Maryland will make nearly $100 million more during its first six years in the Big Ten than if it had remained in the ACC, according to internal emails. Financial stability was a major impetus for the move.
But Maryland officials had pledged to the Big Ten to keep details of the negotiation private. So, when facing early criticism about the move from boosters and fans, the school said it was unable to provide specifics about the financial benefits.
On Nov. 18, 2012, Kirwan wrote in an email to an official in Loh's office: "I'm in no way suggesting it but if people begin to feel the emotional price and turmoil is too high, there is an easy exit."
Kirwan said last week that the email comment came after word of the move had been reported by the media, but before the deal was completed.
"I was just reflecting the fact that until Wallace signed on the dotted line, there was no move," Kirwan said. "If people began to feel the price was too heavy to pay in terms of relationships within the University of Maryland family, there was no obligation to go forward with it."
Kirwan said he is now confident that the decision "was the right one in my view, and I think subsequent events and growing fan support have proven that to be the case."
The emails acquired by The Sun — some of which were redacted to hide information deemed by the state attorney general's office as privileged — contained other noteworthy items:
• At the time of the decision, financially strapped Maryland considered taking out a $30 million loan. The school is potentially facing a $52 million fee for leaving the ACC, and the purpose of the loan would have been "to offset the exit fee," according to a November 2012 email from Thomas Faulk, of the state attorney general's office, to Kirwan and Shea.
"I think it did come up as a possibility, that's my recollection," Shea said this week. "I think that was bandied about."
But the loan option was not finalized, school officials said, and no exit fee has yet been paid. Maryland has challenged the validity of the fee in court.
• After the Big Ten decision was finalized, Shea expressed concern about Maryland's "toxic" fan culture during some ACC games and said he hoped the atmosphere would improve in the Big Ten.
"For some time, I have been bothered that these 'traditional rivalries' have provoked toxic reactions from abusive language at the games to riots and car burnings after victories," the regents board chair said in an email to Kirwan. "Maybe the most significant result will be that we have disrupted the fan base and that a new base, equally dedicated to excellence and success but more civilized, will take its place."
Shea said in an interview this week: "While there are a lot of great things about those [ACC] rivalries, my thought then was, 'Well maybe we can improve.'"
Kirwan, the former president of Maryland and Ohio State, said Terps fans' behavior at some games "concerns all of us. Having been in the Big Ten, I don't ever recall an issue of decorum. And I don't know a rivalry that is more intense than Michigan and Ohio State in football."
• Kirwan wrote in an email to Shea and Gossett that he was "mortified" that the Board of Regents violated the state's open meetings law. The regents had convened to discuss the Big Ten offer. Officials acknowledged afterward that they had broken state law by failing to notify the public about the details of the meeting.
"In the rush to pull things together no notice was sent out about Sunday's or Monday's meeting," Kirwan wrote to Shea and others on Nov. 20, 2012. "I am mortified that this occurred."
• Kirwan and other top officials hope the University of Maryland, Baltimore can become a member of the Big Ten's academic consortium. The Committee on Institutional Collaboration allows its 15 members — including the Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago — to share opportunities for research and studying abroad.
"I don't think that issue [of UMB membership] has been broached yet," Kirwan said. "It would be my hope that maybe that someday could occur."
Kirwan said in emails that the consortium was a major selling point in the school's decision to join the Big Ten.
"There was less and less identity with the [ACC] schools, other than in athletics," Kirwan wrote in an email to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a research and watchdog group he co-chairs. "The Big Ten, on the other hand, is a conference of peers, major public [Association of American Universities] research universities, plus Northwestern."
Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker contributed to this article.