Moments after the University of Maryland announced they were accepting an invitation to join the Big Ten conference, the finger pointing began.
"I can't believe Maryland is leaving the ACC."
"Why is Maryland leaving behind the conference they helped found?"
"Maryland is a founding member of this conference, it just doesn’t seem right that they’re leaving."
But why are people pointing the finger at Maryland? Why are people giving a pass to the ACC, who themselves just added Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame? Why isn’t John Swofford being blamed for essentially making the ACC into the Big East 2.0?
The dynamics of college athletics have changed. New, constantly escalating television contracts have forced the major conferences into an arms race to bring in new television markets, which in turn increases what networks are willing to pay for their next television deal. Why aren’t we blaming ESPN, CBS, Fox and other networks for paying billions for the rights to cover college football and basketball? That bidding war has been the catalyst behind conference expansion. And now that Maryland has a chance to increase their share of the revenue pie, we’re going to criticize them?
Imagine if you were working at a company you helped found. In recent years, that company has expanded, adding new partners to increase the firm’s reach in the market. But despite you being a founding partner, the company isn’t exactly treating you with the respect you’d expect for someone who helped build the firm into a national power. Instead, they’ve decided that you’re almost a second-class citizen. They frequently hold their annual meetings closest to where four of the founding members live, rarely holding the meeting in your backyard. Now, after bringing even more partners into the fold, they want you to partner up with one of the new guys, killing the tradition and relationship you’ve had for years with some of the other founding members.
Then one day, another firm gives you a call. They’re interested in you leaving the firm you helped found to become part of their expanding company. They’re willing to give you substantially more financial resources. You’d be able to finally invest extra money in your family and not have to worry about the financial burden you’re facing as a result of some poor financial decisions made several years ago. But you’d be essentially ending some of your most cherished friendships in the process. But if those friends aren’t treating you as an equal, why should that bother you?
The point is, if we look at the Maryland situation through the eyes of an individual, the right choice is so obvious; you switch firms and if you didn’t, people would mock you endlessly.
So why are so many attacking Maryland for what we’d all do if we were in the same situation ourselves? Are we seriously criticizing President Wallach Loh and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson for making this move, especially considering the financial situation Maryland found themselves in after they assumed their positions within the university? They should only be criticized if they hadn’t accepted that deal.
But that hasn’t stopped some of the networks, the ones who are driving and might potentially be advising conferences on expansion, from criticizing the Terps’ decision to leave for the B1G. Some of ESPN’s leading commentators have openly ripped the school for the move, somehow glossing over the fact that the people signing their paychecks were the ones they should be directing their anger towards.
Coaches, most notably Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, have also come out guns a blazing when it comes to Maryland’s decision to switch conferences.
"And in Maryland's case, that's the only conference they've known. And they're right in the middle of the ACC. And now their fans, they don't have a place," Coach K said in an interview on Sirus/XM last January. "They're outsiders. They really are outsiders. What price? What price is paid for that?"
What about the fact that Maryland was an outsider in their own conference? Maybe if the conference Maryland is leaving didn’t assign Pitt as their new primary rival, Maryland would have been less inclined to leave. The fact is, even if Maryland did value the tradition and history of the ACC more than the money of the Big Ten, that tradition began a slow and painful death in 2003, when the decision was made to add Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech.
Coach K also had this to say about Maryland leaving: "If it was such a rivalry, they'd still be in the ACC,'' Krzyzewski said. "Obviously they don't think it's that important, or they wouldn't be in the Big Ten.''
While I think Coach K legitimately feels bad for Maryland fans losing what was remaining of that tradition and for those historic rivalries coming to a somewhat abrupt close, if he truly valued those games with Maryland, there is nothing stopping Duke from scheduling a yearly game with Maryland, alternating between schools or even playing it at a neutral location.
Coach K might be angry about the traditions of college athletics changing, but he seems to forget that the new financial boom of college football and basketball is the reason why he’s a millionaire. I have the utmost respect for Coach Krzyzewski, but is he willing to give up those millions if it means preserving the traditions and history of college rivalries? Probably not. So why should Maryland be the one who gives up the millions?
While I might disagree with a lot of what Coach K said, he doesn't get the award for most ridiculous statement about Maryland leaving the ACC. That goes to local Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro, who compared Maryland leaving the ACC to the Baltimore Colts leaving the city of Baltimore in 1984.
No, the sadness and despair that Terps fans have felt ever since the decision was made to leave the ACC and move to the Big 10 is the same grief that Baltimore fans felt when the Colts backed up the Mayflower vans on a snowy night and took away a piece of the city. It's what Washington baseball fans felt in that final 1971 season, when the Senators were playing out the string before leaving for Arlington, Texas.
Loverro then goes on to argue that Colts fans stopped rooting for them when they moved to Indy, so why should Maryland fans continue to root for them now that they're leaving the ACC? Oh, I don't know Thom, maybe because THIS ISN'T REMOTELY CLOSE TO THE SAME THING!
I'm a Baltimore sports fans. Comparing this to the Colts leaving Baltimore is such a disservice to myself and the others who suffered through that horrible sports event. When I read that, it instantly made me think of this scene from the movie Billy Madison. I don't think I can explain my reaction to Loverro's piece better than this.
Mr. Loverro is a good writer and radio personality when it comes to baseball, but his take on Maryland leaving the ACC takes the cake for most ridiculous article written about the topic. I guess all of the baseball fans in Houston shouldn't root for their team anymore, since they switched from the National League to the American League this year.
In the end, I think most Maryland fans would like a scenario where the Terps could continue playing the likes of Duke, Virginia and other ACC rivals. But the reality of the situation is that the ACC we love to remember began dying a slow death about ten years ago. Maryland is leaving an ACC that possesses just a fraction of the tradition it once had. Now the school has a chance to gain a bigger piece of the pie generated by the financial boom of college sports, which has become a big, revenue generating business. And if you look at Maryland's decision to move to the B1G through the eyes of a business, their choice was an easy one.