Umd.'s 'big' move [Commentary]

Tuesday, the University of Maryland officially joins the Big Ten athletic conference. This is a winning moment for both athletics and academics at Maryland.

In stadiums, arenas and on the Big Ten Network, new and challenging match-ups will excite Maryland players, fans and supporters. The Terps will compete at the highest level when they play against Ohio State's Buckeyes, Michigan's Wolverines, Penn State's Nittany Lions and other Big Ten teams.


We will welcome to Maryland and to the Baltimore-Washington corridor the thousands of Big Ten fans who travel with their teams, as well as the tens of thousands of Big Ten alumni who already live in the area. Season ticket sales for football are already up.

Membership in the Big Ten will also strengthen Maryland's academics, research and performing arts. This conference is made up almost entirely of large, research-intensive, flagship universities that match the profile and mission of Maryland. They comprise the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, or CIC.


The CIC is like a super-university. We became an active CIC member a year ago. Members share courses, libraries, laboratories, computer networks, overseas study and more.

The pooling of resources by CIC members creates new opportunities. Our students now have direct access to nearly 10 times more library volumes. They take courses offered by member institutions, in person and online. Maryland students and their Big Ten counterparts jointly lobbied Congress in support of financial aid.

In this era of tight budgets in public higher education, schools must "partner or perish" as they pursue academic excellence. Maryland joined other Big Ten schools to commission and produce new plays by American women playwrights. Our scientists participate in CIC-sponsored studies on sports-related concussions. Our faculty does research with Big Ten colleagues in areas such as language acquisition.

CIC members make group purchases of equipment, library materials and services, resulting in efficiencies of scale and substantial cost-savings. Maryland administrators and staff attend CIC-sponsored professional development programs that are among the best anywhere.

Our admissions staff participates with Big Ten counterparts in recruitment fairs around the country. Maryland has attracted more interest and applications from prospective students in the Midwest and the West by being part of the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten is creating a more active East Coast presence. It opened offices in New York City and in Washington, D.C. It added Johns Hopkins University in men's lacrosse and scheduled the first two Big Ten Lacrosse Championships in Maryland. It launched an annual basketball tournament with the Big East Conference in New York. In 2017, its men's basketball tournament will take place in Washington, D.C.

The Big Ten raises the profile and broadens the impact of its member institutions. Maryland fans will be able to follow the Terps on the Big Ten Network, which reaches scores of millions of homes in the United States and abroad.

Tuesday, Maryland's self-supporting athletics program gets on the road that will lead to a financially sustainable future. In 2011, the athletics program reported a large operating deficit that was several years in the making. This deficit was projected to mushroom in the coming years — putting at risk the entire program — unless we cut expenses and increased revenues of our athletics operations.


We made the painful decision to cut seven teams. After the athletic program achieves financial stability, Maryland's share of Big Ten revenues will make possible investments in scholarships and programs that will better support our student-athletes, on and off the field.

When Maryland joined the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) as a charter member in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower was president, color TVs were just hitting the market, and segregated schools were lawful.

A lot has changed since then. The world of college sports has changed. Maryland has changed. After 61 years, we leave the ACC with vivid memories of historical rivalries and with pride in the conference championships won. We wish the ACC well.

By joining the Big Ten and the CIC, the University of Maryland is positioning itself to excel in athletic competition and academic collaborations in the 21st century.

Wallace D. Loh is president of the University of Maryland. He may be reached at or on twitter @presidentloh.

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