It has been almost a week since Maryland shook up the college landscape -- and the Terrapins' fans -- by leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. As someone who has covered the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12 and Pac-12, I can honestly say Maryland just entered the premier conference in college sports.
From football to field hockey, every team has first-class facilities and large, loyal fan bases. It's well known that three Big Ten football stadiums seat more than 100,000 fans. Once Maryland fans take their first trip to the "Horseshoe," "Big House" or Happy Valley, they will see what big-time college football is really like. But there are also plenty of nights when 5,000 fans pack Yost Hockey Arena to cheer on the Michigan ice hockey team, or 3,000 turn out to support Indiana's men's soccer team or nearly 8,000 watch a Iowa wrestling match.
The conference also offers historic basketball programs like Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan that will serve as strong replacements to the ACC foes the Terps faced for nearly 60 years.
As for exposure, the Big Ten has extensive deals with ESPN and Fox that will showcase football and basketball on a more national scope than the ACC. The Big Ten Network reaches more than 50 million households, and that number will grow with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers.
The network broadcasts more than 15 men's and women's sports either live on cable or via broadband, so many fans will see much more Terps action than ever before.
But it usually comes down to money, and the move will definitely pay off. In 2014, Maryland will get $24 million a year from the Big Ten compared with a little more than $17 million a year from the ACC. But the most significant payoff will come after a new Big Ten TV contract is in place. According to Sports Illustrated, the Terps could see between more than $40 million a year from their TV rights.
So on all fronts, this is a good move for Maryland.
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.