There are few things that can convince me to get back in this blogging business. The conference of my alma mater inviting my home state’s team is one of them. Welcome to the Big Ten, Maryland. Here’s what you need to know about your new home.
I can tell you up front that I don’t like this any more than you do. Well, I probably am slightly more okay with it. I am cringing at the thought of having to choose when Maryland plays Michigan (my Alma mater) or having traditional rivalries broken up by the 14-team conference, but my team isn’t giving up 60 years of history. My team wasn’t a founding member of its conference, and isn’t having all of its rivalries taken from them. So this is tough, and I am here to help acclimate you to your new conference.
One of the things you need to know about the conference is it’s a lot like the BCS — it makes a ton of money, it is everywhere no matter how much you want to ignore it, and the only people with the power to change things are either woefully out of touch or just don’t care. The only difference is that the media fawns over how brilliant the conference’s business strategy is, never mind the fact that they call their divisions Legends and Leaders in an entirely nonsensical arrangement. Actually, that last part should be pretty familiar to ACC fans. This is the conference that stood most firmly against a playoff, that insisted that the Rose Bowl keep its Pac-12 vs. Big Ten setup. They are not a friend of the progressive football fan (I say football because when you leave the ACC you will hear a lot more about it).
This conference will put the University of Maryland’s athletic department forever in the black. It will also give you the same sinking feeling in your stomach that you get from blowing half your paycheck on a stripper. You can enjoy it, but only if you let yourself believe she is really having a great time when you know in your heart she is just pretending. The Big Ten talks about tradition and means very little of it, except insofar as it gets you to keep showing up.
Big Ten fans didn’t want to add Maryland or Rutgers — heck, they were more or less ambivalent about Nebraska. But don’t worry, it isn’t personal. It’s just that Nebraska, for all their academic failings (something the conference does pride itself on in general) is still technically a Midwest school with an approach to football that is culturally similar to the tradition of the conference (I say tradition because the Northwestern offense exists). Big Ten fans don’t know anything about Maryland, and there is nothing culturally, historically, or regionally that ties the two together (bordering Pennsylvania doesn’t really count since even Penn State has a very Midwestern location). This will take everyone some getting used to.
Now I have heard a lot of hemming and hawing about how Maryland will fit in with their various sports. Football will be tough (again, we are in the Big Ten now so we open with football. Get used to it, no matter how bad the conference is at it) but there is always Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, and the like to rack up some decent wins against. For basketball there shouldn’t be a competitive drop-off from what Maryland experiences most seasons. Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana are the traditional powers, with Michigan an up and coming program — and Illinois won’t stay down very long. And Penn State is awful, so that should be fun for Terps fans.
The non-revenue sports will likely see their level of competition decline a bit, though men’s soccer, field hockey, softball, and swimming/diving are all decently strong from what I know. However, softball and baseball will suddenly have the misfortune of playing in a conference where it’s often snowing in April and as such get minimal home games. Enjoy that. Lacrosse? There are a few D-1 programs, but no Big Ten Conference, so Maryland will be SOL for a little while. Too bad there’s no hockey team at Maryland to join up.
Look, those who travel to games are going to love trips to Madison, Champaign, and especially Ann Arbor (there is nothing in East Lansing and you should avoid Columbus unless you want a bottle thrown at your head for wearing opposing teams’ gear). The Big Ten has some of the most well-informed, polite fanbases (certain exceptions apply) and this is a good chance to see some new parts of the country that aren’t nearly as dull as they are made out to be out on the east coast.
This move is entirely motivated by money, but that will pay off in not having to cut any more sports, being able to lean off of raising student fees, and providing proper academic services for athletes. The Big Ten will raise the University of Maryland’s profile nationally far more than the ACC ever could have. You will almost always be able to catch the game no matter where you live or what sport you care about. It will provide academic partnerships between institutes and faculty research, and will give exposure to a brand new part of the country to what Maryland has to offer.
It’s going to feel a little strange at first- hell, it is going to feel strange for the whole conference (except those who run it), but you will be welcomed in with open arms. It’s not your fault that the powers that be forced you to stop playing UVa, UNC, Duke, etc. Penn State doesn’t have a steady rival in the conference, and there couldn’t be a better time to start a rivalry back up. It may even turn out that Penn State finally gives the Terps the mutually hated, primary rival they have always lacked in the ACC. In this world of realignment, I guess we all have to get used to the fact that whatever the status quo, it won’t be around for long.
P.S. Oh, and one other thing. They like for you to write it B1G instead of Big Ten. It’s ridiculous, but that’s how they do it. That’s probably in the orientation pack somewhere.