By Chris Korman
12:07 PM EST, December 6, 2012
Maryland has yet to respond to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s pre-emptive lawsuit seeking to force the school to pay a $52 million exit fee as it prepares to join the Big Ten Conference.
Not that university president Wallace D. Loh has ever wavered in his belief that the increased fee would be interpreted as a punishment by the courts and therefore an illegal restraint of trade. He was one of two ACC presidents who voted against its implementation in September.
He’s got an ally in that belief. Speaking at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York City yesterday, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said he did not feel the payment could be enforced.
Later at the same event, former Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow -- who has been blamed for creating the deficits that caused seven Terps teams to be cut, pushing Loh to seek a more lucrative conference affiliation -- said what many detractors of the move to the Big Ten have said: “Hope that money is really good."
Maryland delegate Pat McDonough, a Republican representing the state’s seventh district, has also questioned whether Maryland will actually see the potential windfall suggested by Loh in explaining the move. McDonough will hold a news conference on the matter at 1 p.m. today, but he has already outlined his reservations.
In a news release, he said he was “not sure” whether the move would be productive.
“Without transparency, how do we know the real financial numbers involved?” he said in the release.
And then: “The principals who negotiated this deal claim that it will be a money maker. This legislation will hold them to their word.”
McDonough says he will file legislation that would prevent taxpayer funds from being used to pay for any part of the move to the Big Ten, including refilling the athletic departments depleted coffers or building new facilities required to keep up with “Big Ten standards.”
“I sincerely hope this new move by the University of MD is a big success,” he said. “However, the deal was made in secret, the numbers were never publicly crunched, and the fans were left out in the cold. This legislation will guarantee that the taxpayers will not pay for this decision with new money that is not already in the University of Maryland’s current budget.”
Loh has already said that Maryland’s athletic department will foot the bill for the $52 million exit fee (presumably through a fundraising push). The school has said facility enhancements are likely, but have cast those plans as a result of the new Big Ten money coming in, not as work that needed to be done to gain entrance into the conference.
Elsewhere in realignment lawsuit news, Big Ten-bound Rutgers has gone on the offensive, filing a breach of contract suit against the conference it is spurning, the Big East. The suit claims Rutgers should not have to pay a $10 million exit fee or wait 27 months, as stipulated by the conference agreement, because the Big East failed to uphold those demands when other schools left. Rutgers is also seeking additional money it says the Big East should have shared, including funds from exit fees paid by those other schools.
Meanwhile, both Maryland and Rutgers accepted invitations to join the Committee on Institutional Cooperation -- the academic arm of the Big Ten -- starting in July, a year before their sports teams start playing in the conference.
Maryland officials have touted membership in the CIC as a significant boost for the university.
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