Why Rutgers Is in a Better Position Than Maryland to Succeed in Big Ten

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Why Rutgers Is in a Better Position Than Maryland to Succeed in Big Ten
Mel Evans/Associated Press

Come July 1, 2014 the Big Ten will be forever changed once again, officially adding Rutgers and Maryland as full members of the conference. However, these two schools don't come in to the league on equal footing—on or off the field. 

No, it isn't about Maryland nailing down a pretty good recruiting class and Rutgers falling off over the last month. No, it has nothing to do with Maryland ending last season with a bowl win and Rutgers losing in its backyard of New York City.

This also has nothing to do with Maryland finishing 7-6 and Rutgers 6-7 the year before joining the much more competitive Big Ten conference.  

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

It all comes down to the one thing that drove expansion in the first place—money. As the Wu-Tang Clan likes to say, "Cash rules everything around me," and in the case of Maryland and Rutgers the cash situations make all the difference. 

It's also why Rutgers has a much bigger chance of being successful in the Big Ten, and quickly. Sure, both athletic departments are operating in the red, but there is a difference in how they got there and how they are getting out of it. 

On Wednesday, Rutgers announced a deal to pay the American Athletic Conference an $11 million exit fee. It ends the dispute between the conference and its soon-to-be former member, but more importantly, it doesn't break the back of the Rutgers athletic department. 

Rutgers may have some major work to do on the field to be competitive, but its athletic budget is in good health going forward. 

According to Patricia Alex of The RecordRutgers has projected that over the next 12 years the increase in revenue from moving to the Big Ten will approach $200 million. 

They also broke a deal with Nelligan Sports Marketing last year, choosing a $65 million deal with IMG College for marketing. 

Rutgers President Robert Barchi seems satisfied with the gains the Big Ten will give them in the long term, despite the upfront costs. He released a statement about both moves to Alex and The Record:

One-time restructuring costs like this settlement and the costs associated with canceling a previous marketing contract are more than offset by anticipated revenues from the Big Ten and from our new marketing partner IMG College.

Barchi and Rutgers' athletic department don't appear worried about the one-time budget hole. Instead it appears they'll be on the fast track to financial stability thanks to the move the Big Ten. 

The same can't be said of Maryland, where the hole is much deeper and the way out could almost kill the athletic department despite the move to the much more lucrative Big Ten. 

The Terps are facing a $52.2 million exit fee from the ACC, but have been fighting that fee in court and filled a counter-suit in excess of $156.8 million, according to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today

Hidden in that same article is a key fact—the ACC has been withholding $19 million in revenues from the Terps, in a move done to hedge against the school not paying the exit fee. 

That means Maryland is without a serious source of its athletic budget. Speaking of which, said athletic budget is already a mess.

Maryland was forced to drop seven sports to make up for a multimillion-dollar hole in its annual budget. 

Gone were seven sports, and according to Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post, the annual budget deficits were severe enough that they were going top the tens of millions per year region. 

The announcement comes after Maryland President Wallace D. Loh accepted the recommendation of a 17-member panel last November that called for the school to eliminate eight athletic programs to offset a deficit that is projected to reach more than $4 million this fiscal year and could top $17 million by 2017.

In a world that's driven by having the latest and greatest, having a healthy athletic budget is the biggest key to keeping up with the Joneses of the college football world. 

Maryland's budget woes are so bad that the university itself had to loan the athletic department $21 million this past August thanks to a $20 million budget deficit. It's a loan to the athletic department that must be paid back, and one that cuts into the athletic department's ability to get on the same page as the rest of the Big Ten.

The University of Maryland's athletic commission stated the following in its final report this past August:

After Maryland Athletics achieves financial stability, half of its excess revenues will be used to repay its debts and the other half will be set aside to build its financial reserves.  This is to ensure that Maryland Athletics, which is a self-supporting enterprise, will never again be in a position where it has to cut teams.

That area is of major concern when talking about the Terps in the Big Ten, as a University of Maryland commission pointed out the harsh reality of money, the Terps and the move to the Big Ten. 

Internally, the Terps are already fighting a major uphill battle to be on the Big Ten's level in dealing with spending on student-athletes.

As stated by Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post:  

Maryland’s athletic department currently falls “in the lowest quartile for revenues per student-athlete when compared to its Big Ten peers,” according to the report, which expressed doubt that “the University will reach the per student-athlete spending of our Big Ten peers during the next twelve years,” or until around 2025. 

Maryland's uncertain ACC exit fee and its own budgetary issues have to be a big worry as they head in to a conference that is among the richest in collegiate athletics. 

It's especially worrisome when Maryland's hope of using Big Ten monies for a quick turnaround appear dead in the water. The commission recommended the following about the use of monies for the building of facilities like an indoor practice facility

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"Facilities needs, including practice fields, an indoor practice facility, and a Varsity Team House, should be viewed as capital expenses and should not be financed with revenues from the Big Ten." 

That's how bad Maryland's fiscal situation is. Despite a nearly $10 million increase in revenues from the Big Ten move, the Terps are not in position to use that added money to improve facilities that will make them more competitive. 

Maryland's reality when it joins the Big Ten is that for the better part of its first 10 years in the league it'll be paying for the ineptitude of athletic departments past.

While Maryland has the bigger name recognition, it's clear that the internal setups of these two institutions couldn't be further from each other. 

It all adds up to advantage Rutgers, as these two chart a new course in the Big Ten. 

 

Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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