Maryland moves to Big Ten; Rutgers expected to follow

Maryland's Stefon Diggs, left, and Anthony Nixon lead Maryland's Stefon Diggs, left, and Anthony Nixon lead the team onto the field before the start of the game with Florida State at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md. (Nov. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: MCT

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The game of conference musical chairs that has realigned college sports took another dramatic turn Monday when Maryland's Board of Regents voted unanimously to accept an invitation to become the Big Ten's 13th member.

But the departure of an original member of the ACC only was the start; Maryland's decision is expected to trigger Rutgers announcing Tuesday that it is leaving the Big East to join the Big Ten, too, giving that conference 14 teams.

Losing Rutgers is another blow to the beleaguered Big East and comes at a sensitive time, with negotiations ongoing with potential television partners on a new set of contracts.

TV contracts, as usual, were a driving force behind the latest conference upheaval. As Big Ten members, Maryland and Rutgers will have access to revenues that include a share from the Big Ten Network, which helped each conference school earn about $25 million from TV and other media rights deals this year alone.

What does the Big Ten get? Access to the New York, New Jersey, Baltimore and D.C. markets, and the ability to seek higher fees and wider distribution for its TV network.

Rutgers football is not a major attraction in New York, a market that focuses on pro sports and little on college football, so it isn't clear how much negotiating leverage the school's presence will provide.

The departure of Maryland from the ACC, which it joined as a charter member in 1953, could lead to more trouble for the Big East, because several of its current members are potential targets to replace the Terrapins in the ACC.

Maryland theoretically owes a $50-million exit fee to the ACC, but that could be negotiated down before it leaves officially in the summer of 2014. Rutgers would owe the Big East $10 million. Technically, it would not be able to leave for 27 months, but it likely can negotiate an earlier exit.

Maryland president Wallace Loh cited the school's budget woes in moving to the Big Ten, which will "ensure the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for decades to come."

Rutgers and Maryland do not regularly sell out home football games, but both could benefit from visits from big-name football schools.

The Big Ten Network is owned by the conference and by Fox, which is deep in negotiations to buy a minority stake in the YES Network.

Owning pieces of YES and the Big Ten Network would allow Fox to leverage those outlets and others in negotiating distribution, a crucial piece of the sports revenue system.

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