What I remember most about Maryland – Duke my senior year is that I didn’t have a ticket. It was the last game of the regular season, the Terps were playing for a share of the ACC title, and for reasons that were definitely not important enough, I was uncharacteristically slow on the draw to request a seat. So I did what any rational person would: stood outside the Comcast Center with $150, a coupon book, and an Olive Garden gift card and begged for one.
I begged lines of strangers walking in, I begged Scott Van Pelt when he parked his car, and after two hours, eventually my begging warmed the heart of a scalper who settled for all of the paper in my wallet (not an Olive Garden fan I guess). I blew off dinner plans with my girlfriend, waged a three-hour battle against frostbite, and packed into a row with space restrictions similar to an orgy in a broom closet (there were no seats left so I never sat down). And for all of that, I got to see the most electric live sporting event that I’ll ever see. So I get that people are upset that those nights will be a thing of the past in two years.
But unfortunately there’s the cold reality that beneath all of the light shows, pump up music and pre-game newspapers there is a business. One in which Maryland faced the possibility of a $17 million deficit by 2017 if they stood pat in the ACC. Eight Terps NCAA teams were lopped off in 2011 just to provide a stopgap for a rapidly sinking athletic program. Putting emotion aside, this decision by Maryland isn’t a money grab. It’s a yank back on the throttle to try and pull the school out of a financial free fall.
In a perfect world, the planets would align and the football and basketball teams would sync up to form dueling ACC powerhouses. The line for season ticket holders would wrap around the freshmen dorms, Byrd Stadium would be bursting to capacity every week, and beautiful women would flock instinctively like the salmon of Capistrano. But if somehow that dream scenario didn’t play out (and our pets heads continued to fall of) Maryland could be staring at their amassing mountain of debt, while trying to make ends meet with a football program that rarely outdraws county fairs, and a TV contract that appears to the product of either hasty negotiation or a realization of conference inferiority.
I’m going to miss the ACC. It’s always tough moving to a new place and trying to make new friends. But what if this move hadn’t been made and the vice continued to tighten on athletic spending? If you look at the men’s basketball schedule the effects are already revealing themselves. Why do you think we’re not playing in a flashy preseason tournament with all of the big kids? Maybe it is to help a young team to get their feet wet, but I’d be willing to bet that cutting the travel budget at least factored in the decision. If the Terps are on the bubble come March, I wouldn’t want it to be because they didn’t spring to travel to a road game, and a quickly mounting deficit could’ve created that problem in the next few years.
So it’s natural to be upset right now. In two years, I won’t get to yell this gratuitously at the UNC Bench, and that’s definitely a bummer. I’m currently convinced that no game against a Big 10 team will ever drive me to completely forsake all real world responsibilities like the Duke game does. But I also know that this is the right move. The Big 10 threw Maryland a much-needed life raft. Better to take it than keep on drifting into uncharted water.
Patrick Guthrie is a University of Maryland alumnus, co-host of the BSR Podcast and contributor at BaltimoreSportsReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter @patguth321.