Again, it might work. But the process and the spin cycle afterward were insulting to anyone who ever attended an ACC basketball tournament or Duke-Maryland dust-up.
Like many regents, McMillen heard the rumors late Thursday and early Friday. The regents were essentially force-fed one question to mull over the next 72 hours: What sane soul wouldn’t sever a 59-year relationship with the ACC and its member schools if it meant another $9 million a year off the top and untold millions when the Big Ten TV deal is renegotiated?
“We had two days to swallow this and we only heard from one side,” McMillen said. “We didn’t have anyone from the ACC come in and tell us why we shouldn’t leave. We didn’t talk to the athletes or the coaches and hear their concerns on both ends.
“If you’re a freshman athlete, you should be allowed to move schools based on the fact that no one said you were going to be catching plane rides to Lincoln, Nebraska, and Iowa City, Iowa, when they recruited you. I feel for them. We’re doing this in a vacuum.
“Frankly, Gary Williams and some other employees of the athletic department got out there and sold this before anyone could even form another opinion. Nobody was on the opposition side.”
Either way, as the news conference wound down, it didn’t feel like Maryland was joining the most profitable of America’s power sports conferences; the more Loh and the suits spoke, it felt as if they had been a recipient of a Big Ten financial bailout, saved by the grace of Commissioner Jim Delany and those benevolent conference presidents in the Midwest.
“Maybe some people Fear the Turtle; we embrace the Turtle,” Delany cutely quipped.
Who wouldn’t embrace the turtle? Maryland, for all its baggage, its insecurities about being a second-class citizen to Duke and North Carolina, is still the lion of the Washington-Baltimore college jungle. Its proximity to the nation’s capital, one of the country’s top 10 broadcast markets, and its rich history make it a real catch for any conference — not just the Big Ten.
By jumping so fast, without real discussion, Maryland devalued itself. It looked desperate, needy, not wanting to be left home from the prom. And for anyone to make this about the student-athletes, well, that’s comical.
No, it’s about the financial coffers. “It’s about the money, that’s it,” McMillen said.
“And it’s going to come back to bite college sports. You can’t have these unelected commissioners with big dollars dictating to higher institutions. You just can’t.”
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.