The university community may not realize it yet, but it's being given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to positively impact the university's future for generations to come. I am referring to possible expansion of the Big Ten Conference — something university officials must investigate and pursue.
There are many reasons — athletic, academic and financial.
For sports, the Athletics Department's television revenue, now estimated at more than $5.5 million from the ACC, would likely nearly quadruple with Big Ten membership. With "brand names" such as Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin visiting Byrd Stadium, football attendance would skyrocket — something that can't be said now even after ACC expansion. Recruiting would be boosted as well. And remember, football is the engine that drives big-time collegiate athletics. Virtually all other Terrapin sports would benefit from Big Ten membership, particularly those that are climatically hampered against ACC competition.
Academically, this university fits better in the Big Ten, as all but one of its member schools are land-grant, flagship universities. All conference members belong to the Association of American Universities and are Tier I in academics. Membership would place this university in the "Ivy League" of public universities. Moreover, the Big Ten has something no other athletic conference has — an academic consortium, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, comprised of all Big Ten members plus the University of Chicago. Joining would give this university access to libraries and other resources from fellow CIC members, which would be a major boon to research at the university.
This university previously hasn't been rumored for Big Ten expansion, probably because expansion at the time was seen as inviting only one member. Now, conference officials are considering expanding to 14 members by bringing in three newcomers, and this university meets virtually all the criteria for membership.
It would also provide the growing, affluent Washington and Baltimore markets to the Big Ten Network, a television station the conference owns. This is one reason Syracuse and Rutgers have been deemed Big Ten expansion candidates — although this university has more of an impact on Washington and Baltimore than either of those bring to the New York City market.
Were this university to become part of a 14-team Big Ten, one or maybe both would join as well, providing this university less geographic and cultural isolation.
This is a major opportunity for the university, and to dismiss it largely due to the potential loss of basketball games against North Carolina and Duke is sheer ignorance. I understand university officials have to play this carefully for political reasons, but the advantages are such that faculty members should publicly speak out in favor of the move. For more on this, please visit my blog, http://community.livejournal.com/terps_to_big_10/.
Vincent Paterno is a 1977 alumnus living in Triangle, Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.