By Melanie Kozak
Last year the University of Maryland switched from The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to the Big Ten Conference and now expects to see new athletic and academic opportunities despite growing debt.
The University’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) is in debt to the University and has no reserves, according to a report by University president Wallace Loh’s Commission on UMD and Big Ten/CIC (Committee on Institutional Cooperation) Integration.
The ICA’s total deficit to the University, through borrowing of non-state auxiliary funds, was predicted to currently exceed $21 million because of, “a series of historical events and decisions,” as well as the ACC, “withholding UMD’s conference share revenues and NCAA student-athlete support funds since the decision to transition to the Big Ten was announced in November 2012,” according to the report.
The ICA would need an additional $20 million loan from University non-state auxiliary funds if the ACC withholds revenues for next year, according to the commission.
This debt doesn’t include the capital debt approaching $80 million from building the Comcast Center and Tyser Tower as well as expanding Byrd Stadium, according to the commission’s report.
The commission predicts the ICA will not reach a budget surplus until fiscal year 2018, at which time 50 percent of any surplus will pay off debt owed to the University, while the other 50 percent will build ICA reserves and investments, according to the commission’s report.
Eventually academics at UMD should see financial benefits because of the switch. “Starting in FY 15, some ICA revenues should be provided to support the academic enterprise. These funds to meet the University’s academic priorities will be phased in over the next nine years and are expected to reach at least $1M per year,” according to the commission’s report.
The CIC is the Big Ten’s academic counterpart and will provide new opportunities for students and faculty through sharing expertise, campus resources and innovative programs between Big Ten universities, according to the report.
The CIC brings many opportunities to UMD including: student enrollment in specialized courses offered at other universities, global research partnerships, potential savings through a Purchasing Consortium and library collaborations, among others, according to the commission.
“As a science student that’s important to me because that means more opportunities on campus for undergraduate research or really for anybody pursuing research at our school,” said Angela Perantoni, a junior environmental science and technology major. “We’re already a big research school but there’re so many students that there’s not opportunity for everyone.”
This switch will also allow UMD athletics to reach a broader audience with The Big Ten Network, and internationally distributed television network, which televises more than 350 live events annually and streams more than 400 others online. These streams are produced and announced by students and according to the report, “Some of these webcasts later air on the television network, offering a unique opportunity for students to gain real-world television experience.”
“The Big Ten is a bigger conference so the University is going to have to acquire better players to build a better team,” said Nick Whims, a senior mathematics major. “These players will hopefully bring fans, more out-of-state interest, and this will hopefully bring in more money to the University. However, they are spending a lot of money to get us into this conference.”
Although UMD hopes to eventually gain financial revenues from the switch it may first have to fund new student-athlete resources in order for athletic teams to be competitive in the Big Ten such as funds for air travel, and new practice fields, etc.
“I think it will force our football team to get better and I think it will force our fan base to get better because Big Ten is really about football. Better recruits and also for us to compare to the spirit of Big Ten football we’re gonna have to step it up and that I’m excited about,” said Darian Hoagland, a junior neurophysiology major.