When the University of Maryland announced its plans to secede from the Atlantic Coast Conference in favor of the greener pastures of the Big 10, the immediate reaction from most was anything but receptive. How could the University – a charter member of the ACC – abandon its “traditional” rivals for this Midwestern league?
The answer was simple, obvious, and clear: money. For a school that fell off the fiscal cliff long ago, the lure of the Big 10’s revenue-sharing program and a chance to become solvent again meant more than not playing Duke in basketball.
While many alums and supporters of the school have denounced the move, there are a surprising number who are in favor of it. Among those are former and current student-athletes of the varsity sports cut by the university this year. Those who have followed the story likely know that of the teams on the chopping block, men’s track and field managed to earn themselves another year through a nearly unfathomable amount of fundraising.
During the press conference announcing the Big 10 move, President Wallace Loh said that he and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson are hopeful that the financial boost will allow them to reinstate the teams they had to cut. Loh said the move will “ensure the financial stability” of the entire university, and Anderson went onto say he hopes now that neither he nor any future AD will have to “look a kid in the eye” and tell him [the school] can’t afford to let him play.
The statement was well-crafted and would be amazing if it came to fruition, but the university has a number of hurdles to clear before it gets to the point where it can reinstate teams. They will not bring them back until their bank account is no longer fire engine red, which could take a few years. And while I believe President Loh is sincere in wanting to reinstate the teams, the school wasn’t warm and fuzzy when they told the teams: raise funds to support your teams for eight years and we’ll let you know.
If there’s one thing I learned in my time at Maryland, it’s that greed is what put us in this position, and they’re relying on that same greed to get us out. Personally, I’ll be surprised if any of the cut teams makes a comeback this decade, but I will say that if there is one team that can do it, it’s the Track and Field team.
This move to the Big 10 was fueled by football, but all the sports teams stand to benefit. For a school that operates at such a large deficit, Maryland is a national contender every year in field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Athletic teams are wonderful ambassadors for any university, and deserve their full support. As a former athlete on the cross country and track teams, I truly hope the administration isn’t just giving lip service and has a plan to bring back all the teams they cut.
Ryan McGrath is a Baltimore-based running enthusiast, a member of the Falls Road racing team and a University of Maryland alumnus.