It’s simply not easy being a Terps fan these days. From the maiden voyage of the SS Randy Edsall which has been mercifully docked for the season a tattered shell of its modest former self to the cutting of 8 sports to the anticipation of a bumpy road ahead for the basketball team, the fans are up in arms and AD Kevin Anderson is likely beginning to feel a bit of heat with little to redeem his brief tenure thus far yet plenty of fodder to indict with.
That said, the thought that Mark Turgeon would have an easier transition in filling the shoes of the legend Gary Williams than Randy Edsall would have in filling Ralph Friedgen’s old post was all buy unfathomable just 7 or so months ago. Yet that is seemingly just what has happened.
Edsall’s win/loss record is one thing, but the fact that he has done little to endear himself to the fans or media stands in stark opposition to the school’s proclamation that Friedgen’s failure to attract ticket buyers was at the heart of his dismissal. To that end, Edsall is failing miserably.
Turgeon on the other hand saved Nick Faust, the biggest remaining recruit in the Gary Williams cache and then quickly went about stocking the cupboard for 2012. As the Terps’ devout and astute fan base has taken notice, Turgeon will get a pass this season. Turgeon will get a pass that is; as long as he simply says and does the “right things” to appease a fan base yearning to believe that he can lead this team back to glory.
Conceding that notion however, the emotion of a season and the game-to-game action of the schedule can certainly change the tenor and the expectations of the fans in a hurry. Thus far it would seem that the Terps have shown themselves to have scant enough talent to stand much of a chance on most nights against “big 6” competition and therefore as long as their efforts look genuine and their improvement marked throughout the season, fans will be both summarily appeased and encouraged.
For me, while acceptable, all of the above became much more painful as I, as a fan, came to grips with the Terps place in the relative basketball universe over the two days of action that was the 2011 ACC/Big 10 Challenge. As the ACC was plodding their way to an 8 games to 4 loss in the challenge, a couple of things became painfully evident.
First is that the basketball luster of the once proud ACC is fading quickly (a realization made all the more difficult as fans once proud of the conference’s basketball identity and legacy have been summarily reminded at every turn that football is still way out front in the race to drive inter-collegiate politics). What’s more, this means that our hopes, as fans, for the basketball credibility of the conference now ride on the hated Tarheels and Blue Devils. If pulling for those two are requirements for being a good ACC fan, count me out for now and simply color me disappointed and moderately disgusted.
The second realization, one both comforting and disturbing, is that Carolina and Duke are both soft, neither looks much like a safe bet to get past the sweet 16 and it shouldn’t be a shock if someone was able to step up and steal the conference this season. It would be a shock however if that somebody was Maryland, for now I’ll call it anyone’s guess.
The ACC though in general is sort of up for grabs, in both football and basketball. The conference expansion that was supposed to bring football credibility to the conference while also bringing basketball credibility to the football powers it imported has been a miserable failure on both fronts. The ACC is still an afterthought in the BCS title picture, the perennial BCS powers it brought in are now fighting it out for the one automatic berth to the BCS that the ACC had already and now from a basketball standpoint the watered down ACC might be the 3rd or 4th best hoops conference in America this season…and it hasn’t happened all at once.
As the ACC prepares to absorb Pitt and the recently scandalous Syracuse it seems to indicate their belief that the basketball side of the operation needs a bit of a jump-start too. Recent history suggests the foreseeable outcome isn’t necessarily the likely one.
In both football and basketball, the ACC is absolutely ripe for the picking and Maryland has at least acted over the last 10 months or so like they intend to be in on the harvest. Now it’s just a matter of trusting the guys who’ll build the ladders to get it, and hoping they be able to get them high enough.