COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland’s decision to stay in the Atlantic Coast Conference or join the Big Ten comes down to tradition versus money.
Given the plight of the school’s struggling athletic program, the Terrapins’ stature as a charter member of the ACC may not mean as much as the prospect of playing a home football game against, say, Ohio State, and being part of a league that generates more revenue.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet today to discuss joining the Big Ten. If Maryland approves the move and applies for admission, Rutgers is expected to follow suit and leave the Big East. That would give the Big Ten 14 schools.
An announcement on Maryland’s final decision is expected this week, maybe as soon as today.
The addition of Maryland and Rutgers, located in New Brunswick, N.J., about 40 miles south of New York City, would give the Big Ten an added presence in the East – along with Penn State – and add two huge television markets. Which explains in part why the Big Ten is courting Maryland and offering a fee to join, enough to at least partially offset the $50 million exit fee the ACC approved by vote in September after adding Notre Dame.
By leaving the ACC, Maryland would break ties and rivalries with many schools it has competed against since 1953. There are few bigger college basketball games than Maryland-Duke, and Terrapins fans for decades have made up a decent portion of the crowd at the ACC basketball tournament.
Unfortunately, tradition doesn’t fill the football stadium on Saturdays. Maryland can’t sell out the luxury boxes at the newly renovated Tyser Tower inside Byrd Stadium, and only 35,244 fans showed up Saturday. Maryland (4-7) lost to Florida State 41-14, its fifth straight defeat.
Maryland’s six home games this season averaged 36,022 fans in a stadium that seats 54,000. Home matchups against Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska would surely be sellouts. And, it is entirely possible that the school would consider expanding the on-campus stadium if it joins the Big Ten.