Terps Trio: Maryland's budget woes, backup QB and D.C. Assault

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.

What is the cause of the budget situation that Maryland finds itself in?

Jeff Barker: There is actually some misinterpretation about this.

Maryland’s athletic department would have had an operating deficit of about $5 million or $6 million by now. The current leadership inherited a situation in which the department was spending beyond its means. It didn't help that attendance at games wasn't reaching the level the school hoped it would.

But it’s when the ACC began withholding conference revenues late last year that the budget hole became particularly onerous. It has ballooned to about $21 million, according to president Wallace Loh.

Consider how this happened:

Maryland was not shy about expressing its disapproval last year of the ACC’s $52 million exit fee. The school openly challenged the fee’s legitimacy. Fearing the university could bolt for the Big Ten without paying the fee, the ACC began withholding Maryland’s share of conference revenues.

To the ACC, I’m guessing this is the equivalent of wage garnishment on an individual owing money. The ACC considers the withholdings as an “offset” against the exit fee.

The withholdings have wreaked havoc on Maryland’s budget, forcing the athletic department to borrow large amounts from an auxiliary university fund.

Is the ACC within its rights to freeze Maryland out of conference revenues? That’s up to the courts to decide now.

Who is going to win Maryland’s No. 2 quarterback job backing up C.J. Brown?

Don Markus: Typically, the No. 2 quarterback position doesn’t generate this type of attention in the preseason of a college football team. But after what the Terps endured last season, losing Brown to a season-ending knee injury before the first game was played and then watching three others go down before finishing the year with linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback, you know Randy Edsall has to be prepared.

The good thing is that Brown is having a terrific camp and looks much more confident – particularly throwing the ball – than he did before he got hurt. But he is injury prone, having sustained another season-ending broken collarbone on his first series as a freshman. He stayed healthy as a sophomore when he split time with Danny O’Brien during Edsall’s first season in College Park.

Edsall certainly has no shortage of possible backups should Brown get hurt or struggle in his return once the season begins. Two of the quarterbacks Edsall turned to after Brown’s injury, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, showed promise as freshmen before sustaining season-ending ACLs themselves, have also come back healthy. (The other quarterback who played last season, Devin Burns, transferred.)

On Thursday, Edsall said that he believes there has been a little separation among the three vying for the backup job – Hills, Rowe and junior college transfer Ricardo Young. Edsall said he would not make a decision until after Saturday’s Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage at Byrd Stadium, and would not reveal his choice until Monday.

Given the strength of Maryland’s offense – potentially explosive receivers in Stefon Diggs, Nigel King and Deon Long (currently out with a back injury) – Edsall wants someone who can throw. But considering the offense’s weakness – a line that surrendered 39 sacks last season – he has to also have someone who can run.

I asked Edsall after practice Thursday whether he is looking for a change-of-pace type quarterback who might be more of a contrast to Brown or someone who fits the kind of offense Mike Locksley has designed around Brown.

“It’s going to be who fits the offense, what we think is best for us,” Edsall said.  “Hopefully we won’t have to use a No. 2. That’s what my hope is. But we’ve got to find a guy who’s the best at running and throwing, just like C.J. I want to find the guy that if he has to come in, we don’t have to change the gameplan. If it doesn’t work out that, we’ll see what happens.”

Of the backups, Rowe has by far the strongest arm. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he looks the part of the Division I quarterback. He seems capable of getting out of the pocket, but clearly not with the ease of Brown or Young. It would seem to me that Rowe is more suitable to a traditional passing offense rather than the spread or read option.

Hills showed a toughness and willingness to take a hit when he replaced Brown last season, and was a missed chip-shot field goal away from leading the Terps to a 5-2 start before getting hurt. But his lack of speed is apparent when compared to the others on the field. His arm strength is not what you would want to take advantage of with the speed Maryland has outside. 

Young is the X-factor, and I think should be the logical choice as Brown’s backup. I thought he had a chance to push Brown for the starting job, but he had a few hiccups in the spring that set him back. Even now, Edsall said that Young, who started his career at Virginia Tech and wound up playing for Locksley when he was the coach at New Mexico.

“Ricardo is a little bit of his own own worst enemy at times,” Edsall said.  “He does some good things, but then he does some things where you scratch your head and say, ‘Where did that come from? But he’s athletic, he can make up something out of nothing, he’s got a good arm. But again, it’s the consistency factor."

I think the No. 2 job is probably Young’s to lose – and Rowe’s to gain.

D.C. Assault president and co-founder Curtis Malone was indicted this week on federal drug charges. Will that news affect Maryland in any way?

Matt Bracken: For years, Terps fans watched big-time players from D.C. Assault end up at places like Duke and Kansas State and Georgetown and seemingly any other high-major school besides Maryland. One of the best AAU programs in the country was located in College Park’s backyard, but the Terps couldn’t seem to keep any of said program’s players home.

The biggest sticking point – at least from this perspective – was Maryland coach Gary Williams’ reluctance to deal with Curtis Malone. Former Washington Post reporter Eric Prisbell conducted a fascinating recruiting Q&A with Williams about four years ago that touched on the coach’s nonexistent relationship with Malone.

EP: But these AAU programs, including DC Assault and others, are saying, ‘We don’t know you, you don’t come to the games’?

GW: I know Curtis Malone. So he can say whatever he wants about me. I know what Curtis Malone is about. But you won’t write it in there. 

After Williams retired and Mark Turgeon was hired, things changed dramatically between Maryland and Assault. Former DCA assistant Dalonte Hill was lured away from Kansas State, and the Terps later landed commitments from two of the program’s top guard prospects – Roddy Peters of Suitland and Melo Trimble of Bishop O’Connell. Center Damonte Dodd ended up suiting up for DCA several months after he pledged to the Terps.

Obviously the Hill hire made a difference for Maryland, as did Turgeon’s overall approach to recruiting and AAU compared to his predecessor. Malone, all of a sudden, didn’t seem to be an issue. Damon Handon, a longtime DCA official, told Don Markus that Malone hadn’t really been involved in the program’s day-to-day operations for five years. 

Handon will certainly try his best to keep DCA afloat, but it won’t be easy. It’s important to note that nobody else connected with the program has been implicated in Malone’s case, but D.C. Assault is taking a major PR hit by association. It’s probably safe to assume that rival AAU coaches will attempt to poach some of DCA’s young talent. And you have to wonder if Under Armour will reevaluate its sponsorship of DCA. There’s a lot of collateral damage from this news.

But the good news for Maryland is that under Turgeon, the program hasn’t relied on just one or even a handful of AAU programs for talent. The Terps have landed plenty of players from Nike-sponsored AAU teams – including Dion Wiley from Team Takeover.  The Terps should be just fine.

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