The Maryland Terrapin mascot walks on the court before an NCAA college basketball game against Miami in College Park, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) ORG XMIT: OTK
On the day the University of Maryland played its last Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball game, I stepped onto campus for the first time since graduating in 1981 to watch the Maryland state high school basketball playoffs at Cole Field Hou— . . . uh, Comcast Center.
Boy, was I happy to see my $440-a-semester tuition from a generation ago parlayed into a gleaming sports palace with plenty of parking.
Let’s talk parking!
Because after 33 years away from College Park, I fondly remember my last parking ticket there. I believe I was cited for an expired meter as I was pulling into a space. And, as I drove toward the arena last week, there was a scent of spring — and the Big Ten! — in the air. That’s when I had my first post-Terp epiphany:
If they just doubled the parking fines, they’d have enough money to wipe out the athletic deficit. This then would preclude Maryland’s soulless, cash-propelled move to the Big Ten that broke state law and ended natural rivalries.
Rivalries such as Maryland-Virginia and Maryland-Duke. No more driving a couple of hours from College Park to Charlottesville to make fun of Virginia preppies and trample upon Thomas Jefferson’s lawn. Even in the expanded ACC, most of the schools are within 300 miles of Maryland; in the Big Ten, 10 of 13 schools are at least 400 miles away, with six more than 600 miles away.
That’s a long haul for a little extra athletic coin. Make no mistake about it: In this time-zone-shattering conference continental drift, they’re all chasing TV dollars in a post-modern ‘‘Let’s Make a Deal.’’ At least university presidents don’t have to wear costumes to choose what’s behind Door No. 3.
Let me ask Maryland president Wallace D. Loh this: If the Western Belarus Athletic Conference had offered a worldwide TV package, complimentary wi-fi on all flights, a case of buckwheat kasha to every student-athlete’s front door each month and $8.2 million more a year than the Big Ten, would you have taken it? Where do you draw the line in pursuit of lofty, profitable athletic heights?
(Column intermission: Time for our annual book excerpt from best-selling assembly-line author John Feinstein. This comes from Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball: ‘‘For Scott Elarton, the summer in Allentown was turning out to be long and hot. Which had nothing to do with the weather — although it was also very warm.’’ This Feinstein fella should self-publish. With writing like that, who needs editors?)
All of which was on my mind as I got to Comcast Center to see my stepson Isaiah Eisendorf’s Springbrook team lose in the state semifinals to Wise High School. For the last three years, I’ve watched these prep games with unadulterated joy, lapping up the last stages of pure, hard-driven youthful competition before money craps on the whole enterprise.
They’re all out there because they love it. The coaches aren’t in it for the money, the refs get next to nothing and the players aren’t paid much, either.*
(*Well, actually, Isaiah got docked four weeks of allowance every time Springbrook lost. In his junior season, when the Blue Devils were 13-10, this cost him nearly a year’s worth of stipends. Some people question my step-parenting technique, but it’s tough love. In America, winners win and losers wander into Taco Bell. He might as well learn this lesson before we toss him out of the house.)
As I drove away from Comcast Center, satisfied I’d gotten my $8 worth of sports entertainment, I had my second post-Terp epiphany:
Toll roads on campus. Each road would lead to athletic riches. Different streets for different sports. You decide what route you take to support which team you want to contribute to.
On the other hand, anyone who just walks onto campus, I’ll assume, is an old-fashioned student looking to get, you know, educated. Hopefully, with the newfound Big Ten windfall, the University of Maryland will find some spare change to educate them.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Did Congress pass a law years ago that said every basketball highlight shown on ESPN has to involve a dunk? (Tim Reinhart, Stevens Point, Wis.)
A. The SportsCenter Slam Dunk & Showboat Act became law Oct. 15, 1997, by a vote of 311-124 in the House and 98-2 in the Senate.
Q. How come three men’s basketball conference tournaments were held in Las Vegas? (Josh Levine, Yakima, Wash.)
A. Nothing says ‘‘student-athlete’’ like the Crazy Girls Fantasy Revue at the Riviera.
Q. In biblical terms, could we say that A-Rod has finished Biogenesis and begun Exodus? (Colin Gore, Lexington, Ky.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!