Can this guy jump higher?
When I first heard about the Big 10 adding Maryland and Rutgers, I didn’t pay much attention. (In my defense, it was a football Saturday.) I didn’t honestly think the Big 10 was that serious about expanding, not after they added Nebraska based largely on fit, a high-profile football program, and an icon at the helm of the athletic department. It took a couple of tweet from reporters Saturday night to figure out the Big 10 really was serious about expansion. A move by Notre Dame makes, and suddenly the careful Big 10 is jumping.
The Big 10 is paying its price for passing on Missouri before the Tigers opted to the SEC last fall. I knew then, and affirm now, that the Big 10 had to add Mizzou, as the number of quality schools available was going down. Other than the Irish, Missouri was the last complete culture fit for the Big 10. Notre Dame’s partial membership to the ACC, combined with the Irish emphasizing the importance of keeping series with USC, Stanford, and Navy (not Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue), finally made Jim Delany realize that he can’t add his white whale without leverage, in the form of pecking at the Irish’s new haven conference
Unlike a number of conference realignment moves, this one doesn’t involve fear of being left behind in the arms race or direct disgust over another school’s politicking or TV network. (Although Maryland has had healthy disagreements with the Carolinas.) This move is solely about a school in debt and a league gaining leverage and TV markets. Which begs the question, whatever happened to the Big 10’s quest to build consensus among its members and not moving too fast? Right now, Maryland’s leadership, its president and AD, aren’t Maryland lifers, and see this as a business move. What happens when the Terrapins big-shots who opposed the move (a poll on the Washington Post website showed 70% of fans don’t like it), get control of the program, which they will eventually will, chanting, “We’ll bring back the Maryland fans have always love!”
I don’t this is going to turn into a political mess, the way Texas broke off Oklahoma from the rest of the former Big 8 programs. I’m not looking for a fight here, but Maryland is bringing internal issues into the Big 10. Maryland is east coast urban, unlike the Big 10, which is mostly rural. More likely, the result will be something like Arkansas in the SEC: the Razorbacks have warmed to SEC, even though the rivalries aren’t as great as they were in the SWAC (although that could change with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri). Razorback fans would have loved to see Arkansas move to the Big 12, but it’s never going to happen. Of course, they forget they were outliers in the SWAC, the lone non-Texas school in that conference. Maryland seems to be on the same path: stranger in its old conference, outlier-to-be in its new one.
As a Nebraska fan, it doesn’t make that much difference to me personally who the conference adds. I’ve been two the campus of Maryland twice when I was in middle school. It has an early American, classic feel, but it’s much more urban than Penn State, Michigan, or Ohio State. Byrd Stadium has a gothic, dug-into-the-ground feeling that’s a little like Jack Trice Stadium. It could be rocking joint if they could fill it. Whoever came into the Big 10, it would probably be an eastern school (not Kansas or any other Big 12 school), and at least Maryland’s campus is easy to get to for traveling Nebraska fans. (Lots of airport options, lots of mass transit.) Given the state of Maryland’s cash-strapped athletic department, it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility that the Terps could be selling a few home games to the Huskers. Or the Buckeyes. Or the Wolverines.
Different red headed for these stands.
Let me say this to you, Maryland. I don’t expect you to be excited when you see cornfields in the cut-ins ABC shows of Nebraska games. Culturally, you’re not like Husker fans, Hawkeye fans, or even Nittany Lion fans. We’re farmers and mechanics, and you live faster, more urban life, and that is what it is. But your basketball program, which is your pride and gem, is going to be the rock tour in the Big 10. When Maryland basketball comes to Champagne, West Lafayette, or Lincoln, it will sell out the arenas and be the show.
I’m not going to blame you for wanting to play the best in the ACC, but it’s unlikely you would every be the face and center of that conference or pass Duke and UNC. For the record, you’re not as big national brand in basketball as you think you are: you’re more like Auburn football than Florida football. A good program, a recent national title, but your success isn’t as grand stacked up against great contemporary programs.
There are talented people who leave the best companies to be the face of a growing, solid organization (Doug Gottlieb comes to mind.) You’re not going to SEC where basketball is an afterthought. There’s only two traditional powers in the Big 10: Indiana is very rural, and Michigan State has such problems recruiting Tom Izzo thought seriously about taking the Cavaliers job when Lebron was there. You can be the best here, if your commitment to basketball stays the same, and I’m guessing you like the sound of that.
Irregardless of that, this is going to be a real test of Jim Delany’s leadership. His new school has a different background than his other schools, and it’s going to take a lot of work to get them on the same page.
(Why Terp fans failed to get on Friedgen)