Terps Trio: Notre Dame to the ACC, Randy Edsall vs. UConn, Sam Cassell Jr.'s eligibility

September 14, 2012

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland  sports.

What does the addition of Notre Dame mean to the ACC and to Maryland?

Jeff Barker: For the ACC, it means a level of comfort – or at least as much comfort as any conference can have in an era in which so much seems to be changing.

The comfort lies in knowing that the ACC is adding and not subtracting. And it’s been able to add quality.

Because it is such a recognizable brand, Notre Dame is a big, important card for any conference to hold when it is negotiating (or renegotiating) TV deals or trying to get fans in the seats.

It may even be a better arrangement for Notre Dame, which still has a national football broadcast deal and will look to upgrade its basketball program through its association with the potent ACC.

Maryland wants to be in an energized conference with marquee teams, so the announcement was generally welcomed in College Park.

Of course, the news also meant that Terps coaches will have a new opponent – and a formidable one in some sports – to compete with for ACC championships.

How much will Randy Edsall's hasty departure after the Fiesta Bowl two seasons ago impact Saturday's game against Connecticut?

Don Markus: When Edsall was first announced as the new coach at Maryland and the 2012 schedule showed a matchup with his former team, I thought it would be an interesting storyline given the way Edsall left the Huskies in Arizona without telling them he was headed for an interview -- and likely a new job -- in College Park.

I know that a couple of Connecticut players were even asked about it back then, when the emotions were still raw, and it seemed like it was the kind of game that might have been rescheduled -- or even canceled -- in order to avoid having to dredge up the story again.

When Edsall had all the issues last year in his inaugural season with the Terps, finishing 2-10 and losing the last eight games and getting blown out in most of them while players were leaving the program seemingly every week, I thought of the Connecticut game as sort of a crucible for Edsall.

Given the way the schedule fell -- a trap opener against William & Mary, a potentially tough trip to Philadelphia to play a Temple team that blew Maryland out at Byrd Stadium in 2011 -- I figured that fans would stay away in droves and make their own statement if the Terps hadn't shown much improvement.

If the Terps had started 1-1, or even 0-2, with a trip to West Virginia looming, I thought a loss to the Huskies would have been crushing for Edsall. The calls for his firing, which were heard throughout the offseason, would have been renewed however unrealistic they were given Edsall's long-term contract and the financial state of Maryland athletics.

Now, given Maryland's 2-0 start and last Saturday's 36-27 win over the Owls that was fueled by the offensive play of two freshmen (quarterback Perry Hills and receiver/returner Stefon Diggs), the edge has been taken off this game -- at least until the teams hit the field Saturday afternoon.

Not only has the promising start quieted the unhappy fan base -- at least for now -- but most of the Connecticut players who were part of that Fiesta Bowl team seem to have backed off their hostility toward Edsall. It could simply be not wanting to give Edsall fodder to use in his pregame speech or that the anger has dissipated over the 21 months that have passed since Edsall left without telling his team.

I give Edsall credit for addressing the issue this week -- even if he did take an unnecessary (and possibly unintentional) shot at the Connecticut media during his teleconference with reporters up there. John Maroon, the Columbia-based PR man who was hired to reshape Edsall's image, certainly had his hand in that, as did Maryland's new athletic spokesmen Matt Taylor and Zack Bolno.

By admitting that he would have done things differently -- which should have also included saying that he wouldn't have made running back Jordan Todman tell his teammates he was leaving for the NFL in the locker room after the game -- Edsall helped defuse the story as much as possible.

Having said all of this, I still think that there are more than a few Connecticut players remaining who would like to get a little bit of payback for their former coach.

I talked to a couple of former Huskies who now play at Towson -- receivers Gerrard Sheppard and Leon Kinnard -- who transferred back home a few months after Edsall left. They said that some of their former teammates -- even a few who were happy that Edsall was gone -- wanted a little revenge for the desertion in the desert, as some in the Connecticut media put it.

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