increase the exposure, to increase the validity of their programs.”
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