- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Washington Post has a fascinating story that provides great detail about how Maryland came to its decision to join the Big Ten.
One of the most interesting nuggets from that story is that Maryland will receive more money up front than Nebraska did when it joined the league in 2011 and more than Rutgers will initially get when it becomes a member. Maryland president Wallace D. Loh helped negotiate that perk to help an athletic department swimming in debt. From the story:
In the Big Ten, as in most conferences, each school receives an equal share of the league’s annual revenue. But Nebraska, which entered the Big Ten for competition in 2011, won’t receive the full share of revenue for several years, according to reports. Loh didn’t know it, but the Big Ten also was negotiating a deal to bring in Rutgers that would phase the Scarlet Knights into the conference over time. ...
The Big Ten’s desire was to have new members earn a gradually larger piece of the revenue over a six-year period. But Maryland felt its stability in the ACC offered more bargaining leverage than Rutgers had in the crumbling Big East.
“There is no reason for us to leave,” Loh said. “So if we are going to consider, seriously, leaving, it has got to be worth our while.”
Perhaps, if the Big Ten really wanted Maryland, the two sides could figure out a way the Terrapins could receive a larger share of the Big Ten’s pie earlier. The potential solution was to get creative, according to two people with direct knowledge of the deal. By front-loading the deal — moving some money from years well into the future to the Terrapins’ first six years in the conference — Maryland was able to secure the cash it will need to address some of its immediate financial problems.
Those financial problems could include the ACC's $52 million buyout. The league has sued the school to recoup the entire exit fee. Maryland used its leverage to free up some Big Ten money earlier. Wonder what Nebraska thinks about that?
The Post confirmed an earlier Sports Illustrated report that the Big Ten had projected to Maryland that the Terps would receive $32 million in 2014-15 and $43 million when the conference renegotiates its TV package in 2017.
There is also great detail in how the deal came about. Loh, who used to be the provost at Iowa, took the Maryland job in 2010 and made a passing remark to Big Ten presidents about being interested in the league at an AAU meeting shortly thereafter. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, the story says, had his eye on the Eastern seaboard for years; Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is quoted as saying Maryland came up in conversation with Delany shortly after Brandon took over the Wolverines in early 2010.
Delany reached out Loh in the first week of October, according to the story. A Maryland contingent met with Big Ten officials on Oct. 12 at the Hilton at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Delany made Loh sign a non-disclosure agreement before the meeting, promising to keep only a very tight inner circle involved in the discussions. The Big Ten was so secretive that it didn't tell either Maryland or Rutgers that it was considering the other school.
Big Ten and Maryland officials met again on Nov. 4, this time in Washington, D.C.
Both sides came armed with spreadsheets. Loh and Delany served as the point men. Over the course of a marathon session -- Delany remembers it as 4 1/2 hours, Loh as nearly seven -- the mutual interest morphed into negotiations about how Maryland could become part of the Big Ten.
As afternoon turned into evening, hotel staff replaced a depleted sandwich tray and cheese plate with a hot dinner. The group worked through what the Big Ten’s divisions might look like, because that would have an impact on the travel for Maryland’s teams. Loh and Anderson needed to hear about plans for lacrosse in the Big Ten, where the sport isn’t a mainstay as it is in College Park. Loh asked his questions about the future of the conference, its expansion plans and mission and the academic perks.
Delany briefed the Big Ten athletic directors on the talks about a week later, but those ADs didn't feel a move was imminent. Rumors were heating up on the Internet, however, and Delany felt the time was right to strike.
There's also good stuff in there about how Loh had to convince skeptical Maryland administrators and deal with an angry fan base. Go read the whole thing.
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