It has been a busy week for Maryland sports. Let’s start with some very good news. Maryland hired Xavier assistant Orlando “Bino” Ranson as an assistant coach to replace the departed Chuck Driesell who took over the head coaching job at The Citadel.
Ranson is a young up and coming coach who is familiar with the area, particularly Baltimore, and had a very good reputation as a recruiter. He had stints with James Madison and Loyola, where he was under former Maryland assistant Jimmy Patsos, before going to Xavier. Ranson helped Xavier put together a very nice 2010 recruiting class that included 4-star Baltimore player Jordan Latham. In Ranson the Terps will get a coach who wants to be at Maryland and has proven to be a good talent evaluator and tireless recruiter. Certainly those traits are needed to replace Driesell. As I wrote earlier I think this is a very promising hire and better than some of the options that had been floated early in the process.
The bigger news is coming from the potentially apocalyptic shift in college conferences that is happening as I type. Colorado has already left for the Pac-10, almost sure to be followed by other Big 12 members. Nebraska seems to be poised to announce a move to the Big Ten as soon as tomorrow. There are many rumors floating around regarding Maryland’s status and potential invites to the Big Ten.
My position is that if Maryland is invited to the Big Ten they have little choice but to accept membership in what will be the most powerful and lucrative conference in college sports. I am as much a traditionalist as the next blogger, I was against expansion the first time around, but this decision cannot be made based on sentimentality. It would be best to evaluate the future of Maryland as an institution and athletic power without regard to what existed prior to the expansion of the ACC. The old ACC was relegated to history years ago. This new ACC is not configured in a way to make it competitive with a new Big Ten, SEC or an expanded Pac-10 that include most of the current Big 12. Swofford missed the boat back in 2005. He didn’t realize that getting a TV network like the Big Ten has was far more important than adding a few schools that nobody wanted. It seems that the moment for the ACC to form their own network has likely passed the league by and that may just be a fatal error. The SEC is likely moving towards their own network soon and the Pac-10 is certainly going to go that route once they add the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. The ACC will be left with a collection of teams that outside of Maryland and Boston College don’t add much to a network for cable and satellite operators. I can watch the Big Ten network in Virginia as part of my basic cable package but who in the midwest will want to pay extra to watch the ACC network when the Pac-10 and SEC have better content.
The only hope for the health of the ACC is to hope that the Big Ten stops at Nebraska and gives the ACC a chance to raid the poor Big East again. If they could grab schools like Rutgers, Syracuse and Pitt then they may have a fighting chance to create their own network or negotiate a better deal on par with the SEC or Big Ten. Otherwise the ACC will be relegated to being the poor man’s big conference for the next few decades. With significant revenue advantages the other mega conferences will be able to outspend every ACC school in regards to coaches and facilities. Forget ACC football becoming a factor for decades.
Problem is I don’t think the Big Ten is as dumb as the ACC has been. They will go for the kill. That means some combination of Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse or perhaps Maryland. Even if the ACC raided the remnants of the Big East football schools such as Pitt, West Virginia and Connecticut would add little cache to any TV deals that may come in the future and further dilute the share of each member.
As a fan I would certainly miss the rivalries with Virginia, Duke and North Carolina but as expansion should have taught everyone things change. I’d rather be with the have’s instead of the have less schools. Standing pat will only cement Maryland’s position in a conference that will be second tier in terms of power and influence. The ACC is a weakened white wale that is in danger of getting harpooned and cut up for blubber. Even if it lives on it will only be a shadow of its former glory. That is not a place I want to be.