Gotta admit, when I first heard the rumors that the Maryland Terrapins were considering a move to the Big Ten, I laughed. I think we all did. There was just no way, especially not now with the conferences seemingly reset and the fee for leaving the ACC set at $50M.
And like with most things when it comes to conference realignment, I was shocked to find out it's true. And that we could be seeing another big shift that will redefine the Big East, ACC and Big Ten. And that could mean big changes for the Syracuse Orange as they prepare for their new life in the ACC.
First of all, let's get squared away on what (we think) is happening, at least as of Sunday evening (big thanks to Frank The Tank for organizing most of this):
1. On Saturday, ESPN reports that Maryland and Rutgers are in talks with the Big Ten about possibly joining.
2. As we all try to make sense of what makes either of those schools valuable to the conference of Michigan and Ohio State, Dan Wetzel explains that its a financial move more than it is a football one.
There is no perfect answer but Rutgers and Maryland do bring TV sets for the Big Ten Network to be placed on basic cable tiers, and thus generate millions in additional revenue. The states should also provide fresh recruiting ground for current members to fan out and potentially improve their rosters.
Sure, Rutgers is having a great year but they're still Rutgers. While they might scream to the rooftops about their NYC market share, no one in Chicago wants to watch Rutgers do anything. Same goes for Maryland, who is years removed from elite status in both football and basketball. Plus, they don't seem to really be all that bothered by ACC rah-rah stuff anyway. It's their proximity to New York City, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia that makes him so valuable.
3. Maryland fans immediately started grabbing themselves and Rutgers fans are giving themselves mega-reach-arounds.
4. Speculation is that if the ACC had to add a 14th football member (Notre Dame is the 14th school but won't play full ACC football), the UConn Huskies would be the top choice. Why them over Louisville? The NYC and New England TV market (in theory) and academics. As Frank The Tank puts it, the only way UConn gets stuck is if the Big Ten decides it wants to take two ACC schools.
5. Which is why the rumor that Georgia Tech is dabbling in Big Ten discussions has to concern them. And the ACC.
6. And then it started getting loopy with rumors of the ACC inviting Georgetown and St. John's as basketball-only members.
7. Regardless, Maryland made it known that they're super-serious about the move and will meet Monday with the BOT to vote on it. If that goes the way we think it's gonna go, the dominoes start to fall. And if you think the $50M exit fee is a problem, don't. Not only does Maryland have backers with very deep pockets, but they also seem to think the exit fee's size won't hold up in court.
And here we are. So what does all of this mean to Syracuse? Well first of all, my grand dream for a Syracuse-Maryland rivalry seems destined never to be.
Syracuse loses an interesting rival in Maryland but, if we're being honest, they're not as interesting as they used to be. The idea of Jim Boeheim going head-to-head with Gary Williams would have been fun but now it would be kinda like another Pitt.
The ACC still offers plenty of solid rivals in Duke, UNC, Pitt, etc. Not to mention, if UConn does indeed replace Maryland, we'll have an instant injection of bitter rivalry to bring with us. We need more of that so it would be welcome as far as I'm concerned.
That would also help reinforce the New World Order of the ACC...the Northeastern schools. With a quartet of SU, Pitt, BC and UConn, we'd have some serious pull to push back against the North Carolina schools when they get all pissy. It's also one more Northeastern school to help make the case for tournaments and big games in and around New York City.
I'm going to assume that whole Georgetown/St.John's scenario is crazypants but, who the hell knows.
The move affects Syracuse more directly here. Maryland is/was an Atlantic Division member, which means we would have played them every season. Yearly battles with our old friend Randy Edsall and his Under Armour minions. I still say this would have been a good rivalry, but, oh well.
Replace them with UConn and you have to wonder if it's not just time to remake the football divisions by North and South. It's kinda silly not to.
Seriously ... BC, Cuse, Pitt, UConn, UVa, VT and NC School Of Choice in the North, others in the South. The end.— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) November 18, 2012
Syracuse basically gets to be in the Old Big East plus beatable Virginia and, we would assume, NC State. That also gets us out of the same division as Florida State and Clemson. As far as I'm concerned, we should be all for this.
ACC Lacrosse would suffer with the loss of Maryland. The Terps have gone to the title game two years in a row and have 11 championship game appearances to their credit. Their leaving would also make things confusing when it comes to a conference tournament.
But, let's face it, the ACC is still stocked across the board. With Syracuse, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame and North Carolina, you're still talking about the best conference by a mile. And the door will be open for someone else to finally take the plunge and start a team. UConn?
Either way, while losing Maryland is rough, the ACC is in such good shape that it can afford to lose an elite program and not skip a beat.
One final note...man, the Big East really is just going to be 2002 Conference USA with a new name, isn't it? God bless'm. Everyone besides UConn and Louisville is basically screwed. Big East Lacrosse, only three years old, will basically be done if Rutgers leaves. They'll have football teams in Idaho and California but not New York or New Jersey.
Very sad to see what's become of our long-time home, but, the fact of the matter is they could have done a lot more to prevent it. Or at least nip it before it got to this point.