Chris Graham: UVa. should make the next big move
Maryland’s athletics program is reeling fiscally. The school decided earlier in the year to cut seven non-revenue sports because of ongoing budget issues that haven’t been helped by poor attendance at football and men’s basketball games.
The money situation with UVa. athletics isn’t exactly dire, but it’s plain and obvious to anyone who has been to a game anytime recently that there are vast oceans of empty seats in Scott Stadium and JPJ any given night. Those empty seats are opportunity costs lost; tickets are a perishable item, and there’s been a lot of revenues perishing in those empty seats at UVa. the past couple of athletic seasons.
TV revenues, on the other hand, are stable, if not seemingly perpetually growing. And the Big Ten has TV revenue out the yin-yang, with its Big Ten Network in millions of homes across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic; and with the arrival of Maryland (and Rutgers following Maryland in as the conference’s 14th member), there will soon be in-roads for BTN to enter into the lucrative Washington-Baltimore and New York TV markets.
The addition of UVa., with its strong regional appeal in the Washington-Baltimore market, would be a big boost to the Big Ten’s efforts to that end.
For UVa., of course, the decision to jump ship from the ACC would involve more than money considerations. The university has academic relationships with its sister ACC-member schools to keep at the forefront of any discussions of this nature; though in terms of academics, the Big Ten is a solid fit, certainly better than the Big East or SEC.
And that’s going to be important, because it could very well be the case that the move of Maryland to the Big Ten is a sign of the times regarding the ACC’s future. It hasn’t been that long that Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech and Clemson were rumored to be mulling over moving on, and with Maryland, a charter member, suddenly on its way out the door, there’s already chatter heating up along those lines again.
If another school makes a move to get while the gettin’ is good, it could be katie bar the door time in short order. In that context, then, a pre-emptive strike from UVa. might make the most sense, to avoid ending up somewhere that’s not a good fit academically (the SEC), geographically (the Big 12) or athletically (Conference USA).
For fans and alums, there would be no question that there’d be a psychic bargain that would have to be made to leaving the ACC and the long-time rivalries with the likes of Duke and North Carolina that have defined UVa. sports for going on 60 years.
On the flip side of that psychic bargain, of course, is the endless frustration that many UVa. fans feel about being forced to live in the shadow of Duke and UNC.
In that, ‘Hoo Nation is not alone among those fan bases in the ACC not named Duke and Carolina, and that may be the conference’s ultimate undoing.