Making Moves, Just Not Sense: Conference Realignment

Jason KurtzContributor IINovember 20, 2012

Maryland moves to the Big Ten
Maryland moves to the Big TenRob Carr/Getty Images

Call me irrational or unrealistic, but I generally prefer it when things make sense. Particularly when it comes to sports.It’s crazy, I know. But when context clues serve as mile markers down a path of reality, well, that just works for me.

On the heels of Monday's announcement that the University of Maryland will pull its little turtle head inside its terrapin shell and laboriously embark upon a two year migration from the ACC into the Big Ten, we’re reminded that slow and steady wins the race.

However in this modern metaphor it seems more sensible tenants—like region, rivalries, travel and tradition—are all being left in a cloud of dust even the hare wouldn’t appreciate.

For nearly 60 years, the Terps had taken up residence in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a league they helped establish in 1953. And located less than 200 miles from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean?

It seems the ACC was a fairly natural habitat for the amphibious hard-shelled creature. But in the Big Ten, a league known for its cold weather and even colder attitude? Traveling to Ann Arbor and Champaign, the Terps figure to feel like fish out of water.

Mainly, because there is no water. Not unless you count any of the Great Lakes, which will all be frozen over by Homecoming.

In the ACC, Maryland has had historic football feuds with the likes of Virginia and Clemson. And Gary Williams‘ dress shirts still have the sweat stains that signified the school’s attempts to compete on court with Duke and North Carolina. Maryland against Iowa?

Doesn’t have the same feel. But feel can’t be quantified. You can’t put a number on an emotion or a culture, but you can on a conference. And when the Big Ten has 14 members, as it will with the addition of Maryland as well as Rutgers (also not exactly a school where they wear “tennis shoes” and drink “pop”) that doesn’t add up.

Of course the Terrapins aren’t the only school eschewing local loyalty and departing for greener football fields and glossier hardwoods. Nationwide, few schools have been as synonymous with their league as Syracuse has with the Big East. But that tradition is also soon to show all zeros on the scoreboard, as the Orange—along with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (in all sports other than football) and the Pittsburgh Panthers—have agreed to join the ACC.

With Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College having made the same trek shortly after the turn of the century, the new ACC will eventually look a lot like the old Big East. Of course Syracuse vs. Georgetown will never be the same, but look on the bright side: Maybe Jim Boeheim will finally have a reason to play man-to-man defense.

Surveying the scene around the rest of the country, most of the other conferences have at least attempted to stay true to their region and their roots. Why Colorado, which sits more than 1,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean, is in the Pac-12, I’ll never understand.

But at least when the league changed it’s membership, it updated its name to match accordingly. How silly would it sound for Colorado and Utah to be the 11th and 12th schools in the Pac-10?

While the phrase “student athlete” has become largely and sadly oxymoronical, it would be nice if someone in the Big Ten could at least do the math.

Though perhaps the most egregious offender, the collegiate game isn’t the only example of strangeness in the standings. The cities of Tampa and Miami are close enough that one can visit both in the same day. Why then are the NFL’s Buccaneers and Dolphins not in the same division?

Sure, one is an NFC squad, the other, an AFC team. But that doesn’t explain why the Bucs are in the “South,” and the Fins in the “East.” The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans? Both of the Longhorn State. Why then, does Matt Schaub quarterback his club in the AFC’s “South,” while Tony Romo and “America’s Team” must gallop in to New Jersey to play the New York Giants, their divisional rivals?

It stands to reason that teams in the same state should play in the same division.

The Mets and the Yankees are both in their respective East’s. Cubbies and Pale Hose? Both in the Central. So it seems as though “America’s Pastime” has its act together. And as soon as the Astros switch division this Spring, and join the Rangers, I’ll agree. Two franchises, from the same state, now in the same division.

Finally someone using their head for something other than a New Era fitted. Wait, what? It’s the AL “West” that will soon be home to Texas’ two teams along with clubs from California. Now that just doesn’t make any sense.