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More Conference Realignment Expected After Maryland’s Move To Big 10

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Randy Edsall (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Randy Edsall (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Maryland is joining the Big Ten, leaving the
Atlantic Coast Conference in a shocker of a move in the world of
conference realignment.

Maryland will become a Big Ten member starting in 2014. Rutgers
is expected follow suit by Tuesday, splitting from the Big East and
making it an even 14 schools in the Big Ten.

The Terrapins were a charter member of the ACC, which was
founded in 1953.

“Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated
with the University of Maryland,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford
said in a statement. “Since our inception, they have been an
outstanding member of our conference and we are sorry to see them
exit. For the past 60 years the Atlantic Coast Conference has
exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our
foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move
forward.”

There was speculation last week the Big Ten and Maryland were
talking. On Saturday, it became clear the discussions were serious.

The addition of Maryland extends the Big Ten farther east and
south than it ever has been, and gives the conference a presence in
the major media market of Washington. D.C.

Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J., and about 40 miles south of New
York City, gives the Big Ten a member in the country’s largest
media market.

For both schools, the move should come with long-term financial
gain. The Big Ten reportedly paid its members $24.6 million in
shared television and media rights revenues this year.

There will be some financial matters to resolve in the short
term though. After the ACC added Notre Dame as a member in all
sports but football and hockey in September, the league voted to
raise the exit fee to $50 million. Maryland was one of two schools
that voted against the increased exit fee.

The Big East’s exit fee is $10 million, but the league also
requires a 27-month notification period for departing members. That
means Rutgers will not be able to join the Big ten until 2015
without working out some kind of deal with the Big East.

Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have all negotiated early
withdrawals from the Big East in the past year.

The ACC could now be in the market for another member and it
would not be surprising if it looks to the Big East, yet again.
Connecticut would seem a perfect fit after Pitt and Syracuse join
next season.

The Big Ten added Nebraska in 2010 to go to 12 members, and
Delany had given every indication that the conference was happy to
stay at that number. The conference had given no indication it was
in the expansion market.

The question now is whether this sparks more realignment from
conferences that weren’t even affected. The Big 12 has indicated it
is comfortable with its current 10 members, including newcomers
West Virginia and TCU, but there has always been some sentiment
within the conference to at some point go back to 12 –at least.
The Southeastern Conference reached 14 members this season with
the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri.

The Big East, which has plans to become a 12-team, four-time
zone conference next season, could be in real trouble again _
especially if UConn is wooed by the ACC. The Big East was hoping
that adding Boise State and San Diego State, and maybe persuading  BYU to join, would make it a strong enough football conference to
justify its far-flung nature and make up for its lack of
traditional powers and rivalries.

But if it sustains more losses, while it’s trying to negotiate a
pivotal new television deal, will Boise State and San Diego State
renege on their commitments to the Big East?

And will Maryland’s departure spur other ACC schools– such as
Florida State –to eye a new home?

For now, though, Maryland is the latest school to forsake
tradition to potentially gain more revenue. The Terps have mostly
been a middling football program for several decades, though its
men’s basketball teams have been consistently strong, winning a
national title in 2002.

Maryland this year cut seven sports programs because of budget
concerns and has been having a hard time filling its newly
renovated football stadium.
___
AP Sports Essay Writer David Ginsburg in College Park, Md.,
contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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