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How Maryland Escaped the ACC - An Off-Topic Virginia-Maryland Preview

“Guys in Ties” and “Girls in Pearls” - How UVA Students Actually Watch Their Home Team Play Football
Collegiate Sports Nation

Friday Night Lights!

Virginia Cavaliers at Maryland Terrapins Preview

When: Friday September 15

Time: 7:30 p.m. [EDT]

Where: SECU Stadium, College Park, MD

If you wanted to find a caricature of East Coast elitism, look no further than the student body of the University of Virginia where “guys in ties” and “girls in pearls” is really a thing, and students really attend football games dressed like this.

Maryland is favored by 14.5 points. Virginia lost to James Madison at home last week. Despite the current state of Cavalier football, I really like Maryland scheduling West Virginai, Virginia, Va Tech and even NC State as out-of conference opponents. These are fairly local teams and there is no love lost between the fan bases.

Not only is Virginia nto an FCS cupcake, but they are an actual FBS P-5 program, but not a good one. I am talking about both the football team and the conference.

Why are there so many mediocre teams in ACC [UVA, Va Tech, Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College, and Ga Tech], and why is the ACC barely existing as a P-5 conference?

Fundamentally, the ACC is a Carolina-centric conference. Ex-ACC Commissioner John Swofford was a Duke-UNC lackey who believed nothing else mattered except for UNC and Duke basketball, and football was merely something to do at the start of the academic year until basketball season started. He seemed to willfully ignore that college football broadcast rights were the clearly dominant economic force in NCAA athletics. And five ACC schools shared a mediocre Charlotte TV market [UNC, NC St., Duke, WF, and Va Tech] to add salt to the wounds, the two football teams with national recognition, FSU and Clemson have poor TV markets.

What was the one team with a strong TV market? Maryland with its Baltimore-Washington corridor viewership. In the first round of conference realignment in 2004-2005, the ACC raided the Big East and added Miami, VaTech, and Boston College just in time for football powerhouses Miami and Va Tech to fall into mediocrity. Having not completely killed the Big East, the ACC went for the jugular in 2011-2012 by adding Pitt and Cuse.

With an unwieldy 15 members, ACC Commissioner John Swofford hatched a brilliant plan to ensure UNC and Duke would get an annual home-home series in basketball [becasue that’s all that mattered] by selecting these two schools as each other’s designated rival. Not much thought was given to the other schools in the conference. WF and NC-State, the remaining Carolina schools were designated as rivals. And politicking by Virginia politicians led to UVA-Va Tech becoming rivals. Despite being an original ACC member dating back to 1953, Swofford deemed Maryland’s rival would be Pitt. This meant Maryland would host UNC and Duke in basketball once every two years, at best.

Maryland and Maryland’s fans should be thankful for former AD Debbie Yow’s fiscal incompetence, former Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s foresight, Maryland’s proximity to a profitable and sought-after TV market, and the Big Ten’s need to offset the drab uniforms worn by PSU and Nebraska by bringing in Maryland and their eye-catching Maryland flag-themed unis. The rest is history.

In yet another of John Swofford’s brilliant ideas, he initiated a $70 million penalty to leave the ACC, thinly disguised as a grant of media rights. This albatross hanging around the necks of any team [Clemson, FSU] that may want to leave the ACC for greener [note the monetary color symbolism] pastures is currently extended through 2036. And what’s the reward for getting to be in the ACC with no hope of escape? Fifty percent LESS money for each school compared to the Big Ten payout. In 2022, the per team payout in the ACC was $39.9 million compared to $58.8 million for the Big Ten. And that $58.8 million will increase to $75 million in 2024.

If not for ex-ACC Commissioner John Swofford’s myopic view of college athletics, ex-AD for Maryland Debbie Yow’s fiscal incompetence, and ex-Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s visionary foresight, Maryland would be stuck in ACC mediocrity with UVA, Va Tech, Pitt, Cuse, Ga Tech, Louisville, and BC.