Commentary

DeCock: Maryland's loss won't hurt ACC

ldecock@newsobserver.comNovember 20, 2012 

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.

These are the same people who thought Randy Edsall would make a good football coach. The vote in the Board of Regents was not unanimous, suggesting at least a few important people in College Park aren’t sure about the move. And it’s a move made out of desperation as much as anything by an athletic department with the crushing debt load of a third-world country, one slashing programs left and right.

Maryland is great for the Big Ten, which has become a television network with an athletic conference attached, but there’s no guarantee the Big Ten will be great for Maryland. Maryland is willing to gamble that its future is better in the Big Ten because it has nothing left to lose.

Moving to the Big Ten isn’t going to make Maryland football competitive or Edsall a better coach. It’s not going to accelerate Mark Turgeon’s rebuilding of the basketball program (and while the early returns are encouraging, there’s still a long way to go.) It’s not going to help lacrosse or soccer or other non-revenue sports that now face recruiting and travel nightmares.

It will make more money for an athletic department that is awash in enough red ink to dye the football field 10 times over, enough to make the $50 million ACC buyout worth it. That’s all that matters to a president with Big Ten roots and an athletic director with no ties to the ACC.

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.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947

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