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LOVERRO: Maryland in the Big Ten is not the same team as Maryland in the ACC

- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Maryland played its final basketball game in the ACC last Thursday, a loss to Florida State in the first round of the conference tournament.

Now they no longer exist – not the Maryland you attended, not the school you grew up rooting for, not the Maryland with the proud tradition.

That school is gone. It moved.

Oh, the buildings are still up there in College Park. But your school? It moved to Columbus, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, Ann Arbor, Michigan and other places that have zero connection to the places you fell in love with your team, in a place called the Big Ten– even though it seems so small now compared to what has been left behind.

So if your team has moved, why would you root for it anymore?

Did Baltimore football fans root for the Colts when they left Baltimore? Did Washington baseball fans root for the Rangers when the Senators moved to Texas?

Then why would you root for the Big Ten Terrapins?

It's not the same thing? Tell that to the Maryland fans who are grieving the loss of the Maryland they cheered for against opponents like Duke and North Carolina – rivalries down to the bone. They will carry the pain of the heartbreaking losses to Duke for their rest of their lives, with no chance to go back and avenge those losses every season. And the glorious wins? They will fade with time. They will be painful stories of what once was, and is now gone.

No, the sadness and despair that Terps fans have felt ever since the decision was made to leave the ACC and move to the Big 10 is the same grief that Baltimore fans felt when the Colts backed up the Mayflower vans on a snowy night and took away a piece of the city. It's what Washington baseball fans felt in that final 1971 season, when the Senators were playing out the string before leaving for Arlington, Texas.

It feels the same.

And you know what? School president Wallace Loh and athletic director Kevin Anderson – the architects of the move - are Bob Irsay and Bob Short, tearing out the heart of a fan base for money.

Irsay left Baltimore because he felt the Colts had a better deal in Indianapolis. Same with Short – money.

And, like Irsay, Maryland officials did it secretly, until word leaked out.

You might make the case that Irsay and Short were lining their own pockets, while Loh and Anderson were making decisions to put needed dollars in the university bank account. But the financial payoff from the Big Ten is job security for Loh and Anderson as well, who inherited and were presiding over a financially mismanaged athletic program.

At least the Colts were welcomed in Indianapolis. Fans there were elated to have an NFL team. In Texas, the arrival of the Senators was celebrated.

You think they want Maryland in Columbus and Ann Arbor? You think your Terps will be embraced in their new Big Ten home?

They don't want you in the Big Ten. They want your television sets – not your team. They could care less about the Maryland Terrapins at Michigan State and Purdue. You'll be a nuisance, an interloper, a team they will tolerate.

You think Maryland was treated like a second class citizen in the Carolina-centric ACC? You think you got screwed at Cameron Indoor?

Wait until you get to Assembly Hall, or the Crisler Center.

Why would Maryland get the calls there?

Despite the conspiracies, Maryland will be missed in the ACC. You heard it from the fans who delighted in chanting, "ACC, ACC," in conference road games this year. And Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was clearly bitter over the Maryland defection, ironically spoke for Terps fans in September in an appearance on "The Sports Fix" on ESPN 980 radio.

"You felt not just a team that you were playing against; you felt that community, that Maryland spirit, the passion to win and to beat us," he said. "And we've won some there, we've lost, but there's never been a game there that was dull. It's really one of the premiere games of the year for the conference, and I think it helped both programs."

Now it's gone. What do you have left, Terps fans? A jersey? That hasn't been your jersey for some time. And now, after 61 years in the ACC, it's not your team, either.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of "The Sports Fix," noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

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