The Big Ten joined college football’s conference expansion movement in 2011 when the Nebraska Cornhuskers debuted in the conference. Then near the end of the 2012 season, it was announced that the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Maryland Terrapins would soon be joining the conference; the Terrapins would be leaving the ACC while the Scarlet Knights would be leaving the Big East. This decision was met by a combination of skepticism and anger among college football writers and fans.
With football, it is really hard to see what the Terrapins bring. Since Ralph Friedgen was forced out as head coach after the 2010 season and replaced by Randy Edsall, the team’s fortunes have plummeted. Edsall’s two seasons as coach have produced a combined 6-18 record and little hope that things are going to get better soon.
The Terrapins are likely being brought in mainly as a basketball addition to the already stacked Big 10. Basketball is the only major sport where the Terrapins could contribute to the conference in a meaningful way immediately. Though the Terrapins basketball team didn’t make the NCAA tournament this year, they are a perennial winner in the sport and barely were left out this year.
The Scarlet Knights are the exact opposite. The school’s basketball team has rarely been anything more than a bottom-level team in the Big East, but their football team has been a source of pride for the university over the last nine seasons. Not to mention that the football team being in the Big Ten adds to the historical clout of the conference since one of the teams that played in the first football game ever would now be residing in the conference.
This whole thing is obviously a cash grab for both schools. Football rules in college athletics and both school’s respective former conferences are in terrible shape when it comes to football. The Big East has been dying a slow and painful death in football for years now while the ACC has deteriorated primarily from poor play and poor seasons from their biggest name members.
Life is going to become different for both schools and their sports teams very soon. The Terrapins are simply moving from one major conference to another, but it will be without the rivalries and atmosphere that has defined their basketball program and university for decades. With the Scarlet Knights and their football team, they are a successful team in a small conference that will be moving to a major conference. With that comes a more intense pressure to keep up than they have had to experience while being a successful team in recent years.
One final thing I’ll touch on with regard to these two incoming teams is that when it comes to football, this might have been inevitable. One thing that I have noticed over the years is that a fair amount of football recruits that have come to the Big Ten have come from New Jersey (where the Scarlet Knights are located) and Maryland. For example, the Wisconsin Badgers just snagged Danny O’Brien last season from the Terrapins and over 15 years ago Ron Dayne came to Madison from his home in New Jersey. All Big Ten teams have ventured into these two states for football talent at one point or another. That alone could have made these new additions possible.