Maryland officially announced its move to the Big Ten at a press conference in College Park earlier today, attended by University President Wallace Loh, Chancellor Brit Kirwan, AD Kevin Anderson, and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, as well as every program's coach. Each gave a quick speech on the topic, before turning to a question-and-answer session - both segments included some very interesting soundbites.
A quick roundup of quotes and reactions, if you missed it:
- Loh started things off by talking about the financial impact, making it clear that money was the bottom line here. He often talked about the bonus the university itself would achieve by earmarking some of that money for academics or by associating with the CIC, but how he started the presser was telling: "Membership in the Big Ten enables us to truly guarantee the financial stability of Maryland athletics for a long, long time."
- Both Loh and Anderson expressed great regret at needing to cut sports last season, and claimed that avoiding that in the future was one of their primary drivers. It was also revealed that they're in the process of reinstating some of the sports that were cut; the Commission on ICA will be brought back together to make the final call on which. But that's a big move that is both the right thing to do and will help with PR, winning over some detractors.
- Another big point from Loh was increasing student-athlete quality of life. He cited that Maryland was last in the ACC in per-athlete spending before he arrived, and claimed that the revenue from the Big Ten will help alleviate that and give student-athletes more and higher-quality resources. Again, this is a very important factor that many people probably overlooked but, when presented with it, may understand the motivation.
- Delany came off as calm and competent, and took pains to make Maryland feel welcome. He refused to answer questions about speculation over Rutgers, claiming this to be "Maryland's day." In an effort to alleviate concerns about geography and culture, he revealed that the Big Ten will open East Coast offices, with a money quote that stands in contrast to John Swofford's ACC culture: "You're not joining a Midwestern conference. We're moving here. We're opening up offices on the East Coast. We're not asking you to become us - we're asking you to allow us to partner with you."
Oh, and this: "Some people fear the turtle. Well, we're embracing the turtle." Cute, Jim. Have you hugged a turtle today?
- This was very much the Loh show, though, and he impressed when he pressed on certain issues about alumni dissatisfaction and money-grabbing. On the former matter, he replied: "Leadership is not exercised in the public limelight, putting your finger in the air and judging the wind. It's about doing what's best for the University. ... We need to be ahead of change, rather than have change to overwhelm us." And on the latter, he made a compelling case that many fans needed to hear: "It's never just about the money, but somebody has to pay the bills. And the issue at hand is the long-term viability of Maryland athletics." He earlier mentioned that the athletic department is presently living "paycheck-to-paycheck."
Reading in-between the lines, that "pay the bills" line is pretty damning: clearly the ACC wasn't doing it, and nor was attendance at football games or donations. So a different tactic had to be taken.
All in all, he did very well, much more in command, assertive, and genuine than he has been in the past. It really did give off the vibe that, for right or for wrong, he genuinely believes this to be the right path for the University to take.
- Brit Kirwan mentioned that the Board of Regents vote was "like 90%" in favor of the move. The math says that's one dissenter (maybe two, depending on rounding). MCMILLLLLLLLLLEEENNNNNNNNN!
- Much ado was made about the $50 million "exit sum" from the ACC, with Loh reasserting that he believed it wouldn't hold up in court. They refused to go into details, only saying that it's a matter to be worked out between the conference and the University, but that they could certainly pay the full exit fee if it came to that. (Not that I would expect them to.)
When a link to the video goes up, I'll update and include it.