COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University System of Maryland's Board of Regents has been told that Maryland is in serious discussions to join the Big Ten, and board members plan to meet as soon as Monday to discuss the proposed move, according to two sources with knowledge of the talks.
Also, ESPN reported on Saturday that if Maryland goes from the ACC to the Big Ten, Rutgers of the Big East is expected to follow suit. The addition of the two 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.
The Maryland regents were told about the talks this weekend but had not received a written presentation as of early Saturday night. Not all of the regents favor leaving the ACC, and there is expected to be a lively debate, said one official who declined to be named because the matter is ongoing.
Maryland has a long tradition with the ACC and is one of seven original conference members.
But with more than seven million people in the greater Baltimore-Washington market, the area has long drawn interest from various conferences.
Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said in 2011: “We're very satisfied with our membership in the ACC.” Part of that was based on the school's perception that the ACC, which had a new television deal with ESPN, is not in danger of collapse.
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Anderson declined requests for comment on Saturday.
Maryland — which in recent years has favored ACC expansion — has long hoped that the conference might improve its football profile. That, in turn, could help generate interest in Maryland's own football program, elevating recruiting and attendance. The Big Ten also has a more lucrative television arrangement than the ACC that includes its own network — an important fiscal consideration for Maryland.
The ACC announced in September that football heavyweight Notre Dame would jump to the conference and scheduled more football games with ACC members. But Notre Dame retained its football independence.
A source told ESPN that the Big Ten has been itchy about further expansion since Notre Dame made its move official two months ago. The source told ESPN the Big Ten can justify Maryland and then possibly Rutgers since they are all contiguous states to the Big Ten footprint.
The possibility of Maryland's leaving the ACC has been a much-discussed topic among Maryland boosters and fans in recent years. After a 2010 report chronicling Big Ten interest, many associated with Maryland expressed reservations about schools bolting conferences for the lure of higher annual payouts from television revenue and other sources. The concern was also expressed that traditional ACC basketball rivalries would end and that more extended conference travel would mean more time away from class for athletes.
In September, Maryland voted against the ACC's plan to increase its exit fee to about $50 million. Maryland considered such a steep fee to be punitive.
“I'm concerned about the buyout and what implications it might have,” former Maryland basketball star Len Elmore said Saturday after news of the Big Ten talks broke.
Elmore, also a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a watchdog group, said: “Everything must change, but the ACC has been about tradition. Just to walk away from that for the money ...”