Allegany Communications Sports
You know, it’s been since 2014 when the University of Maryland left the Atlantic Coast Conference to keep its arse out of potential Chairman Yow-induced bankruptcy by becoming a member of the Big Ten Conference — eight going on nine years, though in some instances it seems like more.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy Maryland is in the Big Ten, and though I never imagined I would one day feel this way while the Terps were in the ACC, I’ve found the Big Ten is just a stronger and better conference, athletically, financially and academically. So while the move was necessitated by having to stay fiscally viable, I believe it has paid off handsomely for Maryland and is bound to pay off even more in the coming years.
On top of everything else, I’m just happy to be away from those people. I don’t mean most of the schools in the conference such as Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia and N.C. State and the likes; I always felt they were up against the same obstacles in the ACC that Maryland was because they are not Duke or North Carolina.
I do not miss the Syracuses, the Boston Colleges and the Miamis, not because I have anything against those schools, but because I never had any feelings for their being ACC rivals of Maryland’s. Yes, in much the same way that Maryland and Rutgers are still viewed by many in the Big Ten. I get that.
I’m just glad Maryland is away from the Duke-North Carolina power dynamic and how the conference, most notably longtime ACC Commissioner John Swofford, a North Carolina alum, and, of course, former Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski freely exercised it; for if you weren’t Duke or Carolina, you didn’t rate in the eyes of that conference, and that includes North Carolina schools N.C. State and Wake Forest.
I thought about that quite a bit this week as I watched the ACC-Big Ten Challenge basketball games, an annual series in which Maryland went 10-5 as an ACC school, and now finishes at 2-7 as a Big Ten school after its blowout win on Tuesday over Louisville, the school that essentially replaced Maryland in the ACC.
This was the final Challenge involving the Big Ten, as ESPN and the ACC pulled the plug on them out of a screaming case of television revenue and expansion envy; so, beginning next season, the ACC will square off against the Southeastern Conference. In the meantime, the Big Ten and the Big 12 are said to be in discussions about a Big Ten-Big 12 Challenge, which would make Maryland-West Virginia a natural match-up.
As for the ACC, Maryland, since joining the Big Ten, didn’t have many attractive matchups in the Challenge series, although the Terps did play both Carolina and Virginia once; but Coach K continued to use his bully pulpit on the conference and on ESPN and would not permit a Duke matchup with Maryland, not unlike the way he did one year to prevent Maryland from being in the same NCAA Regional with Duke.
The guy was a great coach, obviously, but he has never been the ice cream and apple pie guy that he’s long projected himself to be. He could play some dirty pool behind the scenes and that’s something most Maryland alumni and fans do not miss.
Still, even after eight-plus seasons as a member of the Big Ten, watching Maryland play against the ACC is still pretty weird. After all, Maryland was a charter member of the ACC, having fled the Southern Conference along with Clemson because that conference did not allow member schools to play in bowl games.
How times have changed, right? Or, rather, how greed has taken over, and thus, the ACC was founded in 1953, and in that time the only schools that have been treated as charter members have been Duke and North Carolina.
That said, during the course of the average basketball season, if I have the choice of watching an ACC basketball game or a Big Ten game that does not involve Maryland, I’ll watch the ACC game, as old habits are hard to die.
And as much as I loathe both schools – the Burke family crest reads, “We’ve hated Carolina longer, but we hate Duke more” – I put the Duke-Carolina basketball games up there with any rivalry in college or professional sports, including Yankees-Red Sox.
Hey, you give even a devil and a heel their due. It’s just too bad Maryland and most of the other schools in the ACC have never received their due. Or a fair shake.
Go Big Ten!
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT