Maryland set to enter 'a new world' in the Big Ten Conference

COLLEGE PARK — — Goodbye, Blue Devils, Cavaliers and Tar Heels. Farewell to Duke's venerable Cameron Indoor Stadium, to the 85-year football rivalry with Virginia and to myriad trips to destinations characterized by sweet tea and Southern drawls.

On Tuesday, the University of Maryland officially leaves the North Carolina-based Atlantic Coast Conference for the more prosperous Big Ten Conference, a Midwest-oriented league known for its football heritage and expanding television network.


So many changes are in store for Maryland, and obstacles remain — notably, the ACC's lingering legal effort to force the school to pay a $52.2 million exit fee. But the school says the transition is on track, from the celebratory events planned to details as small as the dozens of ACC marks and logos that need replacing.

"There was a strong attachment to the ACC, which is understandable. It still is bittersweet," Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said of leaving the ACC, of which Maryland was one of seven original members in 1953. "But now people realize what the Big Ten has to offer us."


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 obtained last year under a public-records request. Financial stability was a major impetus for the move.

The school will celebrate the transition with an apparel launch in Baltimore on Monday, a "block party" that night in Washington and an on-campus celebration Tuesday, in which a new Big Ten-themed ice cream flavor will be unveiled.

Meanwhile, coaches are wrapping their minds around how the move will affect their teams on the field, as well as scheduling and recruiting. There is no single adjustment strategy; --- each team's circumstances are different.

'Kind of eye-opening'

The conference shift has so many implications that Maryland has formed seven work groups to study different areas.

There is the cultural challenge of assimilating into a conference boasting fan bases who fill football stadiums with nearly twice the capacity of Maryland's.

There are new travel demands for athletes, new eligibility rules for athletes' enrollment, enlarged television revenue, and an academic consortium allowing 15 members — the Big Ten schools plus the University of Chicago — to share opportunities for research and studying abroad.

Even tasks such as finding all of the campus' ACC logos, some in obscure locations, have proved challenging.


"It's been really kind of eye-opening, the number of ACC marks," said Maryland associate athletic director for administration Ryan Bowles, who has helped oversee the transition. "We were looking in the stadium the other day and found one or two that we missed."

Gone is the "ACC" that appeared in red block letters crossing the 25-yard lines of Byrd Stadium. It has been replaced by the Big Ten's "B1G" symbol. Also erased is the white "ACC" mark inside the red lanes of Comcast Center's basketball court and the logos of every ACC school once prominently displayed across a white wall in the office of men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon.

The Big Ten is interested in adding Maryland — and New Jersey-based Rutgers, which also joins the conference this week — because it gives the league a stronger foothold in the East Coast and an opportunity to expand its brand into the lucrative Washington and New York TV markets.

Maryland hopes to use the conference switch to build its fan base, its athletic fundraising and its imprint on the region. The school is only two years removed from cutting seven varsity teams because of severe, lingering budget issues.

Maryland is counting on a major attendance boost in football — it won't estimate how large — by replacing its traditional ACC foes with nationally prominent teams such as Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. Maryland believes those schools' appearances will not only excite Terps fans but draw thousands of visiting teams' backers to College Park as well.

As of the middle this month, Maryland said it had sold 20,096 season tickets for football, a 25 percent increase from a year earlier. It also has commitments for 55 of its 63 luxury suites. The school says it is holding four suites open for single-game sales and is "in conversation" with prospective customers for the remaining four. Slow suite sales hurt the school financially in the years after their September 2009 opening.


Anticipating more fans, the school hopes to upgrade its game-day experience and wants to expand the parking lot for recreational vehicles, Bowles said.

Maryland is considering displaying the flags of all the Big Ten schools at Byrd Stadium, Bowles added, which the school hadn't done with its ACC opponents. Maryland also is considering following the lead of most Big Ten schools by charging a fee to attend some so-called Olympic sports, such as volleyball and wrestling.

"We have not made any final decisions," Bowles said.

'Like taking a new job'

Terps women's basketball coach Brenda Frese acknowledges that next season will feel strange, after more than a decade coaching in the ACC.

"It's like taking a new job, in a way," she said. "After 12 years, you definitely know all the tendencies and the coaching styles. But really, it will be no different than what we go through preparing for our nonconference opponents. It will be exciting."


Like many fans, Frese and Turgeon initially opposed the Big Ten move, according to emails obtained last year, but they say they're now on board.

Longtime Terps fan Bob Mitchell, chief executive officer of a home-building company, said he loved and will miss the rivalries Maryland developed in the ACC with Duke and other schools.

"I have little choice but to come to grips with [the conference move] because it's a done deal," said Mitchell, who once headed a men's basketball team support group called FOG (Friends of Gary), named for longtime coach Gary Williams, who retired in 2011.

Frese said her staff won't begin detailed scouting of Big Ten opponents until the season is underway. The conference's footprint is familiar territory for Frese, who grew up an ardent Iowa fan and made her coaching reputation at Midwestern schools, including Big Ten member Minnesota.

Football coach Randy Edsall, who favored the Big Ten move immediately, said his offseason — and that of his staff — has been complicated by the move.

In a typical ACC year, "We'd only maybe prepare the first three game plans [for the season's opponents] and maybe take a look at the other people," the coach said.


This year, nearly all the opponents are unfamiliar. Edsall said the staff "has had a very busy June" watching game film of opponents and beginning to plan.

Maryland has expanded its recruiting into the Midwest, and Edsall said the Big Ten has considerable cachet for coveted high school players.

Part of the appeal for recruits, Edsall said, is the Big Ten Network, which reaches 52 million homes. The ACC does not have its own network.

Fan message boards are filled with discussion about whether the Terps can compete in a storied football conference.

"The biggest concern with all of our followers is can we compete right away with the Big Ten," Anderson said. "I'm including football, basketball — everything. I wouldn't have been supportive of this move had I not thought that we could go and be competitive at the highest level with all these schools."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany predicts Maryland will grow into the Big Ten. The school is planning an indoor practice facility it believes it needs to compete successfully in football.


"When you see Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State coming in, you'll have great competition, and Maryland will have its fair share of success and — as it develops more resources — I think it will have more than its fair share of success," Delany said. "It takes time. I don't think it will happen in 12 months, but in time, there will be a melding, like there was with Penn State."

Maryland has acknowledged that lacrosse initially had been a concern during negotiations with the Big Ten in fall 2012. The school wanted to be sure that the men's and women's lacrosse teams — which are annually among its strongest programs — would face adequate competition. Next season will mark the Big Ten's first in men's and women's lacrosse.

A long road

Men's lacrosse coach John Tillman said his most important challenge is scheduling. He used to count on games against top ACC opponents such as Duke, Virginia and North Carolina to hone his team for postseason play. The Big Ten slate will feature tough opponents such as Johns Hopkins and Ohio State, but it won't present the same level of challenge.

In response, Tillman said he's attempting to pack tough nonconference games into the earlier part of the schedule. "We really have to think about the pros and cons of every game on our schedule," he said. "Our goal every year is to play in the postseason, and to get there, we have to play and beat quality teams. So we have to be very strategic about it."

Maryland's first in-conference competition as a Big Ten member will come Sept. 12, when the women's soccer team hosts Rutgers and the men's soccer team visits Michigan.


Every Maryland team will face new travel demands. The school projected the cost of sending its teams halfway across the country — as far away as Lincoln, Neb. (1,054 miles) — to approximately double its travel budget.

Last year, The Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland's Big Ten deal includes not only the lucrative annual payouts that all members receive but also a subsidy in the range of $20 million to $30 million to offset athletic teams' anticipated higher travel costs.

Neither the school nor the Big Ten will provide further details.

For legal reasons, Maryland said it also won't comment on the continuing litigation in which the ACC hopes to compel the school to pay a $52.2 million exit fee.

Maryland has challenged the fee on antitrust and other grounds. Maryland has accused the ACC of seeking to withhold information related to the fee, along with more than $20 million in shared conference revenue.

The ACC argues that the increase is valid and enforceable and that, by withholding money, it is merely trying to ensure the fee is paid.


Maryland officials say they're trying to look ahead.

Last October, Bowles said he met with athletic department staff members as they began to work on a number of transition items.

"I started with a map showing where all the schools were," Bowles said. "Quite honestly, it's a new world for us."

Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.