By now everyone is aware that the Maryland Terrapins are set to join the Big Ten for the 2014-15 academic year. I’m not here to touch upon that bit of information. What I’m intrigued about is how this move will affect the football team and it’s recruiting. So just how will things change?
The Big Ten is a vastly different conference than the ACC, where the Terps were charter members in 1953. The Big Ten is comprised of schools in midwestern states (and Pennsylvania). The ACC is a grab bag of eastern seaboard states ranging from Miami, Florida, all the way up to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The Big Ten has a prideful history of rough and tumble run games built behind powerful offensive lines. The ACC has changed so often over the years, not much of an identity has been built- other than Florida State and Miami will be fast and athletic and Virginia Tech will have an awesome defense.
The Terps, at first glance, should have a tough time acclimating to the competition in the Big Ten, right?
Well, if we analyze by NFL Draft picks, it’s remarkably close. In the last ten years, not counting this years rookie crop, the Big Ten has had 379 players drafted and the ACC has had 361. Meanwhile, the ACC has had 66 players drafted in the first round, while the Big Ten has had 54 in the same time period. The talent level is no better or worse when comparing the two conferences.
What about recruiting?
One immediate change will be an upgrade in facilities with the new influx of cash. Big Ten teams made 24.6 million dollars each last year in shared revenue, not counting revenue from the Big Ten Channel. The Terps Athletic Department is eerily similar to the United States Federal Government in the fact that they’re both dead broke and in debt. The Terps have recently cut numerous sports, much to the dismay of many fans, to try and save money. With new money coming in, I doubt it will go to restoring former sports. That money will go towards the football and basketball programs, where they have a chance (although slim) to actually generate more money.
The upgraded facilities will certainly boost Maryland recruiting, in addition to the dozens of new uniforms and logo’s that UMD is pumping out every year (thanks Kevin Plank!). The recruiting budged will also get a healthy bump with the new capital. Will the turf of Maryland recruiting drastically change now? Simply put, no.
Maryland has always tended to stick to the Maryland-D.C.- Virginia region for recruiting. And that’s smart, because there’s a tremendous amount of talent in that region annually. But the key is not letting local recruits go to other schools, as has been a bad habit by the Terps. Penn State, historically, raids the Old Line State when and where they want, plucking elite talent right from UMD’s noses. Obviously the Lions aren’t the threat they used to be with their current death penalty- oops, I mean sanctions.
Maryland will have to do a better job of recruiting midwestern states now, that’s certain. The Terps can usually snag a few southern kids, because their conference schedule is peppered with games throughout the southeast. Now it will be tougher to get those kids, because their road games are going to be in the midwest. No more playing at sunny Clemson in October. Now it’s at frigid Camp Randall Stadium in Wisconsin.
Mike Locksley, the Terps Offensive Coordinator and quite possibly the best recruiter north of Nick Saban, will be key to taking over the recruiting turf change. Locksley was the OC at Illinois for years under Ron Zook and developed many contacts throughout the midwest that will be essential now.
All in all, the Terps won’t have to dramatically change their recruiting strategy. No, they don’t need to strictly recruit linemen from Michigan and Ohio. They need to focus on their local turf, as always. If they do that, and Randy Edsall figures out how to win games without every single starter in the game, the Terps can be very respectable in the Big Ten. Remember people, it’s not like Maryland is going to the SEC. The Terps, right now, are comparable in talent to half the teams in the Big Ten (and that’s pathetic, a far cry from what the conference used to be). If the Terps lockdown the local talent and snag a few kids from the midwest and deep south, they’ll be a very competitive team in the new Big Ten.