Big Ten move took Maryland coaches by surprise

Turgeon, Frese, Edsall and others support Terps' decision to leave ACC; reaction from students more mixed

November 19, 2012|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — Maryland's decision to move from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten not only caught its fans and students — and possibly ACC officials — by surprise. The stunning announcement that was first rumored late last week and was made official Monday also came as a shock to many of the school's coaches.

Second-year men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon said his initial reaction was not unlike those who have been around the program for a long time.

"I was like, 'Are you kidding me, what's going on here?" Turgeon said after the afternoon campus news conference in the student union. "I've had a few days to digest it, but it's new to me, too. I don't know all the details, but in talking to [athletic director] Kevin [Anderson], it's a great move for the reasons that he said. It's a great move, for our budget, athletically and for our institution. We're already a very strong academic institution. I think it takes us to another level. I think we had to do it."

Said women's basketball coach Brenda Frese: "I think everyone was caught off-guard initially, but that's a normal reaction when you're talking about change. But like I said, those that are able to adapt to change and understand it are the ones that are able to take advantage of the opportunity."

Frese said the announcement shouldn't be a distraction to her team.

"I think they're fully on board, they get it, they understand it. I think they've handled it better, to be honest, than a lot of traditionalists and people who have been here," Frese said. "I think from a younger generation standpoint, they've moved very quickly through it because they understand it's competition. At the end of the day, it's about winning six games to win a national championship. It's not about conference [affiliation]. I came here to be at the University of Maryland."

Turgeon recalled the last thing he told Anderson when he interviewed for the job to succeed Gary Williams in May 2011.

"My last line in my interview to Kevin Anderson was, 'I'm not going to fundraise.' Well that's all I've done is fundraise since I've been here. Hopefully down the road those days are over," said Turgeon, who had to push back his team's final practice for Tuesday's home game against Lafayette in order to attend the news conference. "We're leaving one great conference and going to another one. I came to be the basketball coach at Maryland. That is a great job no matter what league we're in and we're going to do great things no matter what league we're in."

Said longtime men's soccer coach Sasho Cirovski: "It's been hard coaching at Maryland, the last six or seven years in particular. I feel like a full-time fundraiser. I feel like we've been swimming against the current for so long. It'll be nice to dedicate more time to recruiting and coaching and not have to worry as much about some of our necessities."

Cirovski, who is in his 20th season at Maryland, said that in informing his current players about the move to a conference that includes perennial national power Indiana, "It's like telling your kids you're going to move from one neighborhood to another. Parents know it's the right thing to do. Kids aren't going to be happy, but there's opportunities for new friendships, new relationships, new experiences and you're moving to a great conference."

Echoing the sentiments of a few Maryland coaches who said privately that they feared the ACC falling apart as the Big East has with possible future defections of football powers Florida State and Clemson to the Southeastern Conference or the Big 12, Cirovski said, "I'm happy that we're in front of this rather than behind it. I'm happy that we have the choice to do something rather than to be sitting at the end of the line and be told where we're going to end up. I'm reenergized to move forward."

So apparently is second-year football coach Randy Edsall, despite the fact that the Terps will be moving into a more competitive league with perennial powers (albeit some currently on NCAA probation) such as Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan and scandal-ridden Penn State. Edsall said the prospects of starting new rivalries, and reviving what had been a one-sided rivalry with the Nittany Lions, "excites" him.

"We know we've got work to do and I met with my team before I came up here and they were excited about it. We know we have another year in the ACC. It gives us another opportunity," Edsall said. "This gives our kids a chance to play in the Rose Bowl, the granddaddy of them all. … It will be very challenging, but one we look forward to."

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