SBD/November 21, 2012/Colleges

ACC Blindsided By Maryland's Departure, Found Out Through Media Reports

Swofford made repeated attempts to contact UM officials but never heard back
ACC Commissioner John Swofford was “blindsided" by the Univ. of Maryland’s move to the Big Ten, according to sources cited by Mark Giannotto of the WASHINGTON POST. ACC officials found out UM President Wallace Loh "was in talks with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany only through media reports Friday and Saturday, and Swofford never heard back from any officials in College Park despite repeated attempts to contact them throughout the weekend.” Loh, one of “two ACC university presidents to vote against raising the exit fee in September, indicated Monday he hoped to negotiate with the ACC” regarding the school's $50M exit fee. But sources said that the league will “try to force Maryland to pay the full amount because its legal counsel is ‘very confident that the exit fee is legally binding.’” Giannotto reports Swofford on Sunday “convened a conference call with the ACC’s presidents to discuss the likelihood” that UM was leaving. The question Swofford posed to his constituents “was how to move forward and avoid getting poached again, especially when it comes to appeasing football-first schools.” A source said the ACC plans to act in a “deliberate and strategic” manner. The ACC was “aware of some potential options, including Connecticut and Louisville, because, as Swofford noted, ‘a number of schools’ expressed interest in joining the league last September, when it added Syracuse and Pittsburgh” (WASHINGTON POST, 11/21).

WHO'S ON DECK? In Louisville, Himmelsbach & Gerth note Univ. of Louisville President James Ramsey on Tuesday “held an impromptu news conference at Louisville International Airport, saying he would welcome the chance to join the ACC.” He said that UL “had not had direct contact with the league.” The “impending race to become the ACC’s 14th team has stirred debate about the importance of market size, academic profile, geography and an athletic program’s success” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 11/21). In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes while UL “might have a Top 25 football program and one of the best men's basketball programs in the country, UConn happens to carry a significant advantage where it matters most.” The Hartford-New Haven market is “ranked No. 30 in the country by Nielsen, with 996,500 TV homes,” while Louisville comes in at No. 48 with 670,880 TV homes. With the Big East “struggling to remain prosperous -- Rutgers made its move to the Big Ten official Tuesday -- both UConn and Louisville are likely looking for a life raft” (COURANT.com, 11/20).

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? In Annapolis, Bill Wagner notes Navy AD Chet Gladchuk “expressed concern" about Rutgers' move from the Big East to the Big Ten and noted it would "require further investigation.” Navy is scheduled to join the Big East in '15 in football, and Gladchuk said, “When we made the decision to join the Big East there were certain conditions and tenets that were critical factors. In light of any possible changes in conference membership, we need to revisit those assurances to determine how they play out to the benefit of the Naval Academy” (Annapolis CAPITAL GAZETTE, 11/20). In Boise, Brian Murphy cites Boise State Univ. and San Diego State Univ. officials as saying that they “remain committed" to the Big East. The two schools are “scheduled to join the Big East on July 1 as part of the league’s overhaul.” SDSU AD Jim Sterk said, “I can say the Big East took a hit. It may take some others, but I can tell you the league will continue to be strong.” Murphy notes the Big East is “currently negotiating a new television contract,” and the departure of Rutgers Univ. and “its access to the New York City market will have an impact on those talks, as could the potential loss of Louisville or Connecticut.” Still, Sterk said that the Big East “offers more in terms of exposure and television revenue than the Mountain West would” (IDAHO STATESMAN, 11/21). Sterk stressed that he has “has not even bothered to check what the Aztecs’ exit clause is in their contract with the Big East” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRUBUNE, 11/21). In San Diego, Matt Calkins writes under the header, “Big East Still The Right Move For Aztecs” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/21).

BIG EAST AGAIN AT A CROSSROADS: SI.com’s Pete Thamel wrote Rutgers' departure “combined with the possibility of the ACC grabbing either Connecticut or Louisville puts the league at a dangerous crossroads.” Big East and TV industry execs have “long identified the potential loss of Louisville and Connecticut as a tipping point for the Big East's basketball schools to break away from their football partners and form a league of their own.” However, there has been “no significant movement toward secession.” Thamel wrote the “general attitude among Big East athletic directors at the so-called ‘basketball schools’ is to wait and see the caliber of television deal the Big East can attract and then plot a move from there” (SI.com, 11/20). In Newark, Brendan Prunty writes the spotlight is falling on the remaining Big East schools, especially the "seven without Division 1 football programs.” The possibility of more changes exist, and with football the “driving factor for realignment, those on the outside without football programs appear helpless to stop it.” A source said that the remaining schools in the Big East are “content with staying put" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/21).
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