SBD/November 21, 2012/Colleges

Maryland President's Legacy Likely Defined By Move From ACC To Big Ten

Loh defends move as needed to preserve "Maryland athletics as we know it"
The Univ. of Maryland's decision to move to the Big Ten "is so large ... that it seems likely to define" UM President Wallace Loh's tenure at the school, "for better or worse," according to a front-page piece by Childs Walker of the Baltimore SUN. Loh "harbors no illusions about the short-term reviews from students and fans, many of which have been scathing." But he has "cast the decision as a test of leadership, one in which he had to focus on the long-term health of the university rather than immediate emotions about athletic rivalries." Loh said, "I want to leave a legacy where, for decades to come, long after I'm gone, presidents will not have to sit around wondering whether Maryland athletics as we know it can survive." Walker reports some observers gave Loh "credit for moving boldly in the face of inevitable backlash." However, some criticism Monday "focused on the rapidity of Loh's decision, with even state regents such as former Maryland basketball star Tom McMillen saying the university community never got a proper chance to weigh in." Loh made it "clear that he deliberately brought negotiations to a point of near completion before news of the possible move spread." He said, "Leadership on major public issues cannot be conducted in the public limelight." Walker notes prior to Monday's announcement, Loh "secured support from key donors, politicians and campus figures, at least to the extent that none blasted the move publicly" (Baltimore SUN, 11/21).

PAYING THE BILLS: In DC, Deron Snyder writes UM "has a rich history in the ACC," but "nostalgia and tradition -- like aura and mystique -- don’t pay any bills." More money, "potentially loads of it, might not be the only reason to give up charter membership in the ACC." But it is "the best reason" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/21). A Baltimore SUN editorial states UM's move is "probably the best choice for the school." When critics claim "it's all about the money," they are "exactly right." Membership in the Big Ten is "far more lucrative than the ACC because the TV broadcast rights are more valuable." Fans have "fond memories of some amazing ACC games in various sports, men's and women's, but the Big Ten is no slouch." Nearly lost in the "kerfuffle are the academic advantages offered by Big Ten membership" (Baltimore SUN, 11/21). A Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER editorial states "universities and conferences are prisoner to the dollar." TV networks "call most of the shots" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/21).

BRANDO SLAMS BIG TEN: CBS Sports Network's Tim Brando appeared on SiriusXM's Paul Finebaum show on Monday and said Big Ten execs are "too busy worrying about their next $8.6 billion deal and their next big market breakthrough for their cable networks to be concerned with the betterment of the game." Brando: "All those commissioners care about is their own cash flow. ... This is again what’s wrong with what’s taking place in intercollegiate athletics. The priorities are completely screwed up. Someone should be looking out for the betterment of the totality of the game of football, the financial bell cow of their beloved intercollegiate athletics, home to all of their student athletes. Instead, they’re in the business of trying to clear markets for regional cable networks and get their financial landscape and footprint out to a different market. It’s just obscene what’s taking place here" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/20).

WERE MEETING LAWS BROKEN? In DC, Jenna Johnson notes UM's public governing board "went into 'emergency' mode and met twice in secret to decide whether it would endorse the change." Legal experts said that those meetings -- "unannounced and entirely out of public view -- appear to have been in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act." UM officials said that they "were unable to produce documentation related to the closed sessions because such documents weren’t created 'due to the emergency nature' of the task at hand" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/21).
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