Big Ten, 12, 14 welcomes Maryland, Rutgers
Roll out the welcome wagon for Maryland and Rutgers. For reasons which escape me, other than basic greed, they officially become members of the Big Ten, Eleven, Twelve or Fourteen on Tuesday.
Cynics, pick your number. Toss out tradition. Forget Midwest values. Heartland? What heartland?
What do the newcomers bring other than expansion to the Eastern market, a strong pigskin presence? Permit me a sardonic chuckle.
Unlike Penn State (1993) and Nebraska (2011), who provided major bowl exposure to the Big Ten, they don’t offer attractive resumes.
In the last five years the Terps have treated their fans to two 2-10 seasons and an overall 24-38 record. During that stretch their only competitive connection to the Midwest was a loss to Notre Dame in 2011.
Last season they did ease into something called the Military Bowl, marching out of Annapolis with a 7-6 record after losing to Marshall.
When the Terps migrate to Chicago for Big Ten media day in late July, Coach Randy Edsall will be fielding questions about quarterback C.J. Brown, who passed for 2,242 yards, plus damaged receivers Stefon Diggs (34 receptions, 387 yards) and Deon Long (489 yards), who missed five games apiece.
Presumably, Edsall will put on a happy face for Maryland’s Big Ten debut at Indiana on Sept. 27.
Terps basketball offers much more appeal. Their track record includes 20 straight winning seasons and three ACC titles. They also capped a 32-4 season in 2002 by beating Indiana for the 2002 NCAA championship, but usually flew under the radar with Duke and North Carolina hogging ACC headlines.
Maryland shelled out $50 million to end its 60-year association with the Atlantic Conference, quite a costly change of scenery considering that Rutgers only ponied up a $10 million exit fee to join its third conference in as many years.
Neither newbie will receive a full share of Big Ten revenue generated by the BTN for another six years, but apparently they figure it’s worth the wait. What they threaten is to dilute long-time rivalries. For example, Purdue and Indiana are protected games but now roost in different football divisions.
Rutgers’ resume includes three 9-4 seasons and four minor bowls in the last five years, the most recent being a 29-16 loss to Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl. The most heavily subsidized schools in Division I in 2013, Rutgers shares Maryland’s lack of Midwest connections. Other than AAC conference games with Cincinnati, they’ve seldom strayed from the east.
Rutgers prepared for Big Ten membership by signing 26 players, including seven from footballfertile Florida. Its first conference game will be against Penn State, a state heavily recruited by Coach Kyle Flood. Rutgers is also clustered in the same division with Indiana, which it hosts on Nov. 15.
Five Knights were named to Athlon Magazine’s preseason allBig Ten team, none of them being running back Paul James, who led the AAC with a 98-yard average or receiver Leonte Carroo, who scored eight touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
In basketball the troubled university is still recovering from a scandal which led to Coach Mike Rice being fired last year after videotapes surfaced of physical and verbal abuse. Reportedly, at least three players transferred because of his outrageous behavior. Rice’s exit led to the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti, who was widely criticized for his reluctance to fire the coach.
Rutgers replaced Rice with Eddie Jordan, who starred for their 1976 Final Four team and played for the Lakers’ 1982 NBA champi- onship club. The Knights limped to a 12-21 record in his first year.
Ironically, new athletic director Julie Hermann came in with a troubled background. Last year the Star-Ledger reported that she stepped down in 1997 as Tennessee volleyball coach after 15 players presented a letter charging offensive verbal abuse. The New York Times also reported she was involved in a sex-discrimination suit in 2008, which resulted in damages of $150,000.
While Hermann was listed as one of the most disliked people in sports by SI.Com women’s basketball coach Vivian Stringer is one of the most respected figures. She ranks as the No. 2 all-time leader with 929 victories, a record embellished by trips to the Final Four with Cheyney State (1982), Iowa (1993) and Rutgers (2000, 2007).
Last year she guided Rutgers to a 28-9 record and a WNIT championship. Stringer has been named to 10 Halls of Fame.
Welcome to Big Mac
Seattle’s in the same division with the Athletics and the Angels, but Lloyd McClendon is making an early push for manager of the year honors. Armed with an enviable rotation, topped by former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez (9-2, 2.24 ERA) and Chris Young 7- 4, 3.15) and closer Fernando Rodney (22 saves), the Gary native brings a winning team to Sox Park Friday.
Saturday is Valpo day with basketball coach Bryce Drew tossing out a ceremonial pre-game pitch. The university is honoring Mac, who earned all-conference honors at VU before embarking on an eight-year major-league career.
The Maryland football team huddles during a game against Boston College on Nov. 23, 2013, in College Park, Md. Maryland and Rutgers will officially be a part of the Big Ten on Tuesday.
Rutgers fans celebrate against Temple Nov. 2, 2013, in Piscataway, N.J.