I have long subscribed to the theory that the stronger a conference is, the more ability the member schools have to improve or maintain the quality of their programs. Those who are weak will have more motivation to get stronger or face embarrassment on a regular basis. Programs that are already strong will gain greater stature because of the improving quality of their opposition.
It is that philosophy that leads me to believe that Roy's return to Carolina is a good thing because he should bring that program back to national prominence very quickly. Again, this is a good thing. No, really.
I know many Terps fans enjoyed the 96-56 ass-whipping Maryland administered to the Tar Heels at Comcast Center in February. I must admit I was giggling like a little schoolgirl as the lead continued to grow in the second half and the Carolina players were totally dispirited (a polite way for saying they laid down and quit).
I know there is a faction of Terp supporters that could enjoy that type of outcome every season, but not me. Only three years removed from their most recent Final Four, the Carolina game has already turned into a "must-win" at home for Maryland instead of a challenging season highlight.
Two of the most memorable games in Gary Williams' tenure at Maryland are the 1995 and 1998 victories over top-ranked Carolina teams at Cole Field House. The Terps' success in those games was special because of the quality of the opponent. The February blowout was some nice payback but will not hold much significance a few years down the road.
If any fans are worried about the negative effect Roy Williams' hire at North Carolina will have on Maryland's program, I think that indicates a lack of perspective regarding Terrapin basketball's standing in the national landscape. Understand this—Maryland basketball needs to take a back seat to no other program in the nation!
The combination of facilities, coaching, talent pipeline, and fan base present in College Park has earned the Terps a place among the elite programs in the nation, even standing on the pedestal where Coach K keeps his Duke squads! Roy Williams could very well work the Tar Heels up to that level as he did with his Kansas program, but there is no reason to expect them, Duke, or any other school to surpass Maryland as long as Gary Williams is coach.
That being said, the ACC needed a boost. Despite winning two national championships in the last three seasons, the conference just finished what for it was a very mediocre season. With no team in even the Elite 8 or finishing in the top 5 in the polls, the ACC was eclipsed by the Big 12 and Big East conferences last season. That is unacceptable to life long ACC fans like myself. I am confident that this was a mere blip on the radar, however.
My confidence is heightened by the amazing quality of coaching in the ACC going into next season. Coach K and Gary Williams are the established veterans, and Roy Williams will join them at that level. Wake Forest's ability to hold onto Skip Prosser was critical for their success and that of the ACC; he is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation (although I think he will soon blow his cover). Leonard Hamilton at Florida State has proven he can pump life into a program that flat-lined at Miami, and I expect him to do the same in Tallahassee. Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech is one of the fine young coaches in the nation, as is Oliver Purnell, the new Clemson head coach. Only Pete Gillen at Virginia and Herb Sendek at NC State have any reason to be concerned about their job security, but even they have multiple 20-win seasons and NCAA trips on their resumes.
There is no other conference in the nation that can match this depth of coaching talent. They will be able to use the continued national visibility of the ACC and the traditions at their individual schools to rebuild the conference into the strongest in the nation and keep it there for a long time.
So, Maryland fans, welcome Roy Williams back to the ACC with open arms. As he returns the Tar Heel program to glory, just think how sweet Terrapin victories over Carolina will be. Think how nice it will be to take some of the venom now directed solely at Duke and redirect it toward the Tar Heels. Don't worry, I'm sure there is plenty to go around.
Somehow, that makes the universe seem a bit more balanced, and it WON'T be at the expense of the Terps.
Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at email@example.com.