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March 12, 2014

Direct Kick: Maryland says goodbye to the ACC

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It was the end of an era, but what a way for it to end.

After 63 years in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Maryland Terrapins closed out their final ACC home game with a thrilling 75-69 overtime win against No. 5 Virginia Sunday afternoon at the Comcast Center.

Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, will be leaving at the end of this school year and become a member of the Big 10 next season.

For me this was a sad occasion, having been a Maryland fan since I started following college basketball. I’ve been through the good times (the 2002 national title) the bad times (probation) and the sad times (the death of Len Bias). But my support of the Terps never wavered.

I was there when Lefty Driesell proclaimed that he wanted to make Maryland “The UCLA of the East.” While he never did accomplish that, he did led the Terps to eight NCAA tournament appearances, two ACC regular season titles, one ACC tournament championship and one NIT title. Back in those days the NCAA tournament field wasn’t as large as it is today. Prior to 1975 only one team per conference could be in the tournament. He led Maryland to a No. 2 ranking during four consecutive seasons (1972 to 1976). He also recruited such stars as Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams and the aforementioned Len Bias. He had also signed Moses Malone but Malone decided to go pro instead.

Many people might not know this but it was Maryland and Driesell that began Midnight Madness. Unfortunately he was also the coach when Bias died, which led to his resigning, though many felt he was a scapegoat for chancellor John B. Slaughter and the university administration.

I remember the day I heard that Len Bias died, then when it came out that it was due to cocaine, I remember my grief turning to anger. I was there when Gary Williams led the Terps to their only NCAA title in 2002.

I hate the fact that rivalries with Duke and North Carolina will no longer be. Those were such heated affairs. Maybe some new rivalries will develop, such as with Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan or Michigan State. Still it won’t be the same.

Of course the ACC hasn’t been the same since they expanded to include such teams as Syracuse, Boston College and Pittsburgh. It never felt the same with those teams involved.

So I, like Maryland, must bid a fond adieu to the ACC. It’s been a fun run and I will miss you. You have been a big part of my life. Now let’s see if the Big 10 can fill that void.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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