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Maryland leaves ACC for Big Ten

By Chip Alexander
calexander@newsobserver.com

For only the second time in its history, the Atlantic Coast Conference is losing a charter member.

The University of Maryland formally announced Monday that it will leave the ACC for the Big Ten Conference.

"Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated with the University of Maryland," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "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.”

The move to the Big Ten was approved Monday in a meeting of the university system board of regents in Baltimore. Former Terps basketball star Tom McMillen, a member of the board, told the Washington Post that he voted against the move.

Maryland's move is not effective until the 2014-2015 school year. Rutgers also is expected to join the Big Ten.

N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien said Monday that the move "caught a lot of people by surprise."

"Each school is intent on doing what's best for itself," O'Brien said. "Obviously Maryland felt that was best in moving forward."

Maryland leaving the ACC, in large part, is being made to shore up a financially struggling athletic department. Maryland eliminated seven varsity sports this year and the athletic department has a large financial deficit.

The Big Ten, bolstered by the ultra-successful Big Ten Network, has become a financial powerhouse. The conference distributed $24 million to most of its 12 shools this year.

"We will be able to insure the financial sustainability of the University of Maryland athletics," Maryland president Wallace Loh said at a news conference Monday.

The ACC, with a new 15-year, $3.6 billion contract with ESPN signed in May, should pay out roughly $15 million a year to its schools.

Maryland chancellor William E. (Brit) Kirwan said there was a possibility the Terps would reinstate the sports eliminated with the added resources.

"I think it's ridiculous, it's a mistake," former Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driesell said Monday. "But at Maryland it's always about the money. This was done solely for money and that's not what college athletics is all about."

The ACC has a $50 million exit fee, but Maryland could negotiate a lower fee, ESPN reported. Maryland and Florida State were the two ACC schools who opposed boosting the exit fee from $20 million to $50 million.

Loh said the "exit sum," as he put it, would be "discussed in private" with the ACC.

Maryland was one of eight charter members when the ACC was formed on May 8, 1953. Before Monday, the only school to withdraw from the conference was the University of South Carolina in 1971.

"The is a watershed moment for the University of Maryland," Loh said. "It marks a new day, a new chapter for the university. I decided to do what's best for the University of Maryland in the long haul.

"I'm aware many Terrapin fans are stunned and saddened. It's no different than leaving the Southern Conference (in 1953). We will always cherish the rivalries and memories we have of the ACC."

The ACC in September announced that Notre Dame would join the league in all sports but football and hockey. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving the Big East after this year to join the ACC.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, asked Saturday about Maryland's possible defection from the ACC, told The Chicago Tribune it would have "absolutely zero impact" on the Irish's decision.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the league's 12 presidents were "giddy" about inviting Maryland. He said the move was part of the "paradigm shift" in college athletics that has "all major conferences slightly outside their footprints."

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