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.
Maryland finalized the elimination of seven athletic teams, but managed to preserve men’s outdoor track through private fundraising. Any chance that some of these sports will return in the future?
Jeff Barker: Schools do occasionally bring back sports as budget numbers or other circumstances change. Villanova once eliminated – then restored – football. Cal proposed dropping a number of sports, including baseball and women’s gymnastics, but the teams were preserved.
Maryland track coach Andrew Valmon told me he was looking into examples of schools that have dropped men’s track teams and considered restoring them. “There's even talk that West Virginia might being theirs back,” Valmon said.
Maryland is keeping women’s track and men’s outdoor track but losing men’s cross country and indoor track. West Virginia cut men’s track in 2003.
It’s not easy resurrecting teams. You need to be certain you have secured funding well into the future. The last thing you want is to restore a team and then find there aren’t the resources to sustain it long-term.
Among the most difficult things about cutting sports is the emotional damage inflicted on existing athletes who selected your school over others.
Maryland wants to be a place that athletes trust. A recruit wants to know that the team it selects is on solid ground.
Maryland said last year that it invests $67,389 per athlete, which ranks it 13th out of 14 schools in the newly reconfigured ACC. Conference-leading Florida State spends $118,813.
Bottom line: With 27 sports, Maryland spread itself too thin.
So for the time being, Maryland’s focus won’t be on adding sports, but rather on better supporting the athletes on the 20 teams it has retained.
Don Markus: It's difficult to say, since this was simply a matter of the Nets unloading as many contracts as possible to accommodate Johnson. Williams, who was the Nets' second-round pick after leaving Maryland following his sophomore year, got off to a very slow start as a rookie. He suffered from dehydration during training camp and it took a couple of months - and a trip to the D-League - to get himself in playing shape. Once he did, he was fairly productive, particularly when he was in Avery Johnson's rotation. In the games when he played more than 20 minutes, Williams averaged nearly 10 points and more than six rebounds.
Whether Williams gets more time in Atlanta depends a lot on the competition and whether the Hawks sign another power forward or go after Orlando Magic center and Atlanta native Dwight Howard, as rumored. You'd have to think Al Horford would be part of a deal for Howard, leaving Josh Smith at power forward. If Smith is used at small forward and Anthony Morrow at shooting guard, you have to think the Hawks will try to sign a free agent power forward or make another trade to get one. Right now, Williams' competition at power forward appears to be journeyman Ivan Johnson and Mike Scott, who was drafted in the second round out of Virginia.
I think what the Johnson trade again shows is that Williams didn't help himself coming out of Maryland as a sophomore. Had he stayed another year in College Park, he would likely have been a first-round draft choice last week and he'd have a guaranteed contract. Instead, he's going to be one of these dispensable players who gets traded on an almost yearly basis several times before he finally finds a home -- if he ever does. He's a high-character kid, which helps Williams to a certain degree. But I wouldn't be surprised given how fluid things seem to be in the NBA these days if Williams gets traded a couple of more times -- before the 2012-13 season even begins.
Maryland has its first football decommitment in Mike Williams. The Spalding lineman confirmed Monday that the Terps pulled his scholarship offer after there was a disagreement over his college position. Did Maryland handle the situation appropriately?
Matt Bracken: None of us will ever know exactly what was said between Williams and Maryland coach Randy Edsall. What we do know is that a lot changed in Williams' mind over the 12 days or so that he was committed to the Terps.
Here's Williams on June 19, two days after he pledged to Maryland:
“I just really thank Coach Edsall and all the coaches for believing in me and taking a chance.”
Here's Williams on July 2, about three or four days after he and Maryland parted ways:
“Coach Edsall said, 'You’re an offensive player.'" "Right then and there I knew what he wanted from me and wouldn’t give me a chance.”
My sense is that Williams got caught up in the moment of his hometown school offering him a scholarship without truly considering how he'd feel later about playing a position -- offensive tackle -- he wasn't comfortable with. A source close to the Terps program said this week that the coaches told Williams his offer was contingent on him playing O-line, and his quotes in the commitment story indicate as much.
Could Williams have felt pressured by Maryland to commit on the spot? Quite possibly. I'm sure that wasn't the Terps' intent, but scholarship offers don't last forever -- especially when a program is on a recruiting roll like Maryland has been over the past three weeks.
Nobody should blame Williams for wanting to play defense, and nobody should blame Maryland for sticking to its offense-only scholarship offer. Better for player and program to part ways in the middle of summer vs. the end of fall. The Terps will find another developmental OT prospect, and Williams should be able to land a scholarship as a defensive lineman. Long term, this will be a beneficial parting of ways for both parties.