Kevin Dorsey learned via text message. Maryland’s senior wide receiver had been across campus, working a four-hour shift at his Comcast Center internship, before the Terrapins football team gathered for a 2:30 p.m. meeting at Gossett Team House to hear Coach Randy Edsall explain that the University of Maryland was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten.
Most had heard the rumors flutter through the College Park hallways, or seen the news break on Twitter. They prepared ahead of time. They knew the announcement was coming. Some were stone-faced, seemingly unaffected by the shocking news that Maryland was leaving 59 years of ACC history behind for more financially greener pastures. Others, like defensive lineman A.J. Francis, took to social media and shared their thoughts. Regardless of reaction, the Terps responded in two ways.
First, they believed the conference change was beneficial for the university moving forward. The extra revenue would help a struggling athletic department recover out of a financial hole, which caused it to cut seven varsity programs in July. By and large, the Terps saw it as a beneficial and necessary move, despite leaving behind longstanding rivalry games.
Second, Edsall’s players promptly began to forget about the news. For 17 seniors preparing for their final game in a Maryland uniform on Saturday at North Carolina, this move means little because it likely won’t go into effect until July 1, 2014. And for a struggling bunch who only recently saw bowl eligibility officially disappear, a trip to North Carolina is the only thing left on this season’s slate.
“The good thing for us, with the announcement yesterday, it was on our day off,” Edsall said Tuesday. “We didn’t have to deal with a distraction with having meetings or having to practice. I told the team before I came up to the press conference, they were really excited about it. That’s done and over with. All of our focus and attention now is on North Carolina.”
Offensive lineman Bennett Fulper said the news didn’t catch him by surprise. Like everyone else, he read the tweets and reports over the weekend. Others, however, were more taken aback.
“Many people were surprised,” defensive lineman Darius Kilgo said. “They had blank looks on their faces, didn’t know what was going on. But after we talked about it, we knew it was time to move on.”
That involves the final act of a roller-coaster season, a road game against North Carolina on Saturday. The Terps are ensured of a losing record for the second straight year, but if their litany of injuries and hardships this season have taught them anything, it’s how to deal with adversity.
“Football is football. It’s not that much different, ACC or Big Ten,” Fulper said. “Everywhere you go, there will be good teams. It’s a different opportunities. What it comes down to, is it’s one team against another. Let’s see who wins. It’s not that big of a deal as far as that goes.
“You just have to take it with stride. If you can’t control it, you shouldn’t worry about it. That’s what we’ve learned from this year. Dealing with adversity will definitely help this team in the future.”
Once that future rolls around, Edsall remains confident his program can succeed in the new landscape, even against arguably stiffer and deeper competition.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Edsall said. “Again, I just go to, with the young men we have here now, with what we recruited last year and who we’re involved with this year, and knowing in terms of what we’re building here, the depth that we’re creating, there’s no doubt that we’ll be able to compete and do well in the Big Ten.”
While a Big Ten move brings enticing future matchups with legendary programs like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, for instance, it also will likely create an awkward year of proverbial limbo for the football program, with one season left in the ACC knowing full well it will be their last. Conference road games might prove even more hostile than before.
“I haven’t really thought about that too much,” Edsall said. “When you think about those things, that takes away from the preparation. We can only control what we can control. We can’t control what other people say or think or do to us. That’ll always be the message to our teams. That’s the nature of the business and the process that we’re involved with.”
Edsall was talking about blocking out fan reaction. He could have easily meant doing the same for conference realignment.