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Financial Concerns Bolstered Yes Vote

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

June 2, 2003 COLLEGE PARK — While some member schools needed convincing, Maryland was in favor of ACC expansion from the outset.

Athletic director Debbie Yow was a major proponent of the plan and had the support of her two most important head coaches — Ralph Friedgen and, eventually, Gary Williams.

For Maryland, the bottom-line benefit of expansion is money. For a cash-strapped athletic department that annually scrambles to balance its $35 million budget, the potential financial windfall was too great to pass up. Nobody expects the ACC to dramatically improve upon the $9.7 million it handed out after the 2001-02 academic year, at least not right away, but the Terps were convinced that the long-term financial future would be a lot brighter with Miami, Boston College and Syracuse than without them.

In addition, moving in with the Hurricanes would enable Maryland football to reach a status level it never could have achieved on its own. Friedgen is determined to field a big-time program, and he thinks this single development could speed the process by a decade.

Obviously, Maryland basketball was on solid footing, so there was no real motivation for Williams to support expansion. And rest assured, the veteran coach shared many of the concerns voiced by the purists, who didn't want to see a great product mutated. Williams, as much in tune with the history of ACC basketball as anyone, knows that playing every team twice is part of what makes the league so special.

But Williams is a team player who always has supported decisions that benefited the university and improved the athletic department's overall health. Knowing full well in what direction Maryland was leaning, Williams sought to ensure that his program's interests were taken care of during the process.

The coach's greatest concern was that Maryland would maintain a home-and-away series with both North Carolina and Duke. Those two programs still are considered the heavyweights of ACC basketball, and Williams wants to make sure the Terrapins remain linked with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. Playing Duke and Carolina twice every year builds rivalries and makes for the type of intense, competitive games that draw national television audiences and ultimately help sell the program to recruits.

Yow promised to push for a divisional alignment that would place Maryland with Duke and North Carolina, and that was enough to get Williams on board. (At press time, one popular proposal had those three with Boston College, Georgia Tech and Miami.) When news initially leaked about expansion plans, Williams was the lone Maryland athletic department official who spoke on-the-record about the prospect, and his generally positive comments (eventually) signaled the university's stance on the issue.

Yow obviously is among those who feel a football superconference, with an end-of-season championship game, ultimately will help produce a significant increase in revenues for all member schools. Frankly, Yow needs the money to keep the Maryland athletic department moving forward in the increasingly competitive world of collegiate athletics.

Friedgen and Williams both earn about $1.5 million a year, and continued success likely will force Yow to give raises to both outstanding coaches. Friedgen is adamant about improving the football facilities and has not hidden his displeasure with the fact that there is no money to fund his myriad of projects.

Since her arrival in College Park, Yow has worked wonders to wipe out a massive deficit (rung up by previous athletic directors) and has balanced the budget using mirrors. She has just about exhausted her creative ways to come up with cash (see selling a home game with Florida State for $1 million) and would like nothing more than to have clear-cut earnings that keep Maryland athletics in the black.

Yow has accomplished great things during her tenure, but her one regret to date is the failure to make much progress toward fully funding eight non-revenue men's sports. Baseball, wrestling, tennis, golf, swimming, cross country, indoor and outdoor track all have suffered greatly from lack of scholarships and fallen steadily to the bottom of the ACC as a result.

Maryland took a step in the right direction recently by approving funding for two new women's teams, water polo and competitive cheerleading. Effective July 1, there will be 12 scholarships for water polo and eight for cheerleading.

One underlying purpose for adding those two women's sports was so Maryland, under the guidelines of Title IX, could add the same number of scholarships for the partially funded men's programs. Beginning next fall, the 20 scholarships will be divided equally among the eight aforementioned non-revenue men's teams.

It probably is no coincidence that Yow recently changed coaches in baseball, wrestling and track — three sports in which most other ACC schools find some success. Much-maligned baseball coach Tom Bradley was fired a few years back, while long-time wrestling and track coaches John McHugh and Bill Goodman retired at the end of this spring.

Terry Rupp, who built a consistent winner at Tampa, has brought the baseball program some respect during his three-year tenure. Yow believes newly hired Tom Miller, a former All-American for the Terps, will do the same for wrestling. She hopes to land a similarly young and energetic coach for track.

Obviously, having some scholarship money to dole out should help resurrect those three programs, all of which were once quite competitive.

Basketball Staff Remains Intact

It appears that Williams somehow managed to maintain his coaching staff, despite serious offseason interest in assistants Dave Dickerson and Jimmy Patsos.

Williams would be the first to admit that Dickerson, after seven seasons in College Park, is ready to become a head coach. Indeed, Williams lobbied vigorously on Dickerson's behalf for several job openings in recent years. Dickerson was a highly visible candidate for the Clemson vacancy this spring and also made less-publicized stabs at the South Florida and Murray State positions.

In the cases of Clemson (Oliver Purnell of Dayton) and South Florida (Robert McCullum of Western Michigan), Dickerson lost out to men with substantial head coaching experience. It had to be more disheartening to get beaten by Louisville assistant Mick Cronin for the Murray State job, although there was some question as to how hard Dickerson pursued that one. Dickerson indicated last year that he pulled out of the running for the College of Charleston job that eventually went to Virginia assistant Tommy Herrion, although sources later indicated it was the school that went in another direction.

Dickerson is fast-approaching that threshold where he no longer will be considered a hot, up-and-coming assistant. Future suitors may question why the 37-year-old has been a bridesmaid so many times.

Patsos, meanwhile, has seen his status rise dramatically in just two years as a full-time assistant. After serving diligently for a decade as a faceless, behind-the-scenes aide, with some of that time in the ill-fated restricted-earnings position, Patsos has proven a quite capable recruiter.

Patsos was one of three finalists (along with former UNC assistant Fred Quartlebaum) for the Fordham job, which went to Wagner coach and former N.C. State star Dereck Whittenburg. Patsos reportedly interviewed quite well and impressed the selection committee with his energetic approach.

Williams was caught by surprise when newly hired UCLA coach Ben Howland offered Patsos the No. 1 assistant's job with the Bruins. Howland apparently was quite impressed with Patsos' ability to recruit California players (Ekene Ibekwe, D.J. Strawberry) to Maryland and also liked that he had strong East Coast connections.

Patsos has a close relationship with the Pump brothers, who are major players on the California AAU scene. He used that connection to help the Terps land Nik Caner-Medley, who played for West Coast-based Pump 'N Run even though he hailed from Maine.

Howland offered a significant pay increase in an effort to lure Patsos, who had to seriously consider an opportunity to become a lead assistant. However, Maryland apparently matched the offer, as Williams realized he could not afford to lose Patsos with Dickerson likely to spend only one more year in College Park.

Patsos, a D.C. native who attended Catholic University, chose to remain patient and await the chance to become the top assistant at Maryland, while keeping an open mind about future head coaching vacancies at the mid-major level.