This week, Maryland's mascot, Testudo, was invited by the ACC to participate in ceremonial events in New York City with the other conference mascots. The events marked the entry of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the conference.
In one photo taken aboard a boat, Testudo is depicted upside down with his head on the deck and his legs being held by the Duke Blue Devil and the Virginia Cavalier. Media pundits and fans wondered publicly if the mascots were trying to deliver some sort of message about Maryland's tenuous relationship with the ACC. "The ACC mascots are doing something really bad and weird to Testudo," joked the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg in a tweet.
Officials at the event said later that the mascots were having fun and weren't trying to send a message. But the photo generated lots of buzz.
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In April, Maryland fans noticed that top draws Duke and North Carolina weren't scheduled by the ACC to visit Comcast Center in either men's and women's basketball in the upcoming season. Some fans on message boards speculated that the conference was using scheduling to punish Maryland.
The ACC office said in reply that it uses a least one independent consultant to help piece together schedules and that there are always a number of variables.
Conference realignment inevitably causes strain. "I think what Maryland is going through is not unlike what everybody else [leaving conferences] is going through," said Loyola athletic director Jim Paquette.
In the past year, Loyola had various teams competing in three conferences. It left them to join the Patriot League, effective this month.
Paquette said schools want their transitions to be as seamless as possible, but it is not easy.
"It's awkward," he said. "You go to your boss and resign, it's never not awkward. We wanted to do it in a respectful, dignified manner with all three of the conferences. You want to meet your obligations to the conference you are in."
Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson declined comment, citing the ongoing legal action.
Paquette said Loyola's goal was "to win everything going out the door, to go out on a high note. We wanted to make sure our student athletes had an opportunity for conference championships."
Maryland has a 60-year history with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Baltimore Sun asked ACC schools if they would consider scheduling Maryland as a nonconference opponent in any sport after Maryland departs for the Big Ten in July 2014. Queries were sent initially to sports information directors, who often forwarded them to athletic directors. Queries weren’t sent to the ACC’s newest members — Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame — because they don’t have a history with Maryland.
Here are the responses:
Boston College: No comment because athletic director was unavailable.
Clemson: “As we look at future football scheduling, we consider several options. With Maryland moving out of the ACC, we would evaluate them as we would any current member of the Big Ten.”
Duke: “There is one principle guiding Duke Athletics’ scheduling philosophy. The 26 varsity sports programs schedule according to what is in the best interest of the student-athletes, Duke University and the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
Florida State: “Scheduling is on a team-by-team basis. There is no moratorium on scheduling Maryland.”
Georgia Tech: “While it’s not likely that Maryland will be a non-conference opponent in football or basketball in the immediate future, we are receptive and actively pursuing future scheduling partnerships with all BIG 10 conference members.”
Miami: “We do not have any restrictions on scheduling Maryland and would gladly do so where it makes sense.”
North Carolina: No immediate reply.
North Carolina State: “Most of our coaches schedule their nonconference games throughout the season prior to the year in which they plan to play. Since we have not yet begun the school year, it is not clear if various sports will desire to play in the DC area or not in 14-15 and beyond.”
Virginia: “We have not made any scheduling decisions about future UVA-UMD competitions.”
Virginia Tech: No immediate reply.
Wake Forest: “Thanks for the opportunity but we must politely decline to comment.”