Former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams supports move to Big Ten

November 18, 2012

Former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, a College Park graduate and longtime advocate of the ACC, voiced support for a possible move to the Big Ten in a telephone interview Sunday night, saying that despite his great experiences and fond memories in the ACC, it was likely in the best interests of the school’s athletic department as a whole.

“Anybody that has been connected with the ACC will say there have been great moments,” said Williams, who led the Terps to the 2002 NCAA championship. “Up until they expanded in 2003, we were by far the best basketball coach in the country. That was a great thing to be part of. At the same time, once expansion started — and not just in ACC, but everywhere — things changed.

“A lot of it has to do with football. I think sometimes people don’t understand, or they forget a little bit, that your ability to run an athletic department is based on selling tickets and raising money and then, with your conference, the amount of money you can earn from the various contracts you have. When you look at the Big Ten, they have done a great job of putting every school in a great situation.”

Williams said that the highlight of his coaching tenure at Maryland were the games against North Carolina and Duke, the Terps’ most fierce rivals. But he noted that only once in his 22 years was the ACC men’s basketball tournament played in Washington. The vast majority were played in Greensboro, N.C. “So it was never like we were the most important part of the ACC as a basketball program,” he added.

After retiring in May 2011 following 22 seasons as Maryland’s coach, Williams signed a five-year deal to serve as special assistant to Maryland’s athletic director, Kevin Anderson, at a salary of $400,000 a year. But he made clear that Anderson does not dictate his view on this or any other university matter.

“Kevin is really good because he doesn’t try to sway me into thinking any certain way, but we talk,” Williams said. “This is my view from where I’ve been as a coach, and being a longtime part of the ACC. That’s the important thing, that we as Maryland people — you certainly have your feelings about the ACC, but at the same time — [consider] what’s best for Maryland and the athletic department and the football program.

“I try to look at it from what is best for the athletic department and the University of Maryland.

“When you look around and see what’s going on — Notre Dame’s personal contract with NBC for football and being able to come into the ACC without football — just watching teams like Nebraska, who you never would think would be a member of the Big Ten — we all have to look at what’s best for the university.”

A former coach at Ohio State, Williams served as a basketball analyst for the Big Ten Network last season and said he came away impressed by its reach and its ability to generate revenue for members schools.

“If you want to be successful in basketball and football, that takes certain finances to do that,” Williams said. “Why would Syracuse and Pitt go to the ACC? Why would Nebraska go to Big Ten? The answer is pretty obvious. We shouldn’t feel bad about doing what other schools have done to increase the exposure, to increase the validity of their programs.”

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