The day after Maryland – how should the ACC respond?

There are some great articles and discussion related to the big changes in the ACC that we wanted to elevate from our message forums to the front page of the blog this morning.

Those of us who are ‘ACC purists’ are still bewildered by the decision and the speed at which our northernmost founding member just kicked 60 years of successful partnership to the curb. Forbes takes a look at why Maryland bolted in this article that highlights the financial impact of the move from the point of view of both Maryland and the Big 10. But this article from The Sporting News does a fantastic job of melding the past and the present and makes a point about geographic proximity that I find very valuable.

At Maryland, the sport that has mattered most over the years is basketball. The Terps won the NCAA championship in 2002, reached the Final Four in 2001 and made 24 NCAA Tournament appearances. They turned out Len Bias, Len Elmore, Buck Williams, Juan Dixon and Greivis Vasquez. They played for decades in the antiquated charm of Cole Field House until 10 years ago upgrading to the comfort and luxury of the Comcast Center. They did all of this as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

They did most of it by selling ACC-area players on playing in the ACC. Bias was a local kid, from Riverdale. Williams was from Rocky Mount, N.C., which also gave the world the great Phil Ford. From the championship team, Dixon (Baltimore) and Lonny Baxter (Silver Spring) were both in-staters, and Chris Wilcox was from Whiteville, N.C.

Understanding the chemistry that flows through this sort of athletic success ought to be mandatory in making the decisions that so profoundly impact an athletic department’s future, but unfortunately it too often is ignored for the purpose of accepting more lucrative paydays.

Ask Derek Dooley how jumping at the money turned out.

No one seems to be considering this factor in making conference affiliation decisions, but volunteering to become the most remote member of an athletic conference does not appear to be a recipe for success. Washington State in the Pac-12 and Texas Tech in the Big 12 don’t have any options. They’re going to be remote in any league, because they’re remote.

Maryland, though, has done this by choice. It is in the heart of the ACC, particularly given the league’s expansion into the Northeast with Boston College, Syracuse and Pitt. Maryland no longer is the outsider envious of the Carolina-based “Big Four.” The Terps had become old-school ACC. They were as much a part of the gentry as anyone.

Moving to the Big Ten will earn the Terps more money. But the coaches in every sport, most notably basketball, will have to start their recruiting work by selling ACC-area kids on competing in a league whose road trips will take them primarily to the Midwest, not on short jaunts down to UVa or the Carolina Triangle.

Where can they look for examples on how to make this work? There basically are none.

Regardless of why Maryland left, The Washington Posts‘s Thomas Boswell thinks that things will end badly for Maryland. The following are some comments from his online chat yesterday.

I asked my son, the recent Maryland grad and big Terps sports fan, what he thought last night about switching from ACC to Big 10. He said, “Worst idea ever. But that’s just me.” Why? “We’ve always been a basketball school in a basketball conference and we usually struggle in football. So now we’re going to switch to a football conference where we’ll get killed forever? And our basketball rivalries and identity may (deteriorate).”

That’s going to be the first reaction of a lot of Terp alums. I’ve been reading the arguments both ways for the last couple of days. I see both sides. I hate it when that happens. It’s more fun to have a violent opinion. Maryland often got the short end of the stick in a Carolina-biased conference.

My gut level reaction is that it will work out badly. Maryland has tried a million ways to be a better football school. It’s not going to happen by moving to the Big Ten (or 14).

If you eventually lose Turgeon as coach __he’s exceptional__ then you may go backwards in basketball, too.

And will the sports that got erased because of budget be brought back? If restoring those sports isn’t part of the plan, then that weakens the case.

This will be an endless debate. We’ll know if it was smart in…five years…10 years? Right now, I’m in the “lets learn more” stage. But whenever a fait accompli is presented and everything __from first news to “it’s decided”__ all happens in less than 100 hours, I’m suspicious.

If it’s such a great idea, how did it all come to pass so quickly and with so little input from those with a long-time history with Maryland __like, for instance, its graduates?

As for the future of the conference that most of us grew up loving so much that we pulled for every team (other than UNC) whenever they played outside of the league? Well, the N&O’s Luke Decock says that the loss of Maryland won’t hurt.

The ACC without Maryland is like a car without a spare tire. Life goes on unabated. About all the Terrapins have brought to the ACC table over the past decade is tradition, and if that doesn’t matter to Maryland, why should it matter to the ACC?

If Maryland felt disregarded and overlooked in the ACC, wait until it gets a look at life in the Big Ten. All those checks from the Big Ten Network aren’t going to change the fact that Maryland will be as relevant to its new conference home as a third nipple.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s departure will inevitably kick off a new round of introspection among ACC schools as they ponder the future of the conference. That’s just the way it is these days, with no one – not even Notre Dame – wanting to be without a seat in the million-dollar game of musical chairs conference expansion has become.

If Maryland doesn’t see a future for the ACC, the logic goes, surely Florida State and Clemson must not either – but that’s true only if Maryland is right.


Safe to say the ACC would be happy to keep Maryland around for old times’ sake, but what’s really lost here? Tradition, of course, but that matters little in these crazy, silly days of conference-swapping money grabs. Geography? Academics? Connecticut can fill Maryland’s spot in the fabled footprint on both fronts without anyone really noticing.

If anything, the big loss here for the ACC isn’t Maryland. It’s missing out on Rutgers as the potential 16th ACC school. In terms of geography and common purpose, Rutgers was a perfect fit. Alas, moving to the Big Ten, and fleeing the disintegrating Big East, is as good a move for Rutgers as it is questionable for Maryland.

Losing Maryland is disappointing to the ACC and its fans, who have long enjoyed their relationship and rivalry with the Terrapins, but it’s hardly the end of the world, just as the Big 12-SEC Champions Bowl alliance wasn’t the death knell for the ACC many foresaw.

So long, Maryland. You’ll be missed. But not for long.

So, now that Rutgers is off the expansion board, where does the ACC turn to solidify our conference and seek balance? My ‘perfect‘ scenario would include the following – (1) Get Notre Dame to join as a full member; (2) lure Penn State away from the Big 10; (3) Fill in the hole with Louisville’s athletic balance, geographic bride to Notre Dame and additional television markets.

Let’s turn to ACC historian, David Teel, to take a look back at the Terps and to discuss where the ACC needs to turn next.

Penn State absolutely merits exploration. The Nittany Lions fit the ACC’s geographic footprint and have long football histories with current/future league members Pittsburgh, Boston College and Syracuse.

Moreover, Penn State surely resents the Big Ten fining the institution more than $50 million in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. But given the NCAA’s $100-million fine in the same case, would Penn State walk away from the Big Ten’s unsurpassed television revenue, not to mention annual football games against Ohio State? Hard to imagine.

Still others have floated the SEC’s Kentucky or Vanderbilt. Though the Commodores are 7-4 this season, neither has football appeal, and neither would appease the ACC’s football wing.

Besides, hacking off SEC commissioner Mike Slive is probably not the way for the ACC to assure its stability. This because you just know Slive would counter, perhaps by courting ACC schools such as North Carolina State and/or Virginia Tech.

With 10 national basketball championships, three men and seven women, strong Olympic sports and a top-flight academic reputation (63rd in U.S News and World Report rankings), Connecticut clearly fits the ACC profile and would bail the Big East in a blink. There’s also a certain television network based in Bristol, Conn., that would approve of the Huskies.

But aside from a Fiesta Bowl appearance two years ago, after which coach Randy Edsall bolted for Maryland, UConn has little football cache. It’s also fair to wonder how far Huskies basketball will decline now that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun has retired.

Which brings us to UConn’s Big East rival Louisville.

The Cardinals offer national-championship pedigree in basketball, and they’ve finished no lower than 41st in the Directors’ Cup all-sports standings each of the last five years. They have rabid support and cutting-edge facilities.

Football? Bobby Petrino coached Louisville to top-10 seasons in 2004 and ’06, and Charlie Strong has the Cardinals 9-1 and ranked 19th this week. The only ACC teams that have finished among the Associated Press top 10 in the last decade were Virginia Tech’s in 2004, ’05, ’07 and ’09.

Louisville also would solidify the ACC’s southern flank and bring the conference fiscal strength. The Cardinals reported $87.8 million in 2011-12 athletics revenue to the U.S. Department of Education, more than any ACC school – Florida State reported $81.4 million – and cleared $3.5 million in profit.

The issue with Louisville is academics. The ACC often boasts of its U.S. News rankings, and at No. 160, Louisville is far below No. 106 North Carolina State, the ACC’s lowest-rated school.

The Cardinals’ latest Graduation Success Rate for athletes is a solid 80 percent but lags behind all but three of the 12 current ACC members: Georgia Tech (76), N.C. State (77) and Florida State (78). The NCAA docked Louisville’s football program three scholarships last year for sub-par Academic Progress Rates, though that said, low APRs rendered UConn ineligible for this season’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Reader’s Digest version: There is no perfect candidate.

Mark Schlabach(ESPN):

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, one of the most powerful men in college sports, says he believes the ACC might be in imminent danger. He told Sports Illustrated on Monday that his league is “vulnerable right now, I’m concerned about our conference.”

Krzyzewski also said he believed there “could still be some movement in our conference.” The Terrapins and Scarlet Knights are expected to join the Big Ten in 2014. Which school might leave next?

And if Maryland is leaving, who’s to say Clemson and Florida State won’t start looking around again? The Seminoles and Tigers would be attractive options for the Big 12 if it decides to expand any further. If the Big Ten and SEC are now sitting at 14 teams, how long can the Big 12 really stay at 10 schools? Hopefully, after another round of realignment, we’ll at least have conference names that reflect the leagues’ actual number of schools.

Clemson and Florida State seem to be great cultural fits for the SEC, but current members such as Florida, Georgia and South Carolina might be hesitant to let those programs join their conference. If SEC commissioner Mike Slive wants to expand his league’s footprint even more, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech might be the best options.

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29 Responses to The day after Maryland – how should the ACC respond?

  1. TopTenPack 11/20/2012 at 12:11 PM #

    With a 4 team football play-off, there can only be 4 conferences. Would the ACC be better off conceding defeat and controlling its destiny rather than be bleed to death over time?

    I think we should separate the Football conferences from the rest of the sports. If football is the driving factor behind the changes, then spin them off into their own conferences. That way, we are not flying the gymnastics team 1000 miles to compete in conference. More cost effective.

  2. StateFans 11/20/2012 at 12:18 PM #

    ^If that is so, then wouldn’t NC State be better served to get into an automatic qualifier conference and leave the ACC to be a small football/big basketball conference comprised of the likes of Duke, Wake, Miami, BC, UConn, Pitt, Syracuse & Georgetown

  3. MP 11/20/2012 at 12:28 PM #

    ^i.e. The leftovers following the ACC / Big 12 merger.

  4. packof81 11/20/2012 at 12:29 PM #

    The ACC was ruined long ago. It is run by crooks from UNC. Their overreach will be their undoing. Now it’s beginning to come unglued. I thought maybe FSU would leave since they have already been making noises. But instead a charter member says see ya.

    “If Maryland felt disregarded and overlooked in the ACC, wait until it gets a look at life in the Big Ten.”

    Md felt disregarded and overlooked in the ACC because Md was disregarded and overlooked in the ACC. Everyone but Duke and UNC is disregarded and overlooked in the ACC.

    I say lets get out now and let the crooks have it.

  5. LRM 11/20/2012 at 12:31 PM #

    Updated with K’s comments last night.

  6. packof81 11/20/2012 at 12:37 PM #

    I hope this is giving K and Roy a pucker factor.

  7. Wulfpack 11/20/2012 at 12:38 PM #

    The most important question is not how the ACC should respond. It is how should NC State respond? The relevance of our athletic programs is in serious jeopardy if we continue to anchor ourselves to a sinking ship.

  8. graywolf 11/20/2012 at 1:00 PM #

    Wulfpack is correct. I hope our administration has a contengency plan and feelers to other conferences have been put in place. SEC would be a good fit.
    A family member lives in Blacksburg and the rumor mill is strong that SEC is very interested in VT and State…..

  9. Avid109 11/20/2012 at 1:05 PM #

    I think that this article gives a better view of the big picture:

  10. blpack 11/20/2012 at 1:15 PM #

    It will take a huge commitment to football if we jump ship. However if we stay we can just about forget ever playing for a championship. Can we be great at football and hoops? Many have tried and failed. If we stay we should promote Louisville instead of UConn. Forget academic rankings, it is all just a faux posturing. Look at UConn and UNC-ch as examples. Go get a school with athletics success and brings something to the table. Fire Swoff and the league needs to decide if we are a football or basketball conference.

  11. coach13 11/20/2012 at 1:53 PM #

    iF sec came callin I’d say hell yes. That said, it aint happening.

    If we must fill a spot on the ACC roster I say Louisville. I just want the best sports competition, plus we wouldn’t be last on that US News Academic rankings.

  12. jbpackfan 11/20/2012 at 1:54 PM #

    If this plays out and B1G and SEC go 16, choosing from UNC, Duke, UVA, VaTech, GaTech & NC State, which team gets left behind?

    B1G: UNC (in)
    UVA, Duke, GaTech (which one is it?)
    SEC: VaTech (in)
    NC State, Other??

  13. coach13 11/20/2012 at 1:58 PM #

    I do feel somewhat better in saying this, and tell me if you think i’m wrong. Stat and UNC are the 2 main attractions in NC. If it does come down to the big 4 establishing markets, State is as good for that purpose as UNC. UNC may get first offers having a more recognized brand, but a footprint is a footprint. UNC goes one direction, we go another and 2 more conferences have a foothold on UNC besides the ACC. I don’t feel we’ll get left out, just might not get picked first.

  14. ppack3 11/20/2012 at 3:01 PM #

    This is the way I see it. If we remain loyalists to the ACC, then we are at the mercy of whatever wretched plan that John Swofford can muster. But, if we are proactive, then we could make a move to the SEC. In return, we will gain excitement for football, increased ticket sales and merchandising sales, etc.

    Right now, I don’t think that the BIG-10 will call on UNC during this scandal/sanctions, and UNC regards itself as being ‘better’ than the SEC. Besides, John Swofford will never allow UNC to go to the SEC. So, until the situation resolves itself, we’ll all sit her, hitting ‘refresh.”

  15. triadwolf 11/20/2012 at 3:39 PM #

    UNC has some unanswered questions regarding the NCAA at the moment. While the NCAA hasn’t said they’re going to further look into the program, it’s still hanging out there and it could a big deal if more tidbits keep surfacing.

    If any of these conference moves take place within the next year or so, I think State is the more desirable girl at the dance right now. UNC may be more attractive, but everyone knows she’s a pretentious head case, with a lot of baggage.

  16. StandUpAndHowl 11/20/2012 at 4:33 PM #

    The ACC should respond first by treating all it’s members equally. Money ultimately caused Maryland to jump, but special treatment for some members over others is what got them looking for the door long ago.

  17. 61Packer 11/20/2012 at 5:22 PM #

    There is no logical reason for Penn State to bolt the B1G if the $$$ numbers tossed around in the Maryland move are anywhere near correct.

    Notre Dame is NOT going to give up their football money just to say they’re an ACC school in all sports plus have to play 8 of their games each season vs ACC opponents. 5 may already be too many for ND fans who don’t want to give up rivalries against teams like USC, Michigan, MSU and Purdue for the likes of Wake, GT, UVA and yes, even us. Swofford should have his butt kicked until his nose bleeds for hanging this Irish albatross around the ACC’s neck. No conference can ever be relevant in a big-time setting with half-members. Look what it did for the Big East, which is now looking to further infect the ACC.

    Why can’t we just say NO to any further expansion? Do we really want UConn, a school that in my opinion brings nothing to our league but another far-flung northern outpost that will cancel out yet another home game against a regional rival each season? I’d rather have ECU than the Huskies. Louisville makes far more sense if we MUST expand, but I for one am sick of expansion.

    I say let’s make the ACC one team smaller and get out of this shi*storm before we’re buried over our heads. We’re already up to our chins, and like in the old joke, coffee break is almost over and here comes John to tell us to get back on our heads.

  18. john of sparta 11/20/2012 at 8:17 PM #

    here’s the deal:
    there was the DotCom Bubble and the Real Estate Bubble:
    enter the Sports Bubble. college/pro/all that.
    all of this….absolutely ALL….is a money play
    Before the Money goes Away.
    what say ye?

  19. hpack 11/20/2012 at 8:20 PM #

    At this point, the momentum towards 4 -16 team superconferences is unstoppable. The economics dictate that the schools with options will eventually move to optimize their profits. It’s just a matter of time. My guess is within 5 years the deal will be done. How do the dominos fall?

    Many combinations and surprises but here’s my prediction.

    10 slots remain in the B1G, SEC, and B12

    Next, some combination of FSU, MIA, Clem decide to bite the bullet and make the jump to the B12. If MD exit penalty is really $20 million, the move could come soon. If MD exit penalty really is $50 million, things could take a while longer.

    7 slots left

    Following this move, SEC flirts VT, NCSU and UNC. UNC thinks they are better than the SEC, but seeing the writing on the wall, contact the B1G. (UNC will have a bitter pill to swallow when 50 years of preferential treatment melt away and they find themselves subservient to OSU and Mich) UNC will try to take Duke, but having not much leverage, must be content with having GT join them for the ride to the B1G. (UVA is also a B1G option but B1G already has DC market and passes). This leaves VT and NCSU free to go on to the SEC. (Of course VT will try to take UVA to SEC but neither UVA or SEC will be interested.) SEC now has a presence in every southern state.

    3 slots in the B12 left for Pitt, Syr, Louis, UVA, Duke, ND.

    Lots of ways for the end game to play out with ND being the hinge. I would guess that ND finally capitulates and joins the B12, keeping their own Fball contract ala UT.

    2 Slots left for UVA, Syr, Loius, UVA, Duke,

    B12 picks 2 of 3 from Pitt/Louis/UVA combination.

    Remaining teams reform the Big East under ACC name….


    Lots of different scenarios, mostly depending on ND and state politics, that result in slightly different path but in general, some version of this has to take place.

  20. wilmwolf80 11/20/2012 at 9:34 PM #

    I don’t understand the SEC love, outside of money. We haven’t been able to even come close to competing for an ACC title in football, what do we think will happen in the SEC? Can our fanbase really handle getting our asses handed to us on a game to game basis and winning 3-4 games a year for the next few years? Because that is the reality if we take that route. I’m not saying we wouldn’t be better off in the end, but we bitch and moan when we win 9 games, and it’s not like joining the SEC will just magically make us better at football. In the end, who knows how it will all end up, but I do know that I am confident in the leadership that we have in place to make the right decisions for our university. I cannot say that I have that same confidence in those running our conference.

  21. saigonwolf 11/20/2012 at 11:37 PM #

    wilmwolf, I think the bitchin’ and moanin’, from many, about winning 9 games results from the fact that too many of those 9 are “hollow” victories, against cupcake competition. I, for one, would prefer a 6 win season against SEC calibur competition over a 9 win season filled with USAs and Citadels any year. Besides, who says we couldn’t eventually be successful? Look at Vanderbilt this year. I think the potential benefits far outweigh the negatives with regard to football recruiting and eventual success as a member of the SEC. Furthermore, membership in the ACC as a viable basketball conference seems to be less and less relevant every year, given the increasing number of early season losses suffered by nearly every team. There is more parity than ever in college basketball, and I dare say Mark Gottfried would have just as much success recruiting top talent to NCSU in the SEC as he has already had with ACC membership.

  22. wilmwolf80 11/21/2012 at 4:41 AM #

    Playing cupcakes wouldn’t change in the SEC. Everyone does that, that is just how scheduling works. Being a poor-to-mediocre SEC team wouldn’t help our scheduling anymore than it does in the ACC. You personally may be happy with six wins, but in the end, I doubt the majority of the fan base will be as understanding. People aren’t going to show up to watch us get our brains beat out by Bama, LSU, and UGA year in and year out. Again, I’m not saying we wouldn’t eventually get better, but would it happen before our volatile fans went nuclear?

  23. 61Packer 11/21/2012 at 7:10 AM #

    I know few Wolfpackers who’d prefer watcing us get pushed all over the field by UVA rather than by Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M or Auburn.

    In fact, we won’t even see UVA here for the next 5 years because of the crap teams we keep adding like BC, Syracuse, Pitt and now apparently UConn.

    And ticket prices WILL go up…..

  24. saigonwolf 11/21/2012 at 8:28 AM #

    I didn’t say membership in the SEC would help scheduling, I said it would help recruiting. And I think that’s a very safe assumption.

  25. daly 11/21/2012 at 8:41 AM #

    yes many state fans come unglued after every game but the peaks and valleys of being a state fan are what does it to me. I can take loses if the team looks well prepared and plays hard. Loses where we never show up or it looks like we never practiced or watched any film drive me batt shit crazy.

    i think we only have to look at at old friends at USC and see what can happen., they left the ACC in a huff and learned that no one really wanted them—they suffered in obscurity for years. The SEC bailed them out and that entire athletic program has been transformed to field above average to excellent teams across the board. I have no illusions that State in the SEC would take its lumps in the SEC in FB but being done with Duke, Wake, UVa and these holier than thou snobs who seemingly place all their self worth on some garbage World News and Report crap science ranking—lets be rid of them and back with true southerners in a far superior product in the key sport.

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