Maryland's move to the Big Ten was a no brainer


Maryland's move to the Big Ten was a no brainer

In the end it was a no-brainer.

When the University of Maryland Board of Regents voted overwhelmingly Monday morning to accept the official invitation to join the Big Ten conference, there were plenty of opinions. Most of the naysayers were traditionalists that pointed to 60 years of tradition as a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference and traditional rivalry games with Duke and North Carolina on the basketball court.

The other side had plenty of ammo as well.

To begin with, a change in conference would mean a migration to schools of a similar kind – large state schools with impressive academic credentials. They also pointed to the fact that alignment with the league would lead to the improvement of the Maryland football team to the point where it can compete in the Big Ten. The basketball programs – already Big Ten ready- would have a made for TV home schedule with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana that would lead to great rivalries in short order.

Oh, yeah, there was also money involved. Actually it wasn’t just money... it was serious, serious cash.

If it were only about the expected increase in television revenues from the ACC to the Big Ten (approximately $8-10 million per year) then the University President Dr. Wallace Loh and the board may have thought twice about pulling this trigger.

Then add to that millions and millions of dollars the school will receive as part of a consortium arrangement with Big Ten schools to share federal research dollars. It’s the kind of money that will insure the stability of both the university and the athletic department.

Maryland officials must have felt like they had just hit the Powerball.

If you’re on the Board of Regents – whose primary job is to oversee the operations and fiscal well-being of the University system – and you ended up voting against this then you probably would have some explaining to do.

I’m like a lot of Maryland sports fans and I can get wistful over memories of great Terrapin plays and games. One of the things I love most about Maryland fans is the way they mark the times of their lives around seminal Terp games (e.g. “my daughter was born the day after Steve Blake stole the ball from J. Williams just before halftime at Cole Field House).

I get that. And I get the angst around the move. For many fans the relationship with the ACC amounted to a first love or romance.

The problem is that the ACC that we all knew and loved changed irrevocably in 2003 with the addition of Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami. The move was done solely for football purposes and completely changed the way the ACC schedule worked on the basketball side of things. Gone was the simply perfect model of playing every team home and away each year. Because of the numbers, the league had little choice but to introduce an unbalanced schedule that eliminated most home and homes.

With Pitt, Syracuse, and Notre Dame all joining the ACC in the coming years those “rivalry” games would be fewer and further between. Maryland, for instance, could only count on seeing Duke and North Carolina at the Comcast Center every two years.

So much for romance.

Dr. Loh and Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson inherited a fiscal albatross from their predecessors that they could never have foreseen. That they have acted so quickly and so forcefully to secure the financial future of both the university and the athletic department is laudable and they deserve credit.

Loh was particularly forceful during the press conference and spoke passionately about the University’s financial status, the pain of having to cut several sports in the past year to trim costs in the athletic department and, most importantly, about his vision for the school. At one point he said his job was to chart the future and not be overwhelmed by it.

You would be hard-pressed to find a lot of University presidents with a similar kind of courage.

At one point a student reporter at the press conference asked why the process had not been conducted in a more open, public forum. The answer to that, of course, is that an open forum would lead to a complete paralysis of the process. The Board had been tasked to study this kind of opportunity with diligence and the future of the University in mind and acted accordingly.

Progress can be uncomfortable some times and institutions like a large public university can be particularly change averse. Ultimately the opportunities for real progress rarely come in such a compelling and obvious package as the one that was presented to the Board of Regents.

They were right to take it and the University will be far better for it in the long run.

Jerod Evans sizzles as No. 25 Hokies earn road win vs. Pittsburgh


Jerod Evans sizzles as No. 25 Hokies earn road win vs. Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- One of the nation's worst secondaries kept daring Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans to throw.

So he did. Over. And over. And over.

The junior shook off a right ankle injury to throw for a career-high 406 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 25th-ranked Hokies to a 39-36 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Joey Slye tied the school and Atlantic Coach Conference records by making six field goals to help the Hokies (6-2, 4-1) beat the Panthers (5-3, 2-2) on the road for the first time in 17 years.

Pitt came in with the nation's 120th-ranked pass defense yet played bump-and-run for most of the game, hoping its defensive backs could win more than they lost.

Didn't happen.

Instead, three Tech wide receivers topped 100 yards in the same game for the first time in school history. Isaiah Ford's 10 receptions included his school-record 23rd receiving touchdown. Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 145 yards and a score and Cam Phillips added 109 yards on a night the Hokies piled up 556 total yards.

"It's a great feeling when you can do what you love doing and that's throw the ball up and down the field against a pretty good defense," Evans said. "One-on-one coverage. You can't ask for anything better than one-on-one coverage."

Pitt coach Narduzzi built his reputation as defensive coordinator at Michigan State by requiring his secondary to play physical. He's intent on doing the same at Pitt, even as the weeks pass and improvement only comes in sporadic bursts. Facing the Hokies, it was no different.

"We had guys in position to make plays," Narduzzi said. "We didn't make them. . There's not a whole lot of different ways to do it."

Evans left briefly in the third quarter after getting his right leg rolled up on but returned to lead a fourth-quarter surge that included Slye's sixth field goal. Slye joked it got a little bit boring knocking in chip shot after chip shot, though he's hardly complaining after the Hokies won at Heinz Field for the first time in five tries and assured themselves of a bowl berth for a 24th straight year, the longest active streak in the nation.

It's a notable streak, but bigger goals lie ahead. The Hokies will end the weekend no worse than tied in the loss column with North Carolina atop the Coastal. Virginia Tech owns the tiebreaker, having beaten the Tar Heels decisively this month

Maryland's Mark Turgeon signs contract extension through 2022-23 season

Maryland's Mark Turgeon signs contract extension through 2022-23 season

Starting the beginning of his sixth season with Maryland men’s basketball, head coach Mark Turgeon signed a four-year contract extension, Maryland announced Thursday.

The extension will take him through the 2022-23 season.

The Terrapins enter the 2016-17 season ranked No. 21 in the Preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and are coming off their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, which included their first Sweet 16 game since 2003.

In his five completed seasons with Maryland, Turgeon has earned a 114-59 record — the most wins for a head coach after taking over the program.

"Mark has built a program that we are incredibly proud of as he continues to lead the great tradition that is Maryland Basketball," Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson said in a statement. "I am proud of the academic and athletic success that the men's basketball team has achieved under Mark's leadership the past five years.”

“During his successful tenure in College Park, Mark has worked tirelessly to establish a nationally-recognized program that will annually compete for championships,” Anderson added.

In the team’s first two years with the Big Ten, Maryland boasts a 26-10 conference record and finished third last season (12-6) to Indiana and Michigan State, respectively.

MORE MARYLAND HOOPS: Melo Trimble talks season expectations and his return to the Terps