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Terps' move to Big Ten hits local fans hard

Dave Bollinger first heard about the possibility of Maryland leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten over the weekend, and his thoughts went right to Greensboro, N.C.

That's where Bollinger and a handful of his friends have spent a few days together for the majority of the last 20 years, when March rolls around and the Terrapins make their annual trek to the ACC men's basketball tournament.

When the rumors were confirmed and things became official Monday, and Maryland announced its departure effective July 1, 2014, Bollinger couldn't help but feel as if he'd lost something.

"The ACC to me has always been basketball, the top college basketball in the country," said Bollinger, a Westminster resident and longtime Maryland fan. "Well, there'll be no more ACC basketball tournaments for me. ... I just can't imagine that."

The Terps will remain in the conference until the 2014-15 academic year, at which time all sports will cease competing in the ACC and move to the Big Ten.

University president Wallace D. Loh called it "a watershed moment" for Maryland at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Opinions varied throughout Terps Nation, however.

Former Terps basketball star Greivis Vasquez questioned the move on his Twitter feed.

Maryland graduate Scott Van Pelt expressed sadness about his alma mater leaving the ACC on his daily ESPN Radio talk show, but Van Pelt said he backed the school's move after talking about it with Terps athletic director Kevin Anderson.

Others might need a little more time to accept the change.

Brett Harman, a Westminster High and Maryland grad who recently finished his baseball career with the Terps, had the phrase "Sad day to be a Terp" on his Facebook page at 2 p.m. Monday.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, also a former Terps standout, posted similar sentiments on his Twitter feed.

North Carroll graduate Brittany Poist spent three years starring on Maryland's women's lacrosse team, which won a national title while Poist was there. Poist became the head coach at McKendree University, a Division II school near St. Louis, earlier this year, but she said her heart was with Maryland upon hearing Monday's news.

"I haven't stopped thinking about Maryland," Poist said Monday evening by phone. "It has so much [ACC] history and there's just so much pride there, and for Maryland that's a big deal."

Around Carroll, other Maryland fans pondered life without the ACC.

"It's hard to change after all those years," said Steve Wah, owner of Avenue Tailor & Cleaners in Westminster, who frequents the ACC tourney with Bollinger and others. "That's the hardest part. All those games we've been to, they're going to be gone.

"I went there and I played sports there. But you have to accept the fact that from an economic standpoint, they had to do something."

Wah pointed to the Big Ten's wooing of Maryland (and Rutgers) as a way to gain a presence in the Baltimore-Washington and New York areas, which would add sizable TV markets to the fold.

Football is the biggest factor, Wah said. Maryland has struggled to fill Byrd Stadium in recent years, so a move to the Big Ten would likely being sellouts for home games against the likes of Ohio State or Michigan.

"Football pays the bills," Wah said.

That might be, but for now Wah and his fellow local Maryland fans are having a hard time dealing with the departure from the ACC, where the Terps have resided since 1953.

"I can't even tell you who plays in the Big Ten in the way of basketball," Bollinger said. "Will this bring more fans to football games? Will it sell more boxes? I don't know. ... I have to question some of the folks in leadership roles at the school."

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