This article took me quite awhile to write for a number of reasons, the most prominent being the difficulty of separating emotion from reason while thinking over Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. Even saying that now, out loud, stirs up a cauldron of emotions that have been brewing inside me for years and years and years. It is difficult for me to both come to terms with and move on from this announcement all in one day.
Athletic competition, try as we might to separate the two, is still founded in reality and as a result, means that there will almost certainly be some emotional attachment to the collegiate sporting events that we attend. And root for on television. And riot for on Route One. Since it’s inception in 1953, alumni and fans alike of the University of Maryland have had a vested interest in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That’s sixty years chock-full of memories that are not going to dissipate as easily as many outside of the the University of Maryland spectrum, and largely the ACC, believe will.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has won a total of 120 NCAA National Championships covering in a wide range of sports since it’s beginnings, a pretty great number in and of itself. The Maryland Terrapins have the second highest total of those (24) behind only the University of North Carolina (38). In terms of ACC championships, the Terrapins are again second behind the University of North Carolina, 250 to 187. So many great ACC teams have shined and passed through the campus of the University of Maryland throughout its years, but now the question has to be posited: What, now, do we do with all those banners?
Do they remain in the rafters, hanging up as relics of the old days? What significance will those 187 ACC Championship trophies even have in years to come, with the many changes that will undoubtedly come from all this restructuring? Is their value diminished when, inevitably, the Terrapins win a Big 10 Championship in some sport? What do we do with the lacrosse banners that, while many outside of the East Coast couldn’t care less about, mean the world to Marylanders? Is that program, along with the dreams of plenty of young people who wished to partake in future championships with the lacrosse team, just casualties of an endless money game? These are just a few of the many questions I have been thinking about.
There is something to be said about maintaining a connection to the past, even in today’s age where changes happen at a torrid rate (just look at the Big East). Even if Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina deemed the Terrapins “not our rivals,” historically, that could not be further from the truth. Historically these schools are intrinsically linked by numerous successes in athletics and the trading of championships at plenty of sports, and that cannot be taken away so easily. The ACC will miss having it’s second most successful program around in the long run, and will wish they had treated it better than newcomers (*cough* Notre Dame *cough*). Their Carolina-centric mentality will come around to collapse them like a dying star, eventually.
I cannot pretend that I won’t miss those matches against Duke in basketball. As much as I hate them, I know those emotional games will be hard to erase from my memories. Even if Duke won’t admit it, they got up for those games in a similar fashion that they would a game against UNC. Ask Mike Wilbon, who called it one of sports greatest rivalries. Look at Wikipedia, which has dedicated a page to the rivalry itself. The riots may well end, but the thought of upsetting an oozing-with-talent team like Duke still get me going. Future generations will not even have a memory of these games, and in that respect, the connection with former alumni will take a huge hit.
I know, I know. People outside of the program will proclaim to me that monetarily, this is the move that makes the most sense given the dire straits the athletic department is in financially. The Big Ten has lucrative TV deals, the CIC which generates billions upon billions annually, and storied franchises like Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan. But that we are even discussing this is an absolute travesty, because I would like to know whose fault it is in the first place that the Terrapins, one of the most successful athletic programs in the ACC, is facing budgetary cuts? Debbie Yow? Wallace Loh? Kevin Anderson? I want to lash out at all of them in directionless rage, but I know it’s pointless now that the writing is on the wall.
To be sure, it will be interesting seeing games against Urban Meyer’s undefeated Ohio State in football, if for no other reason than to see top-tier talent go up against whoever we throw out there. Hoping, as always, for the upset. One look at the Indiana Hoosiers basketball resume over the years is enough to realize that the tradeoff between them and UNC or Duke will be only a slight drop off. There are some schools in the Big Ten that are old, storied programs which will pose a steep challenge for the Terrapins to overcome. At the same time, none of their history is with us. Save for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which, as my friend Gary so eloquently put it, will be more like “an awkward high school reunion” than anything else. Ugh.
I hate this move. I understand this move. I hate this move. I understand this move. Emotionally that is where a lot of Marylanders are at the moment; waffling between stages of depression. But the Maryland Terrapins are just a school who wins a lot of championships in sports, and there are plenty others like it. We are not special, but we are winners. And we’re sore losers. And we’re mean fans who make enemies with teams they play. I have no doubt that rivalries will come about with some Big Ten programs, to be sure. Our fan base is less-than-kind, which should work to our advantage in carving out a new history in a new conference.
What I mean is, the Terrapins will be just fine without the ACC. And that’s more than I can say, in the long run, for the ACC. Thanks, John Swofford, for treating your second most successful athletic department so poorly (taking away our home-and-homes with Duke so you can get Notre Dame). Thanks, Maryland, for taking the money and running away rather than coming up with a concrete plan to solve your financial issues (the concept that the government uses a lot of throwing cash at a problem to make it go away applies here). I’m not happy, but I’m not unhappy.
Thanks for the memories, ACC.