Thursday, February 6, 2014

Goodbye Maryland

Maryland-UNC used to mean matchups like
Len Bias vs Michael Jordan or Joe Smith vs
Rasheed Wallace.
Last night, North Carolina beat Maryland in what will most likely be the final time these two meet on the Smith Center floor.  Barring some tournament somewhere (including next month's ACC Tournament), these two won't meet for a while.

Maryland is leaving the ACC for the Big Ten after this season.  Right now, the school and the conference are in a bitter lawsuit and countersuit.  When that happens, conference schools tend not to extend a hand to play a friendly anytime soon.

It is a shame.  The ACC is unaccustomed to seeing schools leave.  Until Maryland does so this July, South Carolina has been the lone school to bolt the ACC when they did it nearly 45 years ago.  When the Terps announced they were moving to the Big Ten, is shocked the ACC and made the league seem as if they werer on the brink of falling apart.  Soon after the Terps' announcement, rumors began to swirl that Florida State, Clemson and/or Virginia Tech were moving the the SEC or Big 12 or that Georgia Tech and ... yes ... North Carolina were going to join Maryland in the Big Ten.

Those rumors were proven untrue, but the damage was done at that time.

As an ACC fan, the news shocked and stunned me.  I'll be honest when I say I will always harness hard feelings for the University of Maryland.  I'll be honest when I say I hope they do nothing in the Big Ten and I don't wish them well.

I feel bad about that ... somewhat.  Maryland has been a great ACC school.  In a league that is known for the "big four" North Carolina schools, Maryland has been the best of the rest of the bunch.  Maryland is the only ACC school outside of UNC, Duke or NC State to win a National Championship (new member Syracuse won theirs as a member of the Big East).  Only those three schools have won more ACC regular season championships.  Maryland has consistently been one of the elite programs in the ACC.  Maryland trails only UNC and Duke in ACC winning percentage (they are the only three schools with a winning all-time ACC record).  Only the four North Carolina schools have won more ACC tournaments.

Maryland played NC State in what ACC fans call the greatest game in conference history.  South Carolina really never had a remarkable impact on the ACC in its less than 20-year run in the league.  Maryland has been a vital part of the fabric of the league.  Even in their complains of the ACC's pro-North Carolina (the state) bias, they still were a formidable opponent.  In reality, they will be missed.

Still, the University of Louisville will replace Maryland this coming summer and the ACC will replace the Terps with one of the best athletic programs in the country.  Louisville has a rich history that includes three National Championships including the most recent one in 2013.  They bring with them a Hall Of Fame coach to join the three others that call the ACC home (Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim) and a new basketball crazed market.  The ACC won't go hungry.

Maryland will be off to the Big East, which isn't a slouch of a conference.  Basketball-wise, they should be able to hold their own.  But if Maryland was always grumpy about the ACC's apparent bias towards the North Carolina schools, the Terps may get bent when they are out on an island in the mid-Atlantic while Chicago and Indianapolis are busy hosting all the Big Ten's events.  If Maryland felt like an outsider in what was once a very geographically tight ACC (until the 1992 expansion, Maryland was the northernmost school while Georgia Tech the southernmost school; Florida State became the southern school until Miami joined in 2003), they may not like a league that stretches all the way to Nebraska and is dominated by the Great Lakes state schools.

That may sound snippy and I mean it to be.  I'm not happy that Maryland is leaving.  As a lifelong ACC fan, it hurts to see them leave this conference.  It hurts to not see my Tar Heels facing the Terps again.  Heck, I'll even miss those rabid Maryland-Duke contests.

Goodbye Maryland.

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