Like many of you, I grew up on Maryland basketball. My first memory was watching Maryland and NC State play in the 1973 ACC Championship in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball games ever played. I watched the game on a black and white 13” television and cried when Maryland lost. I was 12 years old.
And like most of you, I hate Duke and North Carolina but somehow find a way to root for them and all of the ACC schools come tournament time. After all, I’m an ACC fan.
So Maryland’s move to the Big Ten caught me by surprise, and like most Terp fans, it’s still hard to accept.
But the fact is, Maryland had no choice. The difference between $24 million and $43 million a year is simply too great a difference for a school in Maryland’s position to turn down.
But this move is as much a preemptive move as anything else. Consider for a moment the Big East. For the past 30 years it was a dominant conference, winning national titles in basketball in the center of the nation’s media markets: Georgetown, Villanova, UCONN, Syracuse, Pitt, St. John’s, Seton Hall. The conference had some of the biggest names in coaching and some of the game’s elite players. Who would ever have predicted the conference would be in the position it is today? Certainly not me. But the Big East is toast.
So the obvious question is could the same fate await the ACC?
The short answer is yes.
Florida State is gone. It’s just a matter of time before they leave the ACC for the SEC, a conference that makes infinitely more sense for them with more money, better competition, and natural rivals. The only question is does Clemson go with them. I believe they will. That takes two football programs off the board. And that would stun the ACC.
It is also obvious the Big Ten is not done. The schools rumored on their short list are Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Don’t be surprised if you wake up one morning and Virginia is heading to the Big Ten. The Big Ten is an obvious destination for them and they fit every bit as well as Maryland does. And make no mistake about it, they have to be alarmed Maryland left the ACC. Should they join the Big Ten, and I think they will, it gives Maryland two obvious rivals in Penn State and Virginia. Boston College makes sense considering the Big Ten's efforts to enter the Northeast. Georgia Tech has already interviewed with the Big Ten and reportedly impressed the conference even though I find them an odd fit. But North Carolina is the real target. So how could that happen?
Let’s say by next year FSU, Clemson, Virginia and Boston College have left the ACC. That is not a stretch and while it’s certainly not a death blow, the foundation would be cracking.
How would you like to be Maryland then?
So let's take it one step further. The conventional wisdom has the super conferences stopping at 16 teams. Believe that if you want, but nothing says the SEC and Big Ten have to stop at 16. What’s wrong with 20?
The SEC has eyed Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech and the Big East’s West Virginia. The Big 12, rumored to be considering Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, also likes Virginia Tech.
If another round of realignment occurred, the ACC would be the target. If several more of the aforementioned schools left, an institution like Carolina would have no choice but to jump to the Big Ten and leave Duke to fend for themselves. Now wouldn’t that be poetic justice!
And you wouldn't want to be Maryland then.
If I was Swofford, I would be calling the Big East and proposing a blockbuster merger between the two conferences. It might be the ACC's best move considering one possible view of realignment that leaves the ACC a 'shell' of its former self.