Maryland accepts Big Ten invite

Updated: November 20, 2012, 12:05 PM ET
By Brett McMurphy and Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

The University of Maryland's Board of Regents voted Monday to accept an invitation to join the Big Ten and begin competition in the conference in the 2014-15 academic year.

Meanwhile, Big East Conference sources told ESPN that Rutgers will be announced as the 14th member of the Big Ten on Tuesday. Rutgers' Board of Governors passed a vote Monday authorizing athletic director Tim Pernetti to accept the Big Ten's invitation, the New York Daily New reports.

"Today is a watershed moment for the University of Maryland," said university president Wallace D. Loh in a release. "Membership in the Big Ten Conference is in the strategic interest of the University of Maryland."

Loh added it would "ensure the financial vitality of Maryland Athletics for decades to come," and offer opportunities to boost the "education, research, and innovation" of the university.

Once Maryland's board voted and faxed a letter of application to the Big Ten on Monday, the conference's council of presidents unanimously approved the Terrapins' admission, a source said. Maryland, along with seven others, was a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953.

"Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated with the University of Maryland. Since our inception, they have been an outstanding member of our conference and we are sorry to see them exit," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "For the past 60 years the Atlantic Coast Conference has exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move forward."

Sources at Maryland believe the Terps will be able to negotiate the current $50 million exit fee from the ACC to a lower amount. The additions of Maryland and Rutgers would spur the Big Ten, then, toward negotiations on a new media-rights deal when its first-tier rights expire in 2017.

"It's pretty obvious to us that the paradigm has shifted, and it's not your father's Big Ten. It's probably not your father's ACC," said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. "I think that what the paradigm shift is that other conferences had, we had chosen not to. We explored the collaboration (with the Pac-12). It couldn't be executed. The Pac-12 couldn't do what they thought they could do. And at that juncture, we thought we should seriously think about contiguous states, AAU (Association of American Universities, which concentrates on research) institutions and to determine whether or not that was plausible. We found out that it was, and we moved from there."

The stepped-up negotiations between Maryland and the Big Ten, and the conference's scheduled vote on the Terrapins' membership, were reported by ESPN over the weekend.

"The question is what's the future" of the ACC, Maryland regent Patricia Florestano told ESPN.com on Monday. "We've got to look to the future." Asked if the future of Maryland athletics is brighter in the Big Ten than in the ACC, Florestano said, "we perceived it that way."

One stumbling block for Maryland was thought to be a financial one. Its athletic department has recently dropped sports programs because of budget concerns, and the ACC recently raised its exit fee to the aforementioned $50 million.

Maryland and Florida State were the only two of the ACC's 12 schools that voted against a $50 million exit fee but lost the vote. Loh was quoted in The Washington Post on Sept. 13 as saying he was against the hike from $20 million to $50 million on "legal and philosophical" grounds.

Under Armour founder and Maryland uber-booster Kevin Plank will not be contributing to the ACC buyout fund, sources tell ESPN. Plank, who started his company during his time as a walk-on with the Terrapins football team, has emerged as the school's biggest booster, and his filing with the Security and Exchange Commission to sell approximately $65 million worth of stock triggered a rumor that it would be earmarked for Maryland. But Plank, who is worth $1.35 billion according to Forbes, is not using the money to support his alma mater.

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 but football. The source said the Big Ten can justify Maryland and then Rutgers because they are in contiguous states to the Big Ten footprint.

Rutgers' impending move to the Big Ten has drawn concern from officials at Navy, which is set to join the Big East as a football-only member in 2015.

"We've said since day one what is important to the Naval Academy is stability. If Rutgers is leaving, as has been widely reported, that would give reason for pause and cause for reevaluation," Navy AD Chet Gladchuk said. "And I say reevaluation, not reconsideration, because conference affiliation is critical to the future of Navy football. What a conference can deliver in terms of television, scheduling and bowl affiliations is very important."

When Maryland and Rutgers join, they will move into the Leaders Division occupied by Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana, Loh told the board of regents. Illinois then would shift from the Leaders to the Legends Division. However, Delany said no decisions on divisions have been made, according to a source.

Maryland Rutgers Big East Conference sources told ESPN that Rutgers will be announced as the 14th member of the Big Ten on Tuesday. The Big Ten's council of presidents unanimously approved Maryland's admission on Monday.

The addition of the two East Coast schools also would dramatically stretch the Big Ten's shadow. With Maryland holding down the Beltway, Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J., offering up the New York market and Penn State's strong eastern ties, the league has a solid anchor in the mid-Atlantic states.

Big Ten member Michigan likes the expanded footprint.

"We have an enormous number of fans and alums in the Baltimore/Washington area," said Michigan AD Dave Brandon. "Our clubs down there are huge and heretofore it was rare that we would ever have an opportunity for our teams to go down there and connect with those fans and supporters. Now the fact that we can go down into that area, (means) a greater presence from a recruiting perspective, connecting with more of our fans and alums."

Maryland becomes 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.

Even though Maryland's basketball program will leave behind rich traditional ACC rivalries with NC State, Duke and North Carolina, coach Mark Turgeon is on board with the move to the Big Ten come 2014-15.

"It doesn't change a thing," Turgeon said by phone Monday. "We're going from one great league to another. I don't see a dramatic change. We're still trying to recruit the best players we can at the highest possible level. We're just going to be in a different league in a couple of years."

In the past few years, the nation's top five conferences -- SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC -- have added 10 members, unleashing a coast-to-coast domino effect on college programs.

With the move of Maryland and pending move by Rutgers, the ACC and Big East are expected to seek replacement teams. Connecticut and Louisville are the most likely candidates to join the ACC, sources said, though school officials said that they had not heard from the ACC as of Sunday night. Syracuse (to the ACC), Pittsburgh (ACC) and West Virginia (Big 12) have negotiated early withdrawals from the Big East in the past year.

An ACC official told ESPN Monday afternoon the league has not contacted or approached any schools about replacing Maryland. Any decision the league's presidents make on future membership will be a "deliberate and strategic assessment of what's best for the conference."

However, the ACC official said the league has been contacted by numerous schools inquiring about joining the league.

Information from ACC football blogger Heather Dinich, ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz, WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein and ESPN Insider Darren Rovell was used in this report.

Brett McMurphy | email

College football reporter

Dana O'Neil | email

College Basketball

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