What to make of Maryland's departure for the Big Ten? Well, from a conference point of view, it's a potential problem, although not necessarily competitively: Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame will make up for basketball and more than football (although Notre Dame is not joining in football, they are committed to a certain number of games with ACC opponents each year. Pitt and Syracuse, while down lately, are no worse than Maryland certainly and are historically powerful programs).
The ACC is almost certain to react and the likely candidates are UConn and Louisville (Rick Pitino, that Big East-to-the-death- chauvinist, made sure to put a plug in for Louisville-to-the-ACC on Monday). We won't be surprised they're both taken: it would give the ACC a certain level of security, as much as is possible in today's environment anyway, and it would pretty much mark the end of the Big East. In fact, there was some speculation that Georgetown might be approached, presumably to keep the ACC in the DC/Baltimore market. They don't do football, so that would, like Notre Dame, be a significant change to conference tradition.
St. John's has also been mentioned. The Anschluss of the Big East is nearly complete, or at least the Big East as we all understood it.
As for Maryland, well, they'll get more money. They'll have to settle up with the ACC, but perhaps Kevin Plank of Under Armour, the would-be Phil Knight of the East (get it?), will fund that. He apparently sold a lot of stock in recent days and has been pushing this move hard. And it's their right to do it if they want.
But they'll lose a lot too. Lefty Driesell says that "[t]o me, college athletics is not professional sports. Itâs for the students, not the alumni, not the money-makers. You play it for the students, not to make money. But Maryland seems to do a lot of things for money. Theyâre really in trouble...If itâs being done for money, thatâs just wrong. Itâs not gonna hurt the ACC, itâs just gonna hurt Maryland." He went on to discuss recruiting, and how Maryland's base has been ACC territory. Those families are not going to see their kids play as much, and he questions how well Maryland can recruit in Big Ten turf. He also talks about missed class time and the lack of geographical connections with rivals - that Buck Williams and Chris Wilcox got to see rivals in the off-season. And he feels for an old friend who has hardly missed a game for decades. He won't be able to fly all over the Midwest to see the Terps, so that's over for him. But mostly, the Lefthander says, he feels sorry for the players.
Tom McMillen weighed in too, telling the Post this:
âWhen there is no time for deliberation, when commissioners flush with dollars from their conference are dictating to college presidents â when student-athletes and coaches arenât even brought into the conversation and traditions are thrown away like dirty laundry â there is a recipe for something all right. In my view, how this was handled will have long-term detrimental effects on college sports.
"Iâm not saying we shouldnât do this. Iâm saying they wanted us two years ago. They will want us in two more years. To totally disregard the athletes and have this crammed down everyoneâs throat over a weekend is just awful.
âThis is the kind of thing that can be the tipping point for uncompensated athletes in money-making sports, who are left without any say and are basically becoming indentured servants to big schools."
Former Maryland star Moe Howard made a point too, saying "[t]here are no Maryland people involved in this decision, and that made it easier. What I see is not people loving the University of Maryland, but loving money...[Leaving the ACC shows] a total disregard for the past and tradition. I love Maryland, but I think itâll be a bottom-tier Big 10 program for years to come."
We're guessing he's talking about basketball and he may or may not be right. We've been immensely impressed with Mark Turgeon. He'll probably do fine, but there are no guarantees for basketball and certainly not for football.
Maryland enters the Big Ten as, without question, the weakest football program. Even Northwestern, with their rigid academics, is likely to thump Maryland. Don't even start on the big powers. Maryland will have to work hard to compete with Minnesota and Iowa, leave alone Michigan and Ohio State. The idea that those teams mean an automatic sellout (ironic term that) for Maryland home games is not justified by the facts: a weak Terps team can't even draw a decent crowd for Florida State or Clemson, both highly regarded, exciting teams. Opponents are not the answer; the problem is the football team sucks.
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The basketball team does not suck; to the contrary, it's very promising. But they're moving into a different league with different standards, not least of all about how physical a team can be. The ACC has gotten more physical over the years, but it's always been a league which emphasized speed over power, and Maryland has always had a lust for electrifying basketball: Herb Sendek would have been run out of town after his first February.
They're not going to see much pretty basketball out there. Indiana does run, and Michigan is elaborate, but generally speaking, it's a highly physical league, where you see lots of, uh solid athletes. You have to man up or get beat up.
The local media has largely reacted negatively, although John Feinstein seems oddly supportive. We say oddly because for the last whatever, 10-15 years, he has prattered on about the moral superiority of smaller, purer leagues like the Colonial. Now, though, money as the end-all and be-all is fine by him.
Who knows why he approves. He's a great writer, but consistency, as they say, is the hobgoblin of small minds. Feinstein has never felt a need to be particularly consistent.
Which leads us to the other factor in this, and that's the fans. We feel sorry for some of them, we really do. It's been clear that most Maryland people would prefer not to go, but their bags were packed by the administration and the board of regents. They're not happy about it, though, and we can't blame them.
Maryland fans, despite the occasional issues, are very passionate, at least for basketball.
Brief segue: one of the real casualties of this is Maryland lacrosse. It has a brilliant tradition, and while they may be able to schedule games with nearby Virginia and Johns Hopkins, the ACC, with the additions of Syracuse and Notre Dame, has become a huge lacrosse league. Maryland's kids will miss that and we're sure they're not happy about it. But honestly, they make no money and are not important to anyone who pursues it.
We do feel bad for people like Kurt O' Neill and guys like the late Robert Novak, who rarely if ever missed a trip to the Triangle.
On the other side, though, are Maryland's more psycho fans. We won't miss the riots or the hot pennies or the thrown water bottles. Wake fans who were told one year to hide under their seats in case Maryland was upset won't miss them.
We won't miss the nastiness, the ugliness that for a while led Coach K to leave his family home, concerned that they would not be safe.
We won't miss the pathological insecurity, the chipmunk cries of "you're-our-rivals-because-we-say-so!"
To be honest, it took a few seasons to really realize just how obsessed some fans had become with Duke. It dawned on us around 1999-2000 and then it became clear: some of these people are very dangerous and quite possibly insane.
It was about this time that we got an e-mail from a Maryland fan saying, look, you don't understand how it is. We never get a break; you guys always win. Of course we feel inferior.
And truth be told, that's gone on a long time: Lefty Driesell used to say that when he won the ACC Tournament, he'd strap the trophy on his hood and drive all around North Carolina. Maryland folks, fans and various representatives alike, talked for a long time of being discriminated against by the North Carolina schools. Going to the tournament in Greensboro, which was as close to a central point in the ACC as you could get, was unfair, so they pressed to have it in DC.
Didn't matter; they still lost and they were still mad.
It's been decades of this kind of stuff: at one point in the '70s, Duke took cheerleaders to College Park and Maryland told them that an ACC rule prevented cheerleaders from traveling out of state. Most likely it was true; it was also ignored, by Maryland among others.
Lefty pioneered the combination of hype, bitter disappointment and rage, promising to make Maryland the "UCLA of the East." Bob Wade took things in a different direction, inspiring Baltimore people to try to deny talent to Maryland after he was forced out, which actually worked for a few years.
But under the craven Gary Williams, Maryland's rage and paranoia exploded. Gary, incapable of steadily competing with Duke and UNC, instead found reasons why he was denied: the ACC was biased, or the referees were in Duke's favor. This scam worked amazingly well and became a national phenomenon in spite of the fact that it would require a considerable conspiracy. For Maryland, it peaked out in their Final Four collapse against Duke when Williams ranted at the refs, "how much do you want Duke to win!"
Similarly, when the Maryland crowd grew more and more violent after losses, rather than chastising them, he more or less got in front of the parade and criticized Maryland's administrators for trying to impose some discipline on the unruly students. That was his instinct: instead of standing up to the mob, he appeased it. It was unbelievable and unforgivable.
But that's Maryland, and while we'll miss the intensity of the games, we won't miss that part of things. It'll be fun to see how the Big Ten adopts to their vicious new stablemates though. Nebraska's AD (we think it's the same guy) actively pushes for niceness; it'll be funny to see how that goes over with the Terp lunatics, particularly if Maryland struggles in the Big Ten, which we think they will, at least for awhile.
But whatever. It's their school and their business and they're moving on. No longer will Maryland be the Alaska of the ACC; now it will become the Mississippi of the Big Ten - Mississippi as in the old joke thank God for Mississippi; we can't possibly fall to 50th in any national ranking.
But at least they'll have their money. And that's what's important in all this, right?
One other note we almost forgot about: certainly Duke and UNC, (and probably the entire ACC), should decline to play Maryland in the ACC-Big Whatever Challenge. Why bother? If it's over let it be over. They can play someone else, but why deal with their craziness if you don't have to? Let them find new teams to hate.