Mark Turgeon’s ouster at Maryland, just eight games into the season, is a good reminder of how quickly a college program can stumble into irrelevance, as well as the outsized influence of football in conference realignment.
Maryland has always been more of a basketball school, and won its NCAA title in 2002 amid a run of seven Sweet 16 appearances in 10 years. Since 2004, Maryland has only been to the second weekend of the tournament once, although to be fair, the Terrapins did have a regular season conference title in 2020 and never got to experience March Madness.
Turgeon arrived at College Park in 2011, off successful stops at Wichita State and Texas A&M. In the first three seasons, playing in the ACC, Maryland did not post a winning record in conference play and only made a single NIT appearance. But there was improvement, and climbing back to the top of the ACC means being a national contender. That’s where Maryland might have been headed again.
Instead, they went to the Big Ten to get that football money, and while the hoops results improved with only two sub-.500 seasons in the next seven, there was no return to title contention. Like in football, it’s not that the Big Ten is bad and can’t produce a national champion, but you’re also not going up and down Tobacco Road all winter and facing perennial powerhouses.
As for Maryland football, the Terps were actually decent in their late ACC days, even ranking 23rd in the 2010 season’s final AP poll. Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland has not won a bowl game and soon will make just its third bowl appearance as a Big Ten representative, following a 6-6 season where the wins were against West Virginia, Howard, Kent State, Illinois, Indiana, and Rutgers, while the losses to Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota, Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan were by a combined score of 281-100.
But at least Maryland got a good conference rivalry with Nebraska out of it. And money. Plenty of money.