This past summer, the University of Maryland eliminated seven sports from its shrinking list of NCAA teams. None of them were self-supporting, as is the case with “minor” sports at nearly every institution in the land.
Athletic director Kevin Anderson, fresh on the scene from the U. S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, did the slicing.
Gone were men’s tennis, cross country, indoor track and field, and swimming. The women’s sports that were chopped were swimming, water polo, and acrobatics and tumbling (once called competitive cheer).
Maryland was left with only 20 sports, one of the lowest number offered by any college of Maryland’s size. The enrollment figures at the College Park campus show over 25,000 undergraduate students and over 10,000 graduate students.
Anderson had given those seven sports, along with men’s outdoor track and field, six months for each sport to raise enough money on its own to support the total cost of eight more years of competition. Only men’s outdoor track and field was able to do enough arm twisting and such to temporarily stave off elimination.
Anderson was by no means finished with his belt-tightening and machete swinging.
He and the College Park administration sought an infusion of money that might keep other sports from feeling the new athletic director’s sharp axe.
This is the same Maryland who allowed assistant football coach James Franklin to leave the school to take the head coaching position at Vanderbilt. Franklin had a contract that said if he weren’t given then-coach Ralph “The Fridge” Friedgen’s job by a certain date, he would be owed $1 million by the financially troubled school. Franklin went off to Vandy with Maryland’s million in hand.
The next year, Anderson fired Friedgen after Maryland’s 9-4 record that included a runaway win over East Carolina in the Military Bowl in Washington, D. C. Friedgen was owed $2 million (and got his money) to leave and not coach the Terrapins.
To make the Franklin-Friedgen situations go away, Anderson found the $3 million somewhere.
But Friedgen’s successor, Randy Edsall from Connecticut, took the Terps to a 2-10 record in 2011. Football season ticket sales dwindled. Student interest was waning. Contracts for the Tyser Tower suites at old Byrd Stadium that had been the brainchild of departed (gone to a similar position at North Carolina State) athletic director Debbie Yow went unsigned and unwanted.
Old Byrd Stadium uncomfortably seats 54,000.
Maryland drew an average of 42,000 fans a game here in 2012 as Edsall’s second team doubled its number of wins to finish at 4-8.
Just months ago, the Atlantic Coast Conference put into effect a rule that gave some razor sharp teeth to a clause that dealt with schools leaving the league. The cost of fleeing for other pastures was sent skyrocketing to $50 million. Maryland and Florida State voted against the higher cost, but were easily outvoted by the other schools that had no intention of leaving the ACC.
Anderson and his school’s president and chancellor see the athletic department’s monetary losses extending on into the future.
The football team isn’t any better. The people are staying away from Byrd Stadium in larger numbers.
Where is the revenue going to come from to cover the costs of even such a short number as 20 teams?
Off to the west is the Big 10 Conference and its 12 schools. That league has schools that can cover the television markets in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh areas. There is the Big 10 Network that advances millions of dollars to each member school’s coffers.
But there could be more.
The New York market isn’t much interested. The nearest Big 10 school is Penn State . . . and the Nittanies aren’t much in favor these days after the Jerry Sandusky cesspool.
The Washington, D. C. market isn’t much interested. The nearest Big 10 school is also Penn State. Alumni from the 12 conference schools are thick in the Washington, D. C. area, but their schools are off in Evanston, Madison, Bloomington, East Lansing, and Iowa City.
The Big 10 would like to extend its television and marketing influence into the New York and Washington, D. C. areas.
Maryland needs money to maintain the little it has left.
The Big 10 wants money from the wells in New York and Washington, D. C.
What if Maryland would be interested in joining with Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois and the others?
Maryland would give the Big 10 access to the nation’s capital.
If a football-playing school in the New York area could be found, what a coup the Big 10 could exert on the world of college sports.
Rutgers! Right there in New Jersey, only about 40 miles from the Big City. Bring on the Scarlet Knights to join the Terrapins.
What about the $50 million to leave the ACC? A mere trifling? Piffle? What is that compared to the $3 million wasted to clear up the Franklin-Friedgen situations?
And so, Anderson and company convince their school’s Board of Regents to vote in favor of bringing in the Big 10’s television money.
Won’t the black, yellow, red, and white faithful return to The Byrd when Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin come in every other year? Won’t the Tyser Tower be afloat in champagne, Chivas Regal, and cavier?
With the infusion of Big 10 television money, will Anderson bring back any of the seven discarded sports? Or will the money stream be used to help defray the cost of the $50 million move to the new digs?
It’s “so long” to Duke and North Carolina basketball. So long to Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech football. But also so long to Miami, Boston College, Wake Forest, and North Carolina State, conference rivals that draw little interest in College Park.
Will a rivalry the same as the Terps-Virginia brouhahas be whipped up with Indiana, Iowa, or Illinois? Not likely.
One Franklin was let go to Vanderbilt football.
And now the green and white Franklins ($100 bills) can come floating in from the Big 10 Conference.