The funny thing about picking on the fat kid (or the smart kid, or the small kid) in school is that there's always the chance the fat kid's going to move away. And when he does, the bullies and the opportunists and the sadists never seem to pack up and say "Oh, well, now that he's gone we might as well behave." No, they look around for the second-fattest kid, or the second-smartest, or the second-smallest, and they make that kid the new target.
Congratulations, ACC. You're the second-fattest kid.
For years, you've been trying desperately to hang with the cool kids in major conference college sports by pillaging the nerd conference to your north, the Big East. BC, Miami and Virginia Tech. Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Notre Dame. And all the while crowing about how you were proactive, how you'd strengthened yourself, how you were immune to the cherry-picking that was going on across the country because you were ahead of the curve.
And then today, the Big 10(ish) made it rain all over College Park, and Maryland left. Left despite there being a $50M penalty for walking out of the ACC - that's how much extra money is on the table for someone who joins the Leaders & Legends of the Rust Belt, that even with the $50M cover charge, it's still worth it. Worth it to the Big 10, which gets a foothold in a major eastern television market (and another one with Rutgers) and a corresponding boost in revenues to the Big 10 Network. Worth it to Maryland, which had to kill seven sports this year because of athletic department budget shortfalls. In other words, this was a no-brainer for the Terps, and the alumni and the talk radio hosts howling today about the loss of tradition had better understand that. (They'd also better understand that the glorious ACC tradition they loved so much had already been thoroughly trampled by importing football programs wholesale into their basketball conference, bloating their conference tourney, and exploding their schools' travel budgets for varsity sports by including trips to Miami and Boston.)
But if you ask me, this is only the beginning. Maybe they raid the Big East one more time to replace the Terps, filling the hole with Connecticut. But UConn football's not worth the add, and UConn basketball's no sure thing in the post-Jim Calhoun era, either. And in the meantime, the sharks are circling. There's rumors of Florida State being on the Big 12's radar. Of Clemson going to the SEC. Of North Carolina - venerable Chapel Hill, as ACC as ACC gets - going to the Big 10 when that behemoth rouses itself to fill out a roster of 16.
Maybe Louisville's left as a viable acquisition target in the Big East. Maybe UConn. But that's it. And when the biggest nerd is down for the count, it's the next in line that becomes the target.
Congratulations, ACC. It's your turn.