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Reports: Big Ten may get bigger

In Jim Delany's world, "very pleased" might not mean "completely satisfied."

The Big Ten commissioner appeared to close the door on expansion in September, saying: "We are very pleased with both our current conference membership and our conference structure."

After all, adding Nebraska gave the league a historically successful national brand and allowed it to create the lucrative ($24 million per year from Fox) Big Ten football title game.

But ESPN and several newspapers reported Saturday that the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents has been told that Maryland is in serious discussions to join the Big Ten. The Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun reported that board members plan to meet as soon as Monday.

ESPN reported that Maryland president Wallace Loh has been dealing with Big Ten representatives.

The move, which could also lead to Rutgers leaving the Big East and joining the Big Ten as a 14th member, would be a stunner on multiple levels.

Maryland is one of the ACC's seven original members and would have to pay a $50 million exit fee, steep for a program that cut seven sports in July because of a reported $4 million deficit. (Maryland and Florida State voted against the fee.)

The football program has sputtered, winning one ACC title since 1986. And it's academically deficient, as evidenced by the loss of three scholarships for the 2011-12 season after failing to hit the minimum Academic Progress Rate.

On top of that, Delany has said the league's teams "want to play each other more, not less."

Delany declined to return calls and texts from the Chicago Tribune Saturday, as did several other Big Ten officials.

Maryland's regents were told about the talks this weekend but had not received a written presentation as of early Saturday night. Not all of the regents favor leaving the ACC, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Brit Kirwan, chancellor of the University of Maryland system, declined comment when reached by the Washington Post.

The Big Ten Network could expand its viewership if a move is made. More than 7 million people live in the greater Baltimore-Washington market.

And then there's New York.

Rutgers is in Piscataway, N.J., about 15 miles from Manhattan.

Thanks in part to the financially lucrative network, the Big Ten distributed $284 million to its 12 schools this fiscal year, with 11 receiving $24.6 million each and Nebraska, which joined the league in 2011, receiving about $14 million, the Washington Post reported.

In May, the ACC and ESPN announced a 15-year extension of their coverage agreement, which would pay the conference approximately $3.6 billion over the course of the contract. That equates to about $17 million a year per school.

And that's before factoring in Notre Dame, which the ACC added in September for all sports but football.

Rutgers, meanwhile, would have to pay from $10 million to $20 million to exit fee the Big East, depending on how much notice the school gives.

That league, which includes USF, has seen the defections of West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU (without playing a game) in the past couple of years — but added five schools in all sports, including UCF, and three more for football by 2015.

Amid the uncertainty, the Big East is trying to negotiate a new television rights deal.

Reports: Big Ten may get bigger 11/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 11:20pm]
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