Anyone who knows me well will probably be surprised that the topic for my musings this week happens to be a sports-related item: namely the move by the University of Maryland, College Park to the Big 10 Conference. Given that I am not really a die-hard sports fan—I'm more interested in the social gatherings associated with sporting events—something must be really out of order for me to actually speak up.
Up until the past couple of years, I was a strong supporter of Terrapin sports teams. As a 1995 graduate of the university, I have many fond memories of going to football games (and watching the Terps lose, mostly at that time) and basketball games. For some time after I graduated, while working for my alma mater, I continued to go to all the football games.
Unfortunately, there have been a string of wrong-headed decisions being made in association with Terrapin athletics for at least the past two years. Like many folks, I was appalled at the shoddy treatment given to beloved (and successful) former head football coach Ralph Friedgen. During his ten-year career, Ralph posted a strong 75-50 win/loss record, and led the Terps to win five bowl games, including one in his last year as a coach. Heck, Friedgen was even named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) coach of the year during his last season.
Of course, we all know what happened next. Ralph, a loyal Terp alum himself, was summarily tossed aside in favor of a supposedly "hot" coach whose image was likely to be more appealing to the big sports team boosters. This translates into the moneyed special interests, most notably the head of UnderArmour, Kevin Plank.
Now, a mere two years later, we have another shameful example of a once great and honorable sports program simply chasing after the dollar signs. As everyone knows, last week university administrators announced that Maryland—a founding member of the ACC—was moving to the Big 10 Conference. The decision was made in the shadows, without public input, and possibly as a result of a closed-door vote of the Board of Regents, in violation of the state's Open Meetings Act.
It appears that the only voice of reason was regent's member and former Terp All-American basketball player Tom McMillen. According to McMillen, "when there is no time for deliberation, when commissioners flush with dollars from their conference are dictating to college presidents—when student-athletes and coaches aren’t even brought into the conversation and traditions are thrown away like dirty laundry," a "terrible" process and decision are the only possible results.
Not surprisingly, the special interests seem to be the only people happy. Kevin Plank wasted no time in interjecting his support for this troubling move. At the same time, most other alumni of Maryland and current students seem to be appalled by this latest quest for the dollars. Since when do the self-interested opinions of one graduate trump those of the rest of us in the Terrapin family?
Given all of the problems associated with this sad move, I would urge that a full investigation take place. Perhaps the Maryland General Assembly should call Maryland President Wallace Loh on the carpet at a public hearing, and get to the bottom of how and why this process took place. The Attorney General's office should also investigate whether or not the Board of Regents vote to support the move was even legal, in light of the flagrant violations of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.
Sadly, the most effective way to send a message against these types of disgraceful choices would be for alumni to withhold future financial support for the University of Maryland. As hard as it might be for me and other loyal alumni to do this, until the leaders of the school return to following a tradition of honor, they do not warrant our support.
Given last week's turn of events, it is no surprise that McMillen rightfully concluded that "how this was handled will have long-term detrimental effects on college sports." Is that really what Maryland athletics wants to be remembered for?
Share your opinoin of Maryland's move to the Big 10 in the comments.