Big Ten, 12, 14 wel­comes Mary­land, Rut­gers

Post-Tribune - - Leadingoff - JOHN MUTKA [email protected]

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.

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