Yesterday Mike Kyzyzewski joined Andy Katz on ESPNU’s Katz Korner to discuss a variety of topics; one in particular being conference realignment and whether Duke would continue to try and have an ongoing series with the Maryland Terrapins on the hardwood as they prepare to move to the Big 10 in 2014. As you can see from the video link and Katz’ own story on the interview the topic of whether the rivalry, which will be rekindled again this Saturday potentially for the last time at the Comcast Center, will continue on after the Terps leave the ACC Coach K had a very strong opinion of “No.”
As conference realignment has moved forward we have seen this same type of scenario play out at different schools; Missouri and Kansas have, for the time being, ended their yearly rivalry as the Tigers moved from the Big XII to the SEC. Texas and Texas A&M have also been stuck in the same situation with regard to the yearly match up between the two Texas powers on the gridiron. These two major rivalries have been put on the back burner for the time being as Missouri and Texas A&M decided to leave their home in the Big XII for greener ($) pastures in the SEC.
In these particular cases the teams who remained in the conference have not shown any desire to continue these rivalries through scheduling non-conference match ups between the schools. Despite Missouri publicly stating they wish to continue the rivalry and would schedule Kansas as a non-conference opponent, the Jayhawks declined and have not shown any indication of softening that stance in the near future. In the football crazy state of Texas a bill has been filed to force the Longhorns and Aggies to renew their rivalry.
Since Duke vs. Maryland isn’t a border war like Missouri - Kansas, or even an in-state match up like Texas – Texas A&M, the likelihood of anyone trying to go the lengths that the legislator in Texas has to continue this rivalry are slim. However, there is something on the Terrapins side which neither Missouri or Texas A&M have going for them in their quest to renew their own rivalries…ESPN. The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is one of the crown jewels of ESPN’s early season college basketball schedule, and has been since its inception in 1999. A major proponent of the success of this partnership between the two conferences has been the made-for-TV match ups it has provided. Case in point: Duke playing against a top-5 ranked Ohio State team the last two years.
Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t have to schedule Maryland on the Blue Devils non-conference schedules going forward; I am of the opinion that ESPN will go ahead and take care of that for him. No matter how much objection one side may have in the situation, the fact of the matter is that the decision makers in Bristol, CT. are going to select the match ups which provide them the best ratings. As the last decade plus has shown, the Duke – Maryland rivalry is one that the network has routinely featured across its airwaves as a marquee match up between two programs whose fans simply don’t like each other. If there is a more compelling story line for a match up in the ACC – Big 10 Challenge once this realignment has taken place in 2014, I would love for someone to point it out to me.
The way I see it, ESPN can push the same match ups in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge with regard to Duke as they have been in recent years and trot the Blue Devils out against Ohio State, Indiana or Michigan State. Or, they can schedule a match up which will easily bring more attention than normal to the network and in turn provide ESPN with a ratings boom. Enjoy the interview circuit and get your parting shots in while you can Coach K, for some reason I just don’t believe that this Saturday has the potentially be the last time you ever have to “Fear The Turtle” at the Comcast Center.