Since I’m sitting here on Friday morning trying to resemble a productive employee, I haven’t yet read the latest sports news and will assume no other colleges decided overnight to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference as the University of Maryland did Monday.
Even with schools across the country switching conference affiliations these days with the fervor of the Oklahoma Land Rush, surely decency and dignity would dictate that there was at least a Thanksgiving moratorium on such defections.
Yet since I haven’t had a chance to check the sports headlines today, there’s no way of knowing for sure at this point. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.
But you can bet your last set of pom-poms that similar moves will at least be considered among the remaining schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference as this weird game of athletic musical chairs continues. The beloved ACC is what most of us in this area have grown up with, and myself and others are troubled when a great athletic tradition is messed with.
That’s because, just as in the business world, things don’t happen in a vacuum in big-time college sports, which is really a business, too. (And you thought it was all about education.)
When there’s a steep spike in gas prices, for example, that means the cost of deliveries and other transportation services will increase. If a company closes down in City A, it also impacts another in City B which supplies materials to that plant.
The same is true of college sports, which in the last couple of years has sparked some strange events with universities coming and going. And as was the case with Maryland, the reason is always the almighty dollar.
Attempts have been mounted throughout the U.S. to achieve “super conferences” to capture more fan interest, broadcasting revenues, etc. The objective seems to be having enough schools to establish two separate divisions within a conference, thus allowing a football championship game that opens the door to more exposure and solidifies the chances for national titles.
The ACC, which as of this minute contains 12 teams — counting Maryland — has a Coastal and Atlantic Division. Since my boss is Gary Lawrence, whom you might have heard has at least a slight interest in Alabama Crimson Tide football, I better mention the Southeastern Conference, too, whose 14 schools are divided between the East and West divisions.
That’s short and to the point, but you’ll have to admit it’s not as clever as the Legends and Leaders divisions of the Big Ten Conference, to which Maryland is jumping in 2014.
Major conferences have jockeyed for position and built up their ranks by raiding schools from other conferences, which in turn prey on those of lesser leagues. The resulting chain-reaction effect means a shift by a school in Texas could affect what happens in West Virginia or New York, an unprecedented and somewhat bizarre situation.
The Big Ten actually has 12 teams and will expand to 14 with Maryland’s entry. The Big 12 now has only 10 members, incorporating recent ridiculous developments such as Texas A&M heading to the SEC and West Virginia in turn joining the Big 12.
What really disturbs me about Maryland leaving the ACC is that up to now, the conference has gained rather than lost members. Some traditionalists still haven’t got over the additions of Georgia Tech and Florida State some years ago to the familiar lineup of North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson and the others.
At least those two schools are in coastal states situated in the Southeast corner of the country.
Then came Virginia Tech and Miami, which also made SOME sense, and Boston College, which makes none given the traditional geographic makeup of the ACC. Now, Boston U is a fine academic institution with a storied sports program, but what business does a New England school have in the ACC? Oops, there’s that word again (business).
And it’s only going to get worse, with the upcoming additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two other refugees from the Big East Conference, along with — ugh! — Notre Dame, which will be joining the ACC for all sports except football.
All these football-generated moves basically are ruining ACC basketball, including the fact that fans of our in-state members no longer can be assured of an annual home-and-home series with each other. That’s the case this season with Wake Forest having just one game scheduled with North Carolina, which likely will only intensify with the new members.
Along with the fact Maryland’s departure represents the first for the ACC, it’s equally regrettable because a traditional, longtime conference member is involved. Who’ll be next, N.C. State?
It also is bad that Maryland’s decision, announced this week, occurred with little advance warning — no time for students and alumni to sufficiently consider and weigh in on the proposal. University officials made the decision in a un-Terrapin-like manner, a swift and sudden vote that reeked of backroom politics in the dead of night.
They defended their action by saying the school’s sports programs are losing money and that the shift to the higher-profile Big Ten will save the day — which remains to be seen.
In the meantime, I’m going to check those sports headlines now to see if any other changes have occurred while my back was turned.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or email@example.com.