GREENSBORO, N.C. — The endless landscape of jabbering headsets known as Radio Row stretches far down the foyer, the edges lined with tables and hosts and laptop computers, firing soundbites off into space. It’s an exhausting gantlet for those football players attending ACC media day here at the Grandover Resort, ushered from one booth to the next, swiping at the free granola bars and popcorn from the center tables for brief sustenance.
With league hosts clutching clipboards and school sports information directors acting as ushers, everything moves fast for the players. Appearances are scheduled to the exact minute. Get in, get out and move on. But forgive Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown if he felt trapped Sunday afternoon, stuck in a Groundhog Day-like experience with every interview he conducted.
Question 1: What are your thoughts about Maryland moving to the Big Ten?
Little changed when Brown and cornerback Dexter McDougle ambled into the print media room and plopped down before their name tags at Maryland’s table. For nearly six straight hours, the interest here in Greensboro centered almost exclusively on the team’s impending departure to the Big Ten, accompanied by all the standard spin-offs about fan reception during road games, initial reactions to the move and “sending a message” to the conference it will soon bid farewell.
Here’s McDougle on one final go-around: “Really I’m just focusing right now on leaving the ACC with a bang. I know guys younger than me who will be part of the Big Ten, they also want to leave with a bang. It’s kind of the same mind-set, just different reasons. I want to leave the right way. It’s going to be good. Every year you want to win the ACC, but this year, it being the last year, it makes it that much more important to you.”
Here’s Brown, on the same question: “We’re not going to change anything. Yeah it’s the last year that we’ll partake in the ACC, but we’re excited for the opportunity, and we’re just going to go out and represent Maryland the best we can. Hopefully we’ll go out with a bang and have some fun doing it.”
Last season’s torrent of injuries — Shawn Petty! — came up plenty. So did internal expectations for this fall (high), Under Armour uniforms (cool) and for once entering an offseason with zero coaching staff turnover (refreshing). But the unquestioned focus was on what everyone will discuss this season: the future. Even Brown and McDougle’s peers jumped into the fun. “Oh, I didn’t know you guys had to be here,” they said, feigning surprise at the ACC patch on Maryland’s jersey.
Less than one year remains until the school officially makes the jump on July 1, 2014, which means the Terrapins have eight conference games left in the ACC. Four are on the road, at Wake Forest, Florida State, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. Opposing fans routinely serenaded Maryland with chants of, “A-C-C” after the decision was announced last November. The players expect worse this season.
“I can only imagine what it’s going to be like next year,” McDougle said. “It’s probably going to be that times 10. We’ll be ready for it. There’s always adversity when you go play in a different stadium, so we’ll be ready for it.
“I feel like the players don’t look into it as much. Maybe more so the fans. The fans have already shown, they just hate it because we’re leaving. The fans care a little bit more.”
Eventually, the questioning shifted into deeper territory, with Brown answering questions about the question most answered, which in turn gave everyone license to talk about the Big Ten move even more. The Terps have more pressing matters in mind, chief among them securing a long-awaited bowl bid and moving past the pain of the six straight losses that closed 2012. The time will come for thoughts about the Big Ten. But not now. Not unless someone asks.
“We’re still in the ACC now, we’re still playing the same teams,” Brown said. “I don’t think it’ll hit us until we’re gone. Any time you’re done playing something or done doing something, you sit back and reflect about the past.”
CJ Brown & Dexter McDougle during ACC Media Days. The 3rd picture is prior to the photo booth. pic.twitter.com/N2miDD6omN
— MarylandFootball (@MD_Football) July 21, 2013