Later this afternoon, when the final seconds tick off the clock and Boston College and Maryland walk off the Byrd Stadium turf one final time, the Atlantic Coast Conference will have lost one of its better football rivalries. At least, that's probably what the conference brass down in Greensboro had in mind when they paired BC with Maryland, its closest geographic neighbor, together in the Atlantic Division.
With Maryland set to join the Big Ten starting next season, it's interesting to look back at the ACC rivalry between Boston College and Maryland that never was.
Though any BC-Maryland rivalry never really materialized on the gridiron, it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of the conference. Despite having played just twice before BC joined the ACC in a 1985-86 home-and-home, this intra-division series was scheduled for mid-to-late November in each of the Eagles' first five seasons in the conference. Boston College and Maryland ended the season opposite one another in 2005, 2008 and 2009 -- all BC wins. In recent years, the series had shifted to late October, but here we are once again, in late November ... facing the Terps.
Even with late November games with the occasional Atlantic Division title or bowl implications on the line, games between the ACC's two then-northernmost members never really engendered much interest or hatred between the two fan bases. That probably has a lot to do with the lopsided nature of the ACC series. Boston College has won four of its last five match-ups with the Terps, including each of the last two, 6-of-8 in ACC play and seven of 10 in all. Yes, even Frank Spaziani managed to go 3-1 vs. Maryland (1-1 vs. Friedgen and 2-0 vs. Edsall).
Adding to the general fan indifference towards BC-Maryland is the fact that both programs have never really been good at the same time. Sure, BC kept Maryland from becoming bowl eligible in 2005 and Maryland returned the favor by upsetting then #8 Boston College in College Park two years later, but by-and-large when one team was good, the other wasn't; and vice versa. The last two seasons, neither team has been any good -- both winning just 6 of 24 games. It's pretty difficult to generate any real buzz when the stakes are low and both teams aren't playing their best football at the same time.
It always seemed like BC and Maryland were looking elsewhere to fill that "rivalry" need anyway. The Eagles had a TOB connection with N.C. State that added intrigue to an otherwise awkward pairing and developed a pretty respectable series with Clemson in the years following the move to the ACC. Going forward, BC should be able to rekindle a primary rivalry with fellow Atlantic Division member Syracuse, if it isn't there already.
The rivalry between Maryland and Virginia, the Terrapins' chief conference rival, lost a bit of its luster after the ACC added Virginia's in-state rival Virginia Tech, and two schools were placed in separate divisions, lowering the stakes of the annual cross-divisional match-up. It certainly didn't help matters that both Virginia and Maryland have each put together just three winning seasons over the last eight. I suppose there's always a budding rivalry with Rutgers (5-4-0 Maryland) or Penn State (35-1-1 PSU) waiting for the Terps in the Big Ten, but those seem just as forced as any BC-Maryland rivalry.
It's only fitting then that both Boston College and Maryland checked bowl eligibility off this year's to-do list a week before today's final meeting in College Park. No need for high stakes in this one. No real need to get excited about this "rivalry" at this point. Why invest any real emotion in a series that won't be played going forward? Maryland's last home game as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference won't be any different than any other Boston College-Maryland game. The Terps will simply be another football team across the field from BC.
Things could have felt much different this year. Maryland's departure from the ACC could have set the conference realignment dominoes in motion, leaving Boston College in a watered down ACC or even worse, on the outside looking in at a power conference. However, the ACC quickly stabilized, replacing Maryland with Louisville, re-upping with the league's TV partners and agreeing to a Grant of Rights agreement.
Both schools athletic futures are now secure, once Maryland either finds a way out of paying or the money to pay for that rather sizable conference exit fee. Both teams are already bowl eligible for the first time since 2010 and Florida State ran away with the ACC Atlantic Division title en route to a possible BCS National Championship Game berth. The stakes couldn't be much lower for BC-Maryland this afternoon, which makes today's game not that much different that the eight ACC match-ups that preceded it. One really couldn't have asked for a more BC-Maryland ending to the BC-Maryland ACC "rivalry" that was never meant to be.