Maryland, Rutgers to Big Ten?
The University of Maryland is in serious negotiations to join the Big Ten Conference, sources told ESPN on Saturday.
If Maryland goes from the ACC to the Big Ten, Rutgers of the Big East is expected to follow suit. 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.
No date has been set for a potential announcement, though it could come as soon as Monday. The Maryland board of regents will meet at 9 a.m. Monday morning to decide on the move, a source with direct knowledge told ESPN.com Sunday morning.
But there is not a consensus among athletic department officials. The source said the school is leaning toward the move but there is still time for the school to decide to stay in the ACC.
Maryland president Wallace Loh has been handling the conversation with Big Ten officials, a source said.
If Maryland goes to the Big Ten, Rutgers of the Big East is expected to follow suit. 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.
One source told ESPN that Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson has informed key staffers that there are ongoing discussions.
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 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.
Big Ten officials did not respond to numerous requests seeking comment. ACC officials also did not respond to a request for comment. Maryland officials would not comment when asked after the Terps' football game on Saturday.
If these dominoes were to fall then Connecticut would emerge as the most likely candidate to fill Maryland's spot in the ACC. The ACC will be at 14 members in 2013-14 with the addition of the Big East's Pittsburgh and Syracuse and 15 in all sports except football when Notre Dame joins, which could be as early as fall 2013.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said his feelings on the ACC, in light of recent developments, remain unchanged.
"Doesn't have any impact," Swarbrick said. "Again ... it has absolutely zero impact. It wouldn't change anything about our decision-making process. If we were going to engage in it again today, it wouldn't change it at all."
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 Scarlet Knights would be the ninth member of the Big East to leave or announce they were leaving the league since 2004. Six of those defections have occurred in the past year -- Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame to the ACC; TCU and West Virginia to the Big 12 and Rutgers to the Big Ten.
"I've heard a lot of things over the last eight years. I've come to realize the best thing is not to react to it," Rutgers football coach Kyle Flood said Sunday. "Whatever happens, I know we'll be in a good place."
The Scarlet Knights were charter members of the Big East's football conference, which began in 1991.
Maryland also was a charter member of the ACC, one of eight schools to start the league in 1953.
Both Maryland and Rutgers are members of the AAU (Association of American Universities), something vital to Big Ten presidents.
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.
ACC commissioner John Swofford said at ACC media day and during the news conference when the Irish were added that the league wouldn't go beyond 14 football members and could easily exist with an odd number (15) in men's and women's basketball. But if a football member were to leave, the ACC would likely have to make a move.
Maryland, meanwhile, will become only the second school to leave the ACC. South Carolina was the other, leaving in 1971 to become an independent. The Gamecocks are now members of the SEC.
In the past few years, the nation's top five conferences -- SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC -- have added a total of 10 new members, causing a domino effect throughout the college landscape from coast to coast.
Dana O'Neil, Brett McMurphy and Andy Katz are all college sports reporters for ESPN. ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg, Heather Dinich and Matt Fortuna contributed to this report.
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