- John Kerry: Israel-Palestinian peace deal paved for April
- India diplomat who touts women’s rights busted for $3 wage to nanny
- MSNBC host Ed Schultz paid $252K by unions in 2012-2013
- Korean War memorial ordered to take down Christian cross
- Billy Graham near death, ‘close to going home to be with the Lord’
- SeaTac, Wash.: City’s new $15 minimum wage heads to court
- Obama mulls support for Islamists in Syria, with conditions
- Obama ‘birther’ theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- U.S. drone faulted for killing 14 ‘innocent civilians’ at Yemen wedding
- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
DALY: In NCAA, change is the one constant
Conference membership these days has all the permanence of a piece of athletic tape stripped across the top of a locker, the occupant's name written in Sharpie. The situation is very fluid, if not gaseous. So Maryland's decision to bolt the ACC for the Big Ten, though it hits closer to home, is perfectly keeping with the current climate. In the new millennium, it's every school for itself.
And when that school's athletic budget is facing a projected shortfall of more than $17 million in 2017, as Maryland's is, college sports becomes, more than ever, All About the Buck. It doesn't matter that the Terps have been a member in good standing of the ACC since it was formed in 1953. It doesn't matter that generations of fans have been weaned on Maryland-Duke and Maryland-North Carolina basketball games. Athletics, as Maryland president Wallace D. Loh once said, are the "front porch" of a university, and when that porch is in danger of collapse you do what you have to do. If that means casting tradition and geography to the winds and clasping hands with a midwest conference — and its larger financial pie — so be it.
After all, there's no glory in cutting sports, and Terps athletic director Kevin Anderson had to shut down seven of them earlier this year when they couldn't make themselves self-sustaining. More deletions might have followed had Maryland stayed in the less lucrative ACC. In that respect, the school's decision is a no-brainer, especially with football at a low ebb and men's basketball yet to return to national prominence. The Terps "brand" has been slipping for the better part of a decade, to be honest. The infusion of millions of Big Ten dollars beginning in 2014 might help stop the bleeding ... or at least buy a new tourniquet.
As Loh said at Monday's news conference in College Park, he and Anderson "vowed [these cuts] would never happen again, not as long as we're here." The Big Ten deal will "enable us to guarantee the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for a long, long time" and possibly even "to reinstate some of the teams we had to terminate."
It's a shock, sure. But it's not like we haven't been conditioned to this sort of thing. For years, college athletics has seemed in the grip of hysteria, with schools changing partners at a dizzying pace and conferences adopting a Wall Street-ish grow-or-die mentality. Throw in an uncertain economy, and you have all the conditions for the unimaginable: Maryland "unfriending" itself from the ACC and hooking up with the Big Ten.
But what has all this growth, all this furniture rearranging, really accomplished? The ACC thought it was making itself into a superconference when it added Florida State, Miami and the rest. Why, a couple of months ago, Notre Dame, the Moby Dick of college athletics, became a member in all sports except football. But if the conference was so super, Maryland wouldn't be leaving it. Let's face it, ACC football is no match for the SEC and some of the other major leagues — not with the Seminoles and Hurricanes having taken a step back — and men's basketball still is basically Duke, North Carolina and pray for rain. (Though that may change when Syracuse comes aboard next season.)
Besides, when a closely knit conference of eight becomes a sprawling, Boston-to-Miami, cheaper-by-the-dozen family of 15, there's less connectedness. The arrangement starts to feel more like a marriage of convenience — which, of course, it is. (Loh touched on this when he said that in the increasingly crowded ACC, Maryland would "play our traditional basketball rivals only once every two years" at Comcast Center.) Anyway, half of all marriages end in divorce, don't they? Well, chalk up another one. The Terps are packing their bags (and taking the turtle with them).
They might be moving to a wealthier neighborhood, but it's debatable whether it's a better one. Ohio State and Penn State, the top two teams this week in the Leaders Division, are on NCAA probation and bowl ineligible. In men's hoops, the Buckeyes, along with Michigan and Minnesota, have had to vacate Final Four appearances because of various indiscretions. Even Indiana, a bastion of propriety under Bob Knight, has run afoul of NCAA law.
Loh accentuated the "academic component" of the move, the chance for Maryland to align itself with esteemed research institutions — including the University of Chicago, which left the Big Ten in the 1940s because it thought big-time athletics was running amok. "It's not only about money," he said. "[But] somebody has to pay the bills."
You wonder, though, how Maryland will do in football against the likes of Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State, all of which have stadiums with 100,000-plus seats. You wonder, too, if Terps games at Byrd Stadium will become like Wizards games at Verizon Center, where the opposing fans sometimes drown out the locals.
You wonder, but not for long, because it doesn't do any good. This is just how it is on the runaway train of college sports. Loyalty? Here today, gone tomorrow.
What was that line of Nora Ephron's? Oh, yes: "You want monogamy? Marry a swan."
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- DALY: Rookies RG3, Alfred Morris hold their own against two Browns greats
- DALY: Players soon may equate Redskins with winning
- DALY: Quarterbacks waste no time making impact
- DALY: Just the tip of the iceberg for these Redskins
- DALY: Striking a balance integral to Redskins’ success
Latest Blog Entries
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- U.S. Navy-China showdown: Chinese try to halt U.S. cruiser in international waters
- House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
- Obama birther theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- North Korea's official report on Jang Song Thaek
- Billy Graham near death, close to going home to be with the Lord
- PRUDEN: The last living witnesses; they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror
- James Bond: The spy who is really an alcoholic
- Kim Jong-un consolidating power or losing grip on North Korea's military
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Implement these actionable tips, how-to’s and best practices in 10 minutes or less to leverage online communications and technology for brand, business and career development.
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow