December 22, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes president E. Gordon Gee greets fans before the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Value City Arena. Kansas won the game 74-66. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Ohio State President Gordon Gee is arguably the most recognizable college administrator in the United States, for both good and bad reasons. His incredibly high salary for a public institution president, his affinity for OSU bowties, and oftentimes his unfiltered and opinionated mouth tends to land him in controversy moreso than his academic policies. In early December of last year, Gee made some disparaging remarks in front of Ohio State’s Athletic Council about the SEC, Notre Dame/Catholics, and Louisville (among others) that kicked up some dust among the media.
Recordings of those comments got into the hands of SportsIllustrated.com, and I had a chance to listen to the 30-minute audio in it’s entirety to see what all the fuss was about. While Gee is going to have pitchforks at his neck after some of the statements he made surrounding Catholics, Bret Bielema, and the SEC, he did discuss the University of Maryland in a positive manner. I’m just going to give you guys a few snippets of his comments that shed some light as to why the Big Ten decided to really go after Maryland (and Rutgers). It’s a nice, candid look from a Big Ten guy who certainly likes to speak the truth without much spin.
- Wallace Loh is more of a Big Ten guy than we realized:
"“[Maryland] just hired a fellow by the name of Wallace Loh, who had been the provost of Iowa. Big Ten guys, interested in the Big Ten, felt that the Big Ten was much greater fit for them academically and culturally as well. As well as financially there’s no doubt about it. And so we approached them very lightly and all of the sudden, [Maryland and Rutgers] started having conversations amongst themselves and about two weeks ago, three weeks ago, they indicated that if we could move swiftly, that they probably thought that they could make that change. We were ready to move, that’s what we did. We think it’s a great fit for us; they’re both AAU institutions, highly credible in terms of their academic ability. They were just admitted to the CIC this afternoon and I know that was very important to them.”"
At the time of these comments, the entire “Maryland to the Big Ten” move was swift and decisive, catching a lot of Maryland people who thought they were in the know off guard. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but that quote leads me to believe that Wallace Loh had this thing in the works, or some type of move in the works, for some time. The amount of money involved with the move obviously played a huge factor, and it seems Loh knew a lot more than people gave him credit for.
Being the provost at Iowa, Loh definitely had intimate knowledge of the financial and academic benefits of going to a CIC conference. I knew Loh was a smart guy, but I didn’t think he knew a thing about the athletics aspect of collegiate institutions. Turns out, he might have known a lot about both, and how nowadays it’s much more a business than anything else, as this move was very much about business. Obviously people were going to have strong feelings about the switch, and Loh working behind doors with other Big Ten guys to get this deal done as quickly as possible, ensured that not much could be done about it.
- Maryland’s home stadium might not always be Byrd:
"“The opportunity for us to play Maryland in RFK Stadium, the opportunity for us to get a foothold there is very important."
This one was just as interesting, for a number of reasons. First, I’m not sure if Gee is senile or not, but he may have confused RFK Stadium with FedEx Field. One venue is old and decrepit but has a very good location as it’s based squarely in Washington, D.C., but the other is massive and much nicer, yet it’s location is less than desirable.
Either way, I think this pretty much assures that when certain teams (like Ohio State and Michigan) come to town, the location the game takes place in almost certainly won’t be Byrd. Part of the agreement probably mean that some sacrifices had to be made on the Maryland side of things, and that includes switching the game to a location where a lot more fans can be in attendance, and one that allows for maximum exposure to the D.C. market. This also means those luxury boxes that Debbie Yow saddled the Terps with aren’t going to be used nearly as much.
- The Big Ten wants to accommodate Maryland and Rugters as much as possible:
"“The truth of the matter is, is that the Big Ten, in our footprint, had about a 1% growth factor in terms of population. We had to get back into a population area or else we were going to lose our ability to compete. So that’s what we did. Welcome to the Big Ten, Maryland and Rutgers.”"
This one is what makes me optimistic more than anything else about Maryland’s future. Because the success of the DMV television market is such an integral part in the future of the Big Ten Network (and the Big Ten), you have to believe that Jim Delaney will be doing everything in his power to help the Terps succeed. That’s a big change from the ACC days, where Maryland would routinely get the short end of the stick in favor of the North Carolina conglomerate.
With the Big Ten hitching their growth wagon to Maryland and Rugters, it’s clear that they are going to be getting a lot of help both financially, and on the schedule. As evidenced by the 2014 football schedule that was announced, you have to like the future if you’re a Maryland Terrapin.
Bottom line, Gee might be fired for his comments that he made, but I sure appreciate the insight!