In a day and age of PR coaches, talking points, and plain out right lies it was clearly refreshing to see what we witnessed on Monday afternoon in College Park, MD as University of Maryland President Dr. Wallace Loh gave a refreshing breath of honesty and truth in what was his reasoning behind Maryland's official move to the Big Ten.
The Terps won't officially be Big Ten members until July 1st, 2014 but the benefits of membership will be immediately felt in more than just what's happening on the football field or basketball court. For Dr. Loh and the University System of Maryland it's all about the money, but not in the context you and I are used to hearing that in.
"Today is a watershed moment for the University of Maryland," said university president Wallace D. Loh. "Membership in the Big Ten Conference is in the strategic interest of the University of Maryland. It will not only ensure the financial vitality of Maryland Athletics for decades to come, but the extensive opportunities in the CIC for collaborations with our peer AAU and flagship universities in education, research, and innovation will boost the University of Maryland's ascendancy in academic excellence."
Normally when we're talking about a move being all about the money, it's about a university's athletic department getting richer and richer. In this case it's a university that is taking a completely different approach - having a viable athletic department serve the university and not the other way around. Dr. Loh said as much in the press conference today.
Additionally unique is the fact that Loh clearly stated that some of the money raised in this move will directly go towards benefiting the academic culture of the university as a whole, in particular funding scholarships to make college more affordable for all students wanting to attend the university.
It's a unique and refreshing change for the President and even the athletic director sit on a stage and tell the public that they are having money issues and that this move is about making sure the university and the athletic department aren't ever in this position again. Normally you'd get just a bland answer about being excited (cue Tim Tebow press conference...) and the like, but this was about as candid as I've ever seen in one of these.
That alone is refreshing, but the other story is the fact that clearly this want to expand also came about because of major frustrations, frustrations and sadness over having to cut seven programs and do so to the players and coaches faces.
“For me, the most important thing today is that no future Maryland athletic director will ever have to look in young men and young women’s eyes and say that you can’t compete anymore, that you can’t wear the colors for this school,” Maryland AD Kevin Anderson said. He also indicated that part of the money added to the athletic department will go towards getting at least some if not all of those sports that were cut back.
On a purely athletic basis some have questioned why make the move away from a major conference you helped to fund? Well, once again we got a huge dose of honesty in answering that question directly.
“Most people, when they first hear about it, think, ‘Why would you do it? It doesn’t make sense?’” University System of Maryland chancellor William "Britt" Kirwan said. “But the more you think about it and understand the advantages and think about the way the world’s changing, and the ACC isn’t the ACC any more.”
At the end of all of this the answer to the question why on both sides of the equation has a very simple answer: The future. Maryland is protecting it's long term financial future and the Big Ten is looking towards it's financial, recruiting, and demographic future while maintaining it's emphasis on tradition as well.
When the end sum of the move equals a win to both sides you have a successful move 9 times out of 10. After today it's becoming more clear that this move just makes sense.