M-A-R-Y-L-A-N-D WE’LL WIN.
Clearly that hasn’t been the case over the latter part of the last decade and a lot of that disappointment has lead to the financial downfall of the school’s athletic department. In turn, it’s lead to the sell out, I mean, agreement by the School’s president and board of regents to vote on Maryland to become one of the newest members of the Big Ten conference.
While I ultimately understand the reasoning for the move, as a fan, I am having a hard time accepting it. Money talks especially in college athletics. It’s not just the main thing, it’s the whole thing. Even though Maryland’s move to the Big Ten can potentially create up to 100 million dollars more in conference revenue by 2020 due to TV contracts and market sharing, my disappointment in this decision goes beyond any dollar amount.
In my personal opinion, if you spent as much time investing in your recruiting when both the basketball and football programs (huge money makers) were ranked in the top 10, the athletic department wouldn’t be in the shambles it’s in in the first place. This is the NCAA version of blood money. This goes beyond fan loyalty, it surpasses anything you can tell me about new “potential rivalries” with Minnesota or Northwestern, and me trying to justify this move is just the beginning of my disappointment. Obviously the move for the Terps to the Big Ten affects more than just the basketball program, but I’m going to use my love and memory for basketball to try and provide a perspective for why I am not a fan of this this move.
As I sit here in the press room of the Verizon Center a couple hours before the winless Wizards tip off to try and get their first win of the season, I can’t help but think of how much of my life long disappointment as a Wizards/Bullets fan plays in to my love for my Alma Matter and it’s infamous Basketball program. And yes, there really is nothing I can write about the Wizards right now that hasn’t already been said. 0-8. Being an upset NBA fan, content and happy with superstars like MJ, Sir Charles, The Admiral and other “larger than life” athletes coming in to the old Capital Centre or current Verizon Center and playing on teams not named the Washington Bullets/Wizards, allowed me to grow up and enjoy local College basketball that much more. I was able to relate. For the only time in my life as a basketball fan, I could relate to the players and programs.
Maryland basketball wasn’t just amazing, it was everything to local sports fans who were coming off the Redskins super bowl hangover and Bullets woe’s of the early to mid 90’s. Memories of Gary Williams sweating through 5 shirts and ties, Joe Smith hitting fadeways on the baseline, Juan Dixon shooting 3’s and winning national titles on his own, Taj Holden and Lonny Baxter giving the Terps the best inside presence in the game, Steve Francis single handedly taking a game over, Laron Profit and everyone’s favorite, Sarunas Jasikevicius (REMEMBER HIM)? Real Terps fans will appreciate that name 😉
Let me explain why athletics was the main reason why I, Saam Bozorgmehr chose to go to MD. First off, if by defining the “main reason” we’re talking about the majority which means over 50%, then without any doubt in my mind I can say that athletics and the tradition that this school had with its programs in relation to the ACC was much more than 50% of the reason why I decided to go to MD. It might even be closer to 100%. Athletics does more than create rivalries with schools, it instills culture on your campus. if you walk around that campus right now there are dozens of references to the schools athletic accomplishments in the ACC. More so than just in basketball or football. When I was a kid and I would watch my local college team go to Chapel Hill and beat North Carolina and other conference schools when the Terps were consistently a top 5 program year after year, that was the MAIN reason why I chose to go to The University Of Maryland. I wanted to BE A TERP. I wanted to be associated with that culture and tradition.
Growing up a basketball fan, I had nothing to look forward to with the Bullets and even now with the Wizards. I picked up college basketball and became a huge MD basketball fan. Going to games at Cole Field House and having memories of games against Duke, good or bad, was the best. To this day, I can still remember the smell of the stale air in Cole. The chants of “M-A-R-Y-L-A-N-D” when the #2 ranked Terps would take down the #1 Blue Devils or Tar Heels. Or the fact that there were only 4 bathrooms in that entire arena so everyone stayed in their seats till very the end.
That’s one of the few things I actually don’t miss. #Comcastccenter.
Whether we beat Duke in 2001 to take over the #1 spot or blow a 10 point lead with 58 seconds left to Jason Williams and Shane Battier, the tradition and rivalry still existed yesterday. Today, it’s merely a faded memory. “Red and Blackout” when playing conference opponents, the 6th man, the “OHHHHHHHH” chants during free throws. I know that these things will never go away, especially in today’s college basketball culture, but something tells me fan support when Maryland plays Iowa won’t be the same as tip off against North Carolina for 1st or 2nd place in the ACC.
When you pick up that freshman or transfer application and decide you want to come to Maryland, one of the big things that the university asks of its potential students is to “find your niche’.” Every single person who went to Maryland with me, before me, or even after me, knows exactly what I am talking about. It was on every page of the application, it was 3 of the 8 essay questions you had to answer when you apply, and its something they still sell to their potential students everyday. I hear it in tours as they used to pass by my dorm in St. Mary’s hall and I read in my transfer handbook when I went to campus for my 2 day orientation. Even when I wasn’t a student at Maryland, I felt like I had a niche and it was because of my passion for the tradition and culture that came with the school’s athletic department.
Not to take away from the top 20 Comp Sci program, or amazing business school that produces thousands of graduates every year, I personally was ok with earning a B+ education and multiple degrees and receiving an A+ College experience. Because, let’s be honest, if you went to the best local college for education purposes, you went to UMBC. When you want to party, you go to Maryland. Don’t believe me? Ask any UMBC Retriever, they’ll tell you. The “Beat Duke” shirts, the pre game tailgates against Florida State, the yearly battles with Virginia Tech, that was the college experience for me. I genuinely feel like 5 years of my college experience has been erased.
I felt like I belonged to a community when I was a member of the ACC.
I have, in a lot of ways, lost my “niche”.
The main reason I went to The University of Maryland was because of the tradition and legacy that came with the school and their relationship to the ACC. I am not ashamed to admit it and it’s not an exaggeration. I chose my college because of it’s national relevance in the athletic world. Is it a coincidence that the average GPA requirement for incoming freshman at Maryland went from 3.4 to 3.9? Why is it harder to get an education from my state school than being accepted to Johns Hopkins? I’m assuming it had nothing to do with the team’s consistent top 5 finishes, back to back trips to the final four and winning a national title in 2002. Good luck trying to sell me on that. EVERYONE in local high schools in 2001 and 2002 wanted to go to Maryland for the basketball program. It’s the bottom line.
I will continue to support my Alma Matter but today, I feel like a part of my memory has been erased. I would like President Loh to tell me more about how the former provost of the University of Iowa cares to do the best for my college without understanding the culture and landscape of the program’s history. SELL ME, A MARYLAND FAN, on how we’re going to take away basketball recruits from Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. And please, for the love of god, tell me how my Randy Edsall Maryland Terrapin disgrace lead 4-7 college football team is going to make an impact on the national stage when they’re getting blown out every year by Urban Meyer and THE Ohio State Buckeyes.
I’m searching for answers here.
I just hope that future students find their niche.