October 17, 2009

Maryland to the Big East? An Examination.

Over the summer, there was some idle chatter about the possibility of Maryland moving to the Big East. Such a move couldn't take place until 2015, at the earliest.

As a lifelong Marylander and proud Terp, my initial reaction to this was shock and horror. Maryland is a charter member of the ACC, dating back to 1953. Prior to that, we had been a member of the Southern Conference, along with Wake, Duke, NC State, UNC, Clemson, Duke, and South Carolina (South Carolina came to the ACC in 1953 and left in 1971). My point is simply that for the better part of nine decades, Maryland has been in the same athletic conference as five of their current ACC brethren. Maryland's athletic history is indelibly interwoven with the Demon Deacons, the Tar Heels, the Wolfpack, the Tigers, and the Blue Devils.

The more I got to thinking about this, and the more I discussed this with friends who have attended Big East schools, the more it begins to make sense from a fan's perspective. Here's why, I submit to you ECB readers, a move to the Big East might not be so horrific.


The Big East presently has eight teams for football, seven of them are set forth above (University of South Florida is the outlier down in Tampa). The Terps would be very much geographically in the middle of the conference with UConn, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, WVU, Cincinnati, and Louisville. There would be four road schools within an easy drive to go to away games (Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, WVU), and there would be a road trip to a nice warm weather destination (Tampa).

More importantly, as stated, presently the Big East has 8 teams for football. The Terps would add a ninth team. One of the best things about the ACC pre-expansion was the 9-team league, which meant that every year you played all 8 other teams and rotated home-away each season with those 8 teams. Joining the Big East would bring this back for the Terps.

ACC football is mired in mediocrity (as is the Big East). There wouldn't really be anything lost by going to the Big East. In fact, the lack of a conference championship game in the Big East might make it easier for the Terps to make a long shot BCS appearance, just as the Terps were able to do in 2002, pre-ACC expansion.

Also, in football, the Terps have no true "rival." UVA is the closest thing that Maryland has. I could easily see the Terps forming a football rivalry with Syracuse, another school with a historically strong football program, who lacks a football "rival" in-conference. Think about it - trading ACC football for Big East football - not so horrible.


Now this is where we get very sensitive, as Terps fans. We care like nothing else for ACC basketball. We treasure our history in the 70s against NC State. We treasure our rivalry games of late against Duke and UNC. Our history as Terp basketball fans is measured by watching those ACC tournament games in Greensboro Coliseum.
But I ask you to take a second and look at those teams above. Yes, I know, West Virginia, Seton Hall, Rutgers, South Florida, and DePaul don't do too much for you as a college basketball fan. But neither likely do Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, or Miami.
How about these teams - Syracuse, Villanova, St. Johns, UConn, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, and Pitt - does that spur your interest as a college basketball fan? As much as Duke, UNC, NC State, and Wake Forest? How about a conference tournament every year in Madison Square Garden in New York? Does that inspire you as much, if not more, than a rotating conference tournament that returns to Greensboro every other year and goes to Tampa, Atlanta, Charlotte, and the highly occasional stop in DC in the other years? I do have some concern that the Big East tournament doesn't invite every team. However, if you're so low in the conference that you're not getting invited to the tournament, you'd probably lose the first game of any conference tournament in the country, including the ACC Tourney.
For recruiting purposes, I think we wouldn't have any problem getting kids as inspired to come play for a Big East school as we do getting them inspired to play for an ACC school. For rivalry purposes, can you even begin to fathom the animosity that a Terps-Georgetown basketball rivalry would create? It would make the Terps-Duke relationship suitable for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. We wouldn't lose any television exposure, in fact we'd likely gain television exposure.
The ACC has truly suffered in basketball post-expansion. The Big East has gained. My one concern is it's almost unwieldy size. So, you separate into Big East North and Big East South and you play half the teams home-and-home (twice a year) and the other half of the teams once a year, alternating home and road year-by-year. It could work.
Bet you didn't think about this one, did you? Let's talk about it. The ACC presently has a four-team lacrosse league, comprised of UNC, Duke, UVA, and the Terps. There is even a four-team conference tournament at the end of the season. A Big East lacrosse league could easily be formed with Notre Dame, Syracuse, Georgetown, Rutgers, and Maryland. I don't think any Terp lacrosse fans would mind getting to play Syracuse every season. In fact, I think we'd gladly give up our ACC schedule for any schedule that gave us Syracuse on the calendar every season.
So, there we have it - some of the case (a blog post that explains in full detail would be way longer than appropriate for this blog) why in my own mind, after much deliberation, I conclude that a move by the Terps from the ACC to the Big East might not necessarily be so horrific - it might actually be desirable. I know that many Terp fans will claim heresy at this one. That's part of our job as bloggers, I suppose.

20 Responses:

J-Red said...

The only way this really works is to swap Maryland with a football-playing Big East team (which screws up your 9-team league, but gives us one more out-of-conference game slot for, say, Virginia). I would think South Florida makes the most sense.

Overall, I hate the idea but I could get used to it. Maybe.

Nikhil Verma said...

I wouldn't have a problem with it in football and lacrosse. Basketball would be the big objection for me. Losing UNC and Duke in basketball is not worth any possible gains anywhere else.

Jeremy said...

I think that South Florida would die to join the ACC and have rivalries with FSU and Miami. It would give them much more credibility. We could take their spot in the Big East. Your suggestion makes much more sense geographically.

And you're like me... at first I was up in arms outraged over the thought. Then I thought about it some more and was like, "hmm... maybe that could make sense and not be so horrible."

Oh, and I realize my proposal for basketball calls for too many conference games (22). The only way you could ever schedule basketball in a 16-team conference and have some teams play home-and-homes with other "rivals" is to just flat out not have a regular season game against a few other teams.

Jeremy said...

Nikhil, you have to admit... how incredible would it be to play Georgetown at Verizon and have Georgetown come out to Comcast to play every season? As a Washingtonian, let alone a huge Terp fan, I love the idea way more than I love the Terps-Duke rivalry.

Nikhil Verma said...

Yeah, I thought about that and it's an interesting idea. Playing Georgetown, UConn, Syracuse, and Villanova would be cool. Playing in MSG for the Big East tournament would be nice too.

To me, it comes down to I don't want to lose the 4 Carolina schools for basketball.

Mark said...

From a football standpoint, I think it's a great idea for both the Terps and the Big East. For basketball, I think it works for the Terps, as you said ACC has suffered due to expansion, but the Big East would then have 17 basketball playing schools. I suppose at that point, they could turn to Notre Dame and say play Big East football or get out, but I really don't see that happening. I think the league is very reluctant to add a basketball playing member unless one drops out.

Overall, if the Big East extended the invite, Maryland should take it. The ACc has suffered from expansion and it won't fix those problems anytime soon.

I do want to correct one thing; starting with last year's Big East tournament, both men's and women's tournaments invited all 16 schools.

Anonymous said...

"ACC football is mired in mediocrity"

Well, YOUR crappy division is.

gpb said...

On the plus side, Russell can talk more smack about Rutgers football. And that means ad revenue! Travel for conference football is much improved. Honestly, that's really huge for you guys.

On the minus side, you join the Big East for everything. I think it's going to get worse for them before it gets better.

The ACC basketball tourney is just them being whipped to three programs keeping it in Greensboro. And being from Winston, I loved it growing up.

Basketball and football are always going to be in conflict since both want a championship series. I liked the old conference personally too since playing everyone twice was awesome. And I still feel VT, Miami, and BC didn't add any value.

Want to hear a stupid argument on conferences? http://nique.net/opinions/100240

Nic said...

I think it makes sense from a fan perspective. But playing that many more good teams a season against a handful of pretty decent teams...do you really think Maryland's going to win? The ACC is pretty shitty except for the occasional good teams in each sport, and Maryland goes back in forth between being part of the good and bad. Do you think they can really compete...consistently?

J-Red said...


You live in Gaithersburg and work in Bethesda. You're as Washingtonian as a freshman Congressman.

John Desko said...

You do realize that a Big East Lacrosse league has already been formed and will begin play in 2010.

Syracuse, Notre Dame, Georetown, Rutgers, St. Johns, Villanova, and Providence.

ScarShoulders said...

F all this noise. The Big East values quantity over quality in basketball. The teams at the bottom of the big east in basketball can't carry the jocks of the teams at the bottom of the ACC in basketball. And don't tell me that doesn't matter. Just becuase GTown, Cuse, and all the other "heavyweights" fatten up on 5 or 6 free conference wins a year doesn't make them any better than UNC or Duke (who they can't ever beat in the tourney). As an aside if Georgetwon wasn't scurred, we would be playing them each and every year home and home anyways.

As for football you are in a sense trading crap for crap. And playing West Virginia is alwya sfun and Rutgers could be a good rival. That said from a recruiting perspective you really don't want to give up the souther exposure that playing in the ACC gives you. Winning and getting into Florida is the eventual path to national prominence for MD and you can't give up on that dream for nominal gains and easy travel.

Jeremy said...

Interesting, I did not know that the Big East lacrosse league had been formed nor did my Syracuse and Georgetown friends who allegedly follow Big East sports a lot. Then, a downside to joining a Big East lacrosse conference with so many teams would be that it could jeopardize Maryland's schedule where they have the room to schedule local non-conference teams such as Loyola, UMBC, and Towson.

Curtis Tarver said...

The Big East has actually expanded the conference tourney, so now all 16 schools do get to go up to the Garden, even if it's just to take a look around before getting bounced in the first round. And as mentioned before, Big East lax starts this coming season, which would put the Terps into a conference, not just a four team partnership.

As far as football, although they are already each other's true rival, I could definitely see Pittsburgh and WVU emerging as rivalries for the Terps as well. There's already some history with West Virginia, and of course there's no love lost between the state of Maryland and Pittsburgh on the gridiron.

"ben" said...


"You live in Gaithersburg and work in Bethesda. You're as Washingtonian as a freshman Congressman."

Says the Washington Capitals fan from the Maryland eastern shore.

J-Red said...

There's a big difference between a rooting interest and identifying as a resident of the city.

I live in Baltimore and I'm not a Baltimorean (or a Baltimoron).

Anonymous said...

Uh, know your Big East hoops - West Virginia and Seton Hall are actually basketball programs on the upswing. I'd pick WV to win the league and SHU to finish top 5.

Anyway, as a Big East basketball fan, would be great to have Maryland in the conference. Alot more of a natural rivalry than with Cincinnati, South Florida, etc. My guess is it would benefit your fanbase and recruiting as well, by giving you guys access to the New York market and the MSG tourney.

Can't see it happening though, unless Rutgers or Pitt defects to the so called Big 10 to make them an even 12 and we need to pick up a replacement.

Anonymous said...

WVU doesn't do much for basketball? You do realize that they are the #2 pick in the Big East preseason polls and are in the top 10 of every major poll in the country.

SoCal said...

To ScarShoulders
You Stated:
"And don't tell me that doesn't matter. Just becuase GTown, Cuse, and all the other "heavyweights" fatten up on 5 or 6 free conference wins a year doesn't make them any better than UNC or Duke (who they can't ever beat in the tourney)."

Not a smart comment... Do you recall that Villanova destroyed Duke in the NCAAs

MyBrother53 said...

If the Big East is serious about football expansion and making "Geographic Sense", what you do is pick up Maryland AND Memphis and kick out Depaul (no loss there), and Marquette (hate to do that, but at that point they become the "WTF" in the conference travel schedule.

That gives 10 football teams and 16 basketball teams.

At that point, you have Notre Dame, Providence, Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall, and St. John's as non-fooball members. If you ever wanted to go to 12 football, 16 basketball, all you have to do is persuade Nova to become FBS (which has been talked about), and replace either Seton Hall or Providence with UCF (travel partner in Florida) or BC (assuming they would be interested in coming back).

Talk about an interesting conference...

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