Maryland puts tradition aside in leaving ACC
NOV 19, 2012 1:59p ET
He didn’t like that the men’s basketball tournament is usually played in Greensboro or Charlotte, or that the conference headquarters are in North Carolina. He and some Marylanders often said they felt like outsiders, or at least too much on the periphery of the league. Williams even once famously claimed Maryland felt like “Siberia.”
So if Greensboro, which is 322 miles from College Park, Md., is too far away, what does that make of Chicago, which is 774 miles away?
Chicago is home to the Big Ten’s office, and as of Monday morning, Maryland is headed to the conference after the school's Board of Regents voted to follow the lead of its president to make the controversial move to the Big Ten in 2014. And that’s just the tipping point of irrationality that forged this hasty decision void of a thought-out, long-term view.
There are just reasons for Maryland making this move.
The school’s athletic department is currently losing about $5 million a year, and that figure is projected to reach $17 million by 2017. This past summer, Maryland cut seven of its 27 varsity sports teams, shaving off 7 percent of its $58 million annual budget.
By simple virtue of being in the Big Ten should mean about $7 million a year more than what Maryland would get as a member of the ACC, which next fall grows to 14 schools with the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. That, of course, doesn’t include how much more the ACC’s television revenue stream will grow once a revised contract includes its new affiliation with Notre Dame.
In addition, some arguments from the Maryland side suggest that it can put more fannies in the seats at Byrd Stadium by bringing in Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska, but how often will those schools visit in a 14-team Big Ten, and is that the way to build a program, to rely on other fan bases to fund your non-revenue sports?
That’s where the negatives begin to pile up.
What ever happened to tradition? What about culture? Family?
Maryland is dousing those ideals with kerosene accompanied by a lit match. Up in flames goes 60 years of generation building. To heck with storied basketball rivalries with North Carolina and Duke. Forget the greatest ACC basketball game ever played in that unforgettable 1974 clash with North Carolina State. And who needs those ACC football banners and 1953 national championship?
The Maryland brass are trading trips to Clemson, NC State and Miami with trips to Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern.
As a charter member of the ACC, Maryland has experienced its share of success and has played a key role in how the fabric of the conference has evolved.
From students singing "Amen" toward the end of home basketball games to the unforgettable smell of old Cole Field House, the greatest place to watch an ACC basketball game (sorry, Cameron Indoor Stadium), Maryland is the ACC.
Duke’s and UNC’s visits in basketball aren’t just games, they are events. Senators, congressman, State Department officials and other regional high rollers made Cole Field House and later Comcast Center a priority on those occasions.
Some Maryland supporters long have felt as Williams has, believing that getting out from underneath the shadows of the North Carolina schools is the answer to many of their problems, similar to Texas A&M’s decision to part from its rivalry with Texas for the SEC.
That is simply silly, especially because football is driving the train these days. And if Maryland can’t consistently win in the ACC, why does it believe life in the Big Ten is a fair exchange?
The bottom line is this was about the bottom line. Maryland’s president, athletic director, and football and basketball coaches haven’t even been in College Park for more than two years, and none have any previous ties to the university, state or even the ACC. So they simply don’t understand the culture or how this would affect fans.
In fact, this past weekend, the tenor of the fan base suggested the move was a bad idea. A Washington Post poll that revealed 70 percent of Maryland fans were against leaving the ACC.
Former Maryland basketball star and US Rep. Tom McMillen, who is on the Board of Regents, voted against the move, telling the Washington Post it wasn’t thought out enough and that it was “antithetical.” McMillen also saidL “It’s all about money. That’s what it is.”
Yet, where will Maryland come up with the $50 million exit fee and who’s going to fund the $100 million in renovation to the football stadium that is badly needed to show it cares about competing on the field?
One lifelong Maryland fan said what many are thinking Monday afternoon.
“I have loved the Terps and the culture and rivalries in the ACC for my entire sporting life,” said Chris Snear, who is also a professional hockey official and is a golf pro just outside of Washington, DC, in northern Virginia. “And a move to the Big Ten makes Maryland just another school in a big conference."