When it comes to University of Maryland fans, many consider “outsiders” status a badge of honor.
For more than 50 years, Maryland represented the northern most college in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So when Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Maryland will be “outsiders” when the school exits the ACC for the Big Ten, the comment raised few concerns from the Terps crowd.
“If I was still in the ACC and Duke left, I’d say they would be outsiders in whatever conference they went to. That’s a natural thing,” former Maryland coach Gary Williams said in an exclusive interview with CSN.
Williams said he understood Krzyzewski’s comments, and he acknowledged that Maryland will be an outsider when the school joins the Big Ten. Much like kids joining new schools, Williams explained, that status will quickly change though.
“Whenever you leave one conference, the conference that you leave, no matter what the team is, they’re going to be upset about you leaving,” Williams said of Krzyzewski’s comments. ”I understand that.”
Williams and Krzyzewski are friends, but for many years Duke and Maryland engaged in one of the ACC’s fiercest basketball rivalries.
“We had a good basketball rivalry with Duke. They still have their rivalry with North Carolina and N.C. State, but that was a big game in the ACC,” Williams said.
Despite losing their traditional rivals, Williams believes the Big Ten move is the correct decision.
“But the University of Maryland, what we did, that was for the future of the school.”
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.
“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.”
Most years, the ACC hosts it marquee event -- the men’s basketball tournament -- in North Carolina. Williams said that while many Terps fans enjoyed traveling to the event, it created a disadvantage for Maryland and other non-North Carolina based teams in the later stages of the tournament.
“It was mostly in Carolina.” Williams said. “That was really a problem in the ACC, for all the teams, not just Maryland, but for all the teams outside of the state of North Carolina.”
The transition to the Big Ten should be a boost to the Terps football program, Williams said.
For starters, Maryland can rekindle a dormant football rivalry with Penn State as well as develop a rivalry with Rutgers. Up until the 1980s, most Maryland fans considered Penn State their biggest rival in football. Williams also mentioned that Big Ten fans will travel to support their teams, and he expects many visiting fans to come to College Park.
“I think it will really help our football program in that, one way or another, Byrd Stadium will be filled,” he said. “Once people see the enthusiasm and how those fans care about their school, it’s state pride. We need to get that at Maryland. I always felt that would help our school.”
Williams restated his belief that the move to the Big Ten is right for Maryland.
“We have to learn some things, different rivalries. At the same time, it’s a great match for Maryland.”