Cumberland Times-News

Columns

November 19, 2012

It may make you sick, but it’s likely the thing to do

Sixty years from now this will be forgotten just the way Maryland, Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina and Wake Forest leaving the Southern Conference to start the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953 is forgotten today.

But this business of the University of Maryland leaving the ACC for the money-green pastures of the Big Ten? Unless your job is to balance the budget of the Maryland athletic department that Chairman Yow blew to hell in a handcart, it makes you sick to your stomach. On a number of counts.

It makes you sick because the mere notion of Maryland’s leaving the ACC was necessitated by the manner in which Maryland’s athletic department hemorrhages money.

It makes you sick because after 60 years of being treated like a red-headed stepchild by the very conference it helped create, Maryland just kissed off 60 years of the tradition it likes to brag about having. It makes you sick because after 60 years of catering to North Carolina and Duke, and now Notre Dame, the ACC just kissed off a seven-million person market. And while UConn may be on the way, Clemson, Florida State and N.C. State may be on the way out.

And don’t think for a moment North Carolina isn’t in the Big Ten’s sights as well. How funny would that be, Swofford? You’d be a commissioner without a school, provided, of course, you are able to remain commissioner. And since your allowing ESPN to sell the ACC magic beans on the new TV contract got this ball rolling, your head may be rolling next. Oh, and Notre Dame? They, too, will eventually be in the Big Ten. Please don’t believe otherwise.

It makes you sick because 60 years from now Maryland Terrapins could be as extinct as Minnesota Golden Gophers. No offense, only honest perception, intended.

This is going to upgrade Maryland’s football program? Maryland football will now become a national player? Really? Repeat after me: Jim Tatum is dead. It ain’t ever happening on that level again. Maryland football is insignificant, and no matter how much money this deal nets the university, Maryland football will remain insignificant until the end of time — which might not be too terribly painful for delusional Maryland-Is-A-Football-School types if the Mayan calendar is accurate.

And, oh yes, the football rivalry with Penn State can now resume. Rivalry? You call 1-35-1 a rivalry? Penn State never thought of Maryland as a rival. Penn State, who can stand to receive some good news more than anybody else these days, thought of the Terps as welcomed house guests and, no doubt, will be delighted to welcome them back.

Maryland has never really had a rival, despite what they call Virginia, and despite the glory days of Gary Williams with Duke and North Carolina. So in this regard, there is really nothing lost here in going to the Big Ten. No rivals await; no real rivals left behind.

Mark Turgeon and his players, however, did not come to Maryland to coach and play in the Big Ten. Thus, Maryland runs the risk of doing to its men’s basketball program what the ACC did to its men’s basketball tradition by selling its soul to second-rate football. There is so much wrong with the ACC that was self-inflicted, Maryland could be getting out while the going is good. Certainly the money will be good.

“Today is a watershed moment for the University of Maryland,” said university president Wallace D. Loh. “Membership in the Big Ten Conference is in the strategic interest of the University of Maryland. It will not only ensure the financial vitality of Maryland athletics for decades to come, but the extensive opportunities in the CIC for collaborations with our peer AAU and flagship universities in education, research, and innovation will boost the University of Maryland’s ascendancy in academic excellence.”

President Loh had better hope all of those AAU kids he covets to put into Under Armour gear believe that as well.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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