Last week, Caesar Delany introduced the two latest annexations of the B1G Empire: Maryland and Rutgers. We here at OTE are all about giving everyone in the conference a chance to meet the new guys and let them tell us a little bit about themselves. This morning's edition focuses on the Maryland Terrapins and Ben Broman from the excellent SBN Maryland Site Testudo Times was gracious enough to answer a few of the most pressing questions.
1) Welcome to the Big Ten Maryland. What in the world happened here? I know that Rutgers had been on the radar for quite some time, but Maryland? You all were a charter ACC team, so the possibility of the Terps coming aboard seemed a bit of a stretch. Now you're here and we're all kind of sitting back trying to understand what just happened. I think I'm happy with the addition from a Dollar Dollar Bill perspective, but we'll see. What do you and the Maryland contingent think? Has your reaction changed as the figures and logistics come out? Are you secretly excited for the ACC to go down in a ball of flames?
To answer your last question first, I make absolutely no secret my strange joy in potentially taking down the ACC. It's been a Carolinian Empire for the past several decades, much to Marylanders' chagrin, and this is a fun, if somewhat bittersweet, way to get some payback. As to the rest of it, most casual fans still don't like it because they haven't taken the time to understand it. I haven't run into anyone (other than Len Elmore and Tom McMillen, who were never going to agree to it) who took the time to understand the reasoning and was still upset with it. Maryland will be a stronger Maryland in the Big Ten, and once fans realize that fact they're completely on board, for the most part.
As for how it went down, we're as surprised as you are. It really was a perfect storm for poaching UMD: we're in a financial hellhole and needed the dough, the University's president was certain that the exit fee wouldn't hold up in court, the administration had Big Ten ties, and the ACC had done just enough to keep poking us into feeling less and less a part of the conference. It happened quickly, but Maryland was always undersold in the conference realignment shuffle.
2) Alright, let's talk football. Outside of some, how do we say this, um... interesting uniform choices, the only thing I know about Maryland is that you jettisoned Danny O'Brien and that he sucks at the Quarterback position. Oh, and I know that your coach is Randy Edsall and he is coaching a walk-on, equipment manager that was pulled from the Intramural fields at QB this year. So what should we expect to see out of the Turtles? Will Edsall be around long enough to actually coach in the B1G?
Edsall probably gets one more year, unless Kevin Anderson decides to go rogue and freak everyone out by pulling the trigger now. (He did do it with Fridge, so there's a precedent.) If he makes a bowl, he'll stay on. If not, he's gone. It's a pretty simple break. I wager that he doesn't make a bowl and gets the boot, but he'll be close.
Some people have laughed at the idea that Maryland is a "sleeping giant," as they probably should; "giant" is a very strong term. But there's definitely a respectable program hibernating in there. A big state school, large fan base, massive talent pool? If they get the right guy, like Fridge was at the early half of the last decade, there's no reason Maryland can't semi-consistently compete with that Northwestern/Wisconsin/Penn State tier. Look at what they did in the early half of the past decade, and you'll see what Maryland football should be if they ever stop hiring incompetents (or people who get lazy after a little success).
3) This will be, not surprisingly, a big question about you all joining. What about the other sports? Sure, football rules the roost, but we here in B1G country are big on other things like Volleyball, Wrestling, Baseball (wait, we suck at Baseball? Um, this is awkward), etc. Talk to us about your non-revenue sports and maybe even a little about a certain basketball team that has a lot of brotherly love going on with the Spartans.
The wrestling program has been revived in the past few years, but of course joining the Big Ten is going to make it tough to compete. We most certainly aren't going to embarrass the conference on the mat, though, I can guarantee you that. As for volleyball: people care about it? For real? Okay then. Well, let's just say we aren't going to add a lot to the equation on that mark.
What Maryland really brings to the table is instant relevance in lacrosse and soccer, which are two of the best spectator sports at this level. Once Northwestern, Michigan State, or Minnesota joins the enlightened folks in sponsoring lax, the Big Ten will add it and have one of the four most important programs in the country, which will help everyone. The sport is exploding in the Midwest, especially in that Chicagoland area, and the presence of Maryland coming to town on a regular basis will be a huge boost. People have lamented moving to a "weaker" lax area, but it's not catching on in the south the way it is in the Midwest; in another decade, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Big Ten be a lacrosse powerhouse. Same holds true for soccer, where Maryland is a consistent national title competitor. And of course the Maryland-Northwestern women's lacrosse rivalry will be freaking awesome (for those of you who like women's lacrosse, at least).
4) I told Rutgers fans this and I will say the same to you. If you were one of the schools who voted Nebraska out of the AAU, you are officially on my hate list. With that said, the CIC is a legit organization allowing a lot of faculty sharing, cooperative learning opportunities, and access to University Grants that really makes administrators salivate. What does Maryland bring to the table? Is it strange being an East Coast school sharing research with a school like Nebraska that seems to have nothing in common? Do most fans even realize that the academic side matters?
UMD is a fantastic university, generally underrated by the USNWR rankings with a ton of research activity. I've said for quite some time that Maryland fits in with the Big Ten universities much better than it does the ACC ones: the B1G is made up almost entirely of premier public state institutions, with a lot of research activity and significant enrollment. The ACC had virtually no one who fit that profile; almost everyone in the Big Ten does. The geography doesn't match, but virtually else does, and most graduates are proud that the university can finally associate itself with these types of institutions. Most alums have been swayed somewhat by the academics, but the finances are driving this entirely and most everyone realizes that.
5) Lastly, and arguably most importantly, are you all bringing Crab Cakes to the party? Because I love me some Crab Cakes and since most of us are slightly landlocked [looks around for nearby bodies of water... can't find any... well then] we would really love it if you brought some seafood to the table. But seriously, we party hard here and food + beer is not a laughing matter. What do you all bring to the table? Any crazy traditions we need to know about? What should we expect when we start invading your stadium? Are you beer drinkers or are we going to be drinking the hard stuff? Like I said, this is probably the most important question.
Yes, crab cakes. Lots and lots and lots of crab cakes. And Old Bay. And crabs. And more Old Bay. Seriously, if you don't like Old Bay yet, I guarantee you will after your first trip to College Park. I'm not a huge tailgater myself so I'm probably the worst person to ask on this question, but Natty Boh is a mainstay. We're actually pretty excited about the cultural intermingling, getting to teach you guys about the wonders of Maryland food and drink and learning about "real" tailgating when we visit your places.
Again, special thanks to Ben Broman who can be found writing over at Testudo Times. Everyone should welcome them and maybe they'll be kind and bring along some of those Crab Cakes and Old Bay. I'm totally down with that happening.