The University of Maryland athletic program are now officially in The Big Ten Conference. Whether you agree that Maryland left the Atlantic Coast Conference for all the right or wrong reasons, one thing is certain and that is Maryland will be missed by many. The main reason is because Maryland, one of the seven founding members of the ACC when the league was established in 1953, will be leaving behind a lot of tradition and memories.
This article isn’t intended to touch on the nasty divorce that is currently going on between the ACC and the University of Maryland in court, but to touch on some of the memories, positive and negative, that the Maryland basketball program will be leaving behind.
In the 1974 ACC Championship game North Carolina State defeated Maryland in overtime, 103-100 which in my opinion is the greatest ACC basketball game ever played. This game was very instrumental in forcing the expansion of the NCAA men’s division one basketball tournament in 1975 thus allowing for at-large bids and the inclusion of more than one team per conference. The 1973-74 Maryland Terrapins team, with six future NBA draft picks is considered by many to be the greatest team not to play in the NCAA tournament.
After the Duke Blue Devils’ defeated the number one seeded Maryland Terrapins, 73-72 in the 1980 ACC Championship game in which former Maryland basketball great Albert King was named tournament MVP, former head basketball coach, Lefty Driesell had to wonder if he would ever win an ACC title. Four years later in 1984 Maryland led by tournament MVP Len Bias avenged the 1980 loss to Duke by defeating them in the ACC title game 74-62.
On June 19, 1986 Maryland star Len Bias died of a cocaine- induced heart attack shortly after being drafted by the Boston Celtics as the number 2 overall selection and in October of the same year Lefty Driesell resigned as Maryland’s head basketball coach. He was replaced by Bob Wade who was forced to resign in 1989 amid allegations that he violated NCAA rules.
The Maryland athletic program as a whole were still reeling from the aftershocks from the death of Len Bias when Gary Williams was hired as head men’s basketball coach replacing Bob Wade. Williams led the program to its greatest success including two consecutive final four appearances which culminated in the 2002 NCAA Championship. Williams resigned in good standing in 2011.
Many feel that Maryland will be outsiders in The Big Ten, but to be honest they have been considered outsiders for many years in the ACC. According to JP Finlay of CSNBaltimore, Williams explained that Maryland dealt with outsider status during his playing days in the 1960s as a "northern" school, and that continued during his coaching days until the ACC expanded by bringing in former Big East school Boston College in 2005.
Williams also further stated, "It’s true. We always felt that Tobacco Road, the four teams in the state of North Carolina, with the league office in Greensboro and things like that, you were kind of on the outside," he said. "That didn’t mean that it wasn’t a good conference to be in, but you did feel at times you were away from the action of the actual league running itself."
Other than more revenue coming to their athletic programs, short term wise nothing will change for Maryland basketball, currently under the leadership of Coach Mark Turgeon. They will once again be on the outside looking in but they gained valuable experience with that during their years in the ACC.