Did the ACC Try to Poach Big Ten Schools?

By Jason Priestas on January 14, 2014 at 10:49a
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany speaking at Maryland when the school announced plans to join the Big Ten.

You thought conference expansion news was over, right? Guess again.

The University of Maryland has filed a $157 million countersuit against the ACC, and the details of the case are juicy. Maryland is accusing Wake Forest and Pitt of trying to recruit unnamed schools from the Big Ten to leave and join the ACC. Maryland even brings ESPN into the case, alleging that the Worldwide Leader counseled the ACC on which schools to target. 

This isn't the first time ESPN's been a player in conference realignment. They also got their hands dirty during ACC and Big East realignment. 

But wait, it gets better:

The lawsuit game began after the ACC sued Maryland to the tune of $52 million after the school left for the Big Ten. An attempt to get the suit thrown out was rejected. So, now the question becomes, which Big Ten schools were targets of poaching? Penn State is logical, but who else?


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NoVA Buckeye's picture

My guess is Penn State

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

703Buckeye's picture

I have a sneaking suspicion it was Minnesota.
My real guess is Illinois. It allows the ACC to pick up another good basketball program and a very large state to help drive up media rights dollars.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

NoVA Buckeye's picture

Indiana could've been the other one, too, for your same reasoning.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

FitzBuck's picture

It also makes sense with ND's contract with the ACC to give them an instate rival so either Indiana or Purdue. 

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

I think Purdue & possibly Sparty are strong possibilities specifically because of the Notre Dame connection.
If Notre Dame told the ACC that if it could pry away Purdue &/or Sparty then the Irish would be willing to join as full members you can be sure the ACC would take a shot at it.

BucksfanXC's picture

Of course ESPN is behind it. In all likely hood that is an attempt to get "deep pockets" involved in the lawsuit.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

703Buckeye's picture

ESPN was behind this? Just ANOTHER reason for the B1G to take its broadcasting rights over to FOX once their current rights deal is up.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

builderofcoalitions's picture

I logged in just to give you a +1. Back to work.

Because we couldn't go for three.

KBonay's picture

MORE Erin Andrews?  Yes, Please.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I honestly don't get the hype.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Buckeyeneer's picture

If I remember correctly, one reason Delaney brought in these teams was to shore up Penn State's commitment to the B1G as they have hated being the easternmost team in the conference.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

ajbosu1's picture

A few years back I recall an official from Syracuse saying that ESPN was providing "guidance" on conference affiliations. It was quickly redacted and but with the amount of alumni at the WWL from 'Cuse I have little doubt it occurred. 
It will be interesting to see which, if any, B1G schools are mentioned. PSU for sure but who else? 

OSUStu's picture

Not that it would work, but if the ACC was going to try to pull this off...why wouldn't they go after the top program, Ohio State. 
I know there has already been talk about the ACC changing how it splits up bowl money.  Maybe that was their sales pitch.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

kalabuckzoo's picture

Can't we just call ESPN and ask what their involvement was and what schools were being courted under the freedom of information act.  If they decline can't we just sue them:)

OSUEXT's picture

You'd have to go the other way. You'd have to FOIA the schools in the Big East. ESPN is a private company and as such, not subject to FOIA requests

rdubs's picture

I wonder how CincyOSU is going to take the news that ESPN tried to screw over the B1G to support one of their conference partners?

cajunbuckeye's picture

An angry fan...rooting for an angry team...led by angry coaches

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I'm more interested in NotCincy's response.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Oyster's picture

You know you have made the big leagues when somebody makes a screen name in your honor.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

You're saying NotCincy isn't a serious account? I feel betrayed. :(

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Oyster's picture

It's ok, we all get shnookered every once in a while.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)


I can't imagine ESPN ever trying to manipulate college football.
Maybe they offered Indiana. The Hoosiers in the ACC hoops would be a big draw. Football? Not so much.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Baroclinicity's picture

University of Chicago.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

AngryWoody's picture

Yeah, something tells me that this won't be popping up on espn.com today....

Our Honor Defend!

3cent's picture

They have an article on it, but obviously they left out the ESPN part.

NoVA Buckeye's picture


The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

kholmes's picture

I dislike the way ESPN creates media narratives as much as the next person...but it is a business. Do we really think that ESPN is not going to try to maximize the value of their media investments/agreements? Any other broadcasting company or media conglomerate would do the same by expanding tie-ins, partnerships, geographical reach so this is no different. The only issue is whether the business actions of the parent company are affecting the coverage of the sports.

OSUStu's picture

I think part of the outrage and/or fake outrage stems from the situation in which the ESPN is both the de facto sports-reporting entity of record and one of sports' biggest investors.  They are like a major news outlet operating without the journalistic ethics that would prevent a willingness to manipulate the subject to its own benefit.  
It would be like John D. Rockefeller running the most highly respected newsletter on business competition and monopolies. 

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

spqr2008's picture

And at the same time a technical journal on innovations in the oil industry which Standard Oil pioneered (ESPN insider)

AngryWoody's picture

For Hove:

Our Honor Defend!

Hovenaut's picture

You know it, AW.
I need a drink....let's go top shelf, shall we?

CALPOPPY's picture

Can I just have some of the lard from the second to top shelf?

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

Hovenaut's picture

Lol - sure, go nuts CP. Extra flavor in there I'm sure.

northwest_buckeye's picture

I'd say the obvious one is Penn State, and the other being one of the two Indiana schools. Both have mediocre football and respectable basketball programs, which fits the ACC narrative rather well. Not to mention the obvious ND connection.

I've never said I 'hate' anyone because that would imply I had any emotion for them whatsoever.

BuckeyeMark's picture

The real question is "who can we kick to the curb to make the B1G better?"

"Hello, ESecPN, do you realize no one in the SEC wears maize and blue?  Think of how that helps your screen appeal!  No, they aren't Vandy exactly, except kinda worse on the football field but they do play round ball and got really lucky last year if you remember...."

AngryWoody's picture

So wait a minute, does this mean that the B1G expansion wasn't us trying to gobble up schools, it was us being on the defensive and doing what it took to keep Penn State from leaving? It sounds like the ACC was calling up Penn State and another school, trying to get them to bail on the B1G(all at the behest of ESPN, mind you), and we added Rutgers and Maryland to keep Penn State in the fold by giving them more regional rivals.
If that's what happened it's crazy because all of this conference realignment madness (I think I read that somthing like 100 schools in total were effected by this) was basically caused by ESPN trying to shape conferences for television contracts. Maybe ESPN is bitter about the B1G going to FOX for BTN and were trying to pay us back? This really makes me laugh my ass off because I can't tell you how many times I have heard pundits on ESPN talk about how conference realignment is "all about the money" and the universities were "selling out tradition to line their pockets" when at the SAME TIME they were behind the scenes orchestrating the whole thing!

Our Honor Defend!

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

So wait a minute, does this mean that the B1G expansion wasn't us trying to gobble up schools, it was us being on the defensive and doing what it took to keep Penn State from leaving?

No. It just means that the B1G isn't the only conference playing the game.

AngryWoody's picture

But if the ACC tried to take Penn State and first and we added Rutgers and Maryland to keep them from leaving, that would mean it was more a reaction to the ACC/ESPN than us just waking up one morning and randomly deciding to add Maryland and Rutgers.

Our Honor Defend!

GoBucksToledo's picture

I think the other school was Northwestern given the ACC's positioning as academically superior. 

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

Actually, I think it was Michigan. It sounds outrageous, I know. But remember, Notre Dame signed a deal with the ACC, a couple weeks later they mysteriously dropped the Michigan Rivalry, and then two months later Maryland announces they're leaving the ACC.
Why would Notre Dame drop Michigan instead of Purdue or Michigan State? They obviously wanted something from Michigan. What they wanted, we may never know, but now we can speculate that it might have had something to do with moving to the ACC possibly. Either way, Michigan didn't accommodate them, so ND dropped them.

You can't spell chump without UM's picture

Maybe it's because Purdue is a guaranteed win and Michigan State is a quality opponent

Brady Hoke ate my comment

Poison nuts's picture

This!!! The ND/UM thing was nowhere near that sinister as "come to the ACC or we'll stop playing you." UM would be the last team that would ever consider leaving the B1G. I doubt anyone would ever approach them to ask.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Jack Fu's picture

I would have no problem with the ACC poaching two Big Ten teams, as long as they're Maryland and Rutgers.

Kurt's picture

What if the other was Rutgers?  Ha!....

Riggins's picture

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Sparty as an ACC target.  Great basketball school. Respectable football school and getting better every year under Dino.  The Notre Dame connection.  Plus the ACC's seemingly ubiquitous affinity for the #2 school in a state (FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Pitt, etc.)

fanfarris's picture

Water under the bridge.I liked Delany neck Tie .Nice choice of colours  ,i thought


Jason Priestas's picture

What language is this?

bodast67's picture

Gaelic ?




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

Unky Buck's picture

Did you say yute? What is a yute?

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

OSUStu's picture

The two yoouuutthhs.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

jedkat's picture

Haiku fail?

"Can we please stop the message board fighting? I really can't stand the message board fighting..."

"No. You're an idiot, and your posts are terrible."

bigbadbuck's picture


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, its a war room

Bucks43201's picture

Pleeeeeeease be OSUFORLIFE

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

Unky Buck's picture

What language is this?

Jack Daniels

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

spqr2008's picture

Bring down the eSECpn!

Joebobb's picture

The ACC is a joke. Lucky to have FSU this year, but their football is otherwise a joke. Hoping MD becomes a strong football team with their new conference and the ACC goes back to their traditional ways of sucking.

GoBucksOSU's picture

I would guess OSU and PSU.

mbeal08's picture

I think the larger point in all of this is being missed. It's less about propping up the ACC as it is about taking down the B1G. Other conferences, Big 12 with the Longhorn network and the SEC network, have signed on to have their network affiliated with ESPN. I don't know the extent of the affiliation, but my guess is these networks use ESPN's infrastructure to get their product to the masses. The B1G took a different route. They started a network from scratch and created the gold standard for conference networks. Likely, they are viewed as credible competition by ESPN. ESPN's response? Back their conferences and bolster others (it wouldn't be a stretch to say ESPN one day gets in bed with the ACC and creates an ACC network too). 
Now, I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist, but these facts make it harder and harder not to be at least skeptical. First, it was the talk of Baylor jumping OSU after OSU beat Illinois by nearly the same margin as Baylor beat Texas Tech. Then it was the talk of a one loss AQ school (Auburn) being more deserving of a shot at the NT than an unbeaten AQ school (would have been a first for the BCS). Now the news of ESPN attempting to help poach B1G schools and ship them to the ACC comes out and it appears to make ESPN's intent more evident, take down the B1G, ruin their network, put more money in ESPN's pockets. 

Go1Bucks's picture

I would say PSU and Northwestern.  Also, don't forget they are still working on getting 2 more schools to the B1G in the very near future.  14 does not a Super Conference make .
OSU would never leave the B1G, Nor would scUM, MSU, Wisky, IU, Iowa or Illini. Ties are too strong. Doubt Neb would as they just got here, Purdue would be stupid based on location but ya never known and no one knows what those crazy Minnesotans would do. PSU was an independent and NW feel we are all beneath them intellectually.
Thats my take, but as it is unlikely any would leave, while 2 more or destined, I think the point is moot.  Hope Maryland wins the case, the high fee to leave is a ridiculous one  and made to punish, unless they can prove meddling by ESecPN.

Go Bucks!

Joebobb's picture

The ACC had no chance of getting a BIG team to leave. They tried but it was really a longshot. Why would a team leave the BIG when they would lose millions of dollars a year to play in a less prestigious conference, less prestigious matchups, less overall fan interest for what?? a shorter commute? Not happening. But nice try ACC.

Crumb's picture

ESPiN is still butt hurt from the Big Ten Network and the fact that Big Ten fans are the most loyal best traveling fans in the country. Even though the conference has been supposedly down for years now we still have better attendance and make more money on our sports than any other conference out there and ESPiN is pissed they're not getting a share of the money. More fans watching the Big Ten means fewer watching ESPiN so once again it's all about the money.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

OSUEXT's picture

If I had to guess, there are a couple of schools I would think.
1) Purdue
For me the case for Purdue is the strongest. In the end, the goal of the ACC is go get Notre Dame football into the ACC. Notre Dame football is a national draw, and would help the ACC with TV sets. I understand the argument about IU being the target Indiana school, but Purdue has a longstanding football game with Notre Dame. If you follow the money among the "getable' schools, Purdue seems the strongest. Also, with Louisville joining the ACC, adds another short travel pair of games for non-revenue sports.
2) Indiana
The Indiana move makes alot of sense too, but I see Purdue having a more persuasive case for building a Notre Dame-Purdue rivalry/connection. Indiana would be an in-state addition for Notre Dame, and perhaps more importantly could promote a Louisville-Indiana basketball rivalry that could be quite good. In the end, Football>Basketball, so Purdue is #1. 
3) Northwestern
Northwestern is a strong academic school, and would help strengthen the appeal of the ACC in the Chicago metro area. Which helps.  Also, as a private school, there are fewer roadblocks to Northwestern joining the ACC, which is not an insignificant thing. 
4) Illinois
Cross apply the financial argument for Northwestern, with the argument that downstate support will help the ACC in St. Louis. Still somewhat close to Notre Dame. 
5A & 5B: Wisconsin or Minnesota
Both would different states to the ACC. But culturally seems the less logical choices.
Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State are the drivers of the B1G and would never leave. 
Iowa, Nebraska don't add anything to the ACC. 
In the end, I think any of the top 3 are possible. 

Kernfan's picture

As a MD fan also, and seeing the pathetic fiscal shape they were in as an ACC team, I don't know how the ACC could have poached anyone from the B1G.  That said, I hope MD uses any argument it takes to keep from getting ripped off from the ACC exit fee/holdup that they are trying to use on a founding member that never voted for the fee to be put in place.

ghalephoto's picture

Why not Northwestern?  Get in the Big Tens back yard, have a school in Chicago, natural rival with Notre Dame...

Joebobb's picture

I find the ACC and Swofford despicable. They have created the arms race that has destroyed the BIG East and Big 12. To think they had the audacity to try and take on the BIG. The BIG taking Maryland gave them their comeuppance since the ACC was originally being the aggressor and acting like a petulant child that needed to be slapped down.
I heard rumors for a year or two before the MD departure that the ACC was going after PSU and ND. Going after Purdue or IN would give ND a travel partner. I hope the ND arrangement does for the ACC what it did for the Big East.
I imagine this went on before MD left to go to the BIG and before Louisville was even an option for the ACC. I think the ACC was blindsided by this which is why they are being sore losers in the whole thing.
The other thing that gets me is that the BIG gets the blame for the conference expansion mess but in reality, the ACC started this. In 2004 when they destroyed the Big East. The Big was being reactionary when they took Nebraska in 2012. Then when the ACC moved to 14 and started making it known that their goal was to get Penn State, the BIG had to react somehow.

NoVA Buckeye's picture

Da da da, da da da.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.