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. Wulfpack 11/21/2012 at 9:39 AM #

    There are some that are still missing the point.

    If we landed in the SEC or Big 12, at least we would still be playing competitive football. We can discuss our prospects in those conferences later. It will be a fun discussion, and one I look forward to as it means we have ensured a seat at the table.

  2. ryebread 11/21/2012 at 12:41 PM #

    Sadly, this is the legacy of the post MAF era:

    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.

    When I attended NC State we were in the 40s and rising. The biggest fault I have of Oblinger is how he devalued our degrees.

    I hope Chancellor Randy is a lot more focused on this (and alumni giving) than he is on sports.

  3. gumby 11/21/2012 at 3:26 PM #

    Blog post title “The day after Maryland – how should the ACC respond?”

    That’s easy – fire Swofford

  4. TeufelWolf 11/21/2012 at 4:33 PM #

    The point is that if FSU leaves (like Maryland knows they will) the ACC is going to fade into obscurity and better be in the SEC or B1G and apart of competitive football than the in the future ACC that’ll be more like the Big East or CUSA. Non conference schedules won’t change much. No reason to get bent out of shape about that.

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