When the information leaked in the least few days that Maryland and Rutgers could be headed to the Big Ten, it meant different things for the basketball teams at both schools.
For Maryland, it is the first of the traditional ACC schools to say, “Thanks, I have had enough.” For Rutgers, it may be a coming out party. The Scarlet Knights have been hidden in the Big East and now can take the program into new cities in the Midwest where they will not be in the shadows of Syracuse, St. John’s, and Seton Hall, who have all had success and deep runs in March since Rutgers’ last Final Four appearance in the mid-1970s.
Maryland hoops coach Mark Turgeon will enjoy a fresh start in the Big Ten in 2014 (Credit: Greg Fiume/Maryland Athletics)
Maryland has languished in the shadows of the four North Carolina schools in hoops for its entire life in the ACC. The Terps went ignored in hosting the ACC Basketball Tournament as they only hosted it in Landover, Maryland or the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., four times since 1954. The Terps, like others outside the state of North Carolina, could not crack the “Good Ole Boy” network of the four North Carolina schools to at least have somewhat equal footing on the college hoops landscape.
Proof of this comes from the ACC’s PR machine and how it uses Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams as the faces of the conference. Subliminally, this is an advantage the Terrapins never had… as it is an easy recruiting tool. Maryland employed a Hall of Fame caliber coach in Gary Williams from 1989-2011. Williams built a program that would rival those in Chapel Hill and Durham on a regular basis. The Terps even won the National Championship in 2002. With the base of the ACC in Greensboro, congratulations were in hand, but no lingering adulation that catapults Duke and North Carolina into the throes of national television.
When the news came down that the Terps would indeed leave, I wasn’t surprised. My own theory a few years ago when the Big East was stable was for Maryland and Virginia to leave the ACC for the Big East where both programs could get a more fair shake in the league in notoriety, visibility, and, yes, whistles in close games where the Blue Devils and Tar Heels were concerned.
Williams endorsed the Terps’ move to the Big Ten Sunday in the Detroit News as he cited the visibility on the Big Ten Network plus the money the Big Ten could offer as reasoning for the move. He also pointed out in the same article how Notre Dame had done what was best for its university in partially joining the ACC as it would play football against five ACC teams each season.
For Rutgers, it is similar, but not as pronounced as Maryland’s plight. The Scarlet Knights have only six NCAA appearances in history and have not been in the showcase since 1991. The move for Rutgers means that the Scarlet Knights may be able to interest players in the Big Ten area with the proximity to New York City as they can come to RU, in the shadows of NYC, hone their games and look forward to coming back into their areas to play.
The stability of the Big Ten is a plus for Rutgers as well. Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, and Notre Dame cited stability issues as they exited the league for other conferences. The Scarlet Knights are looking at a situation where they probably will not feel missed in their exit. There is no real rivalry except for the ventures to Orange, N.J., to play Seton Hall. The football rivalry inside the league does not exist. The opportunity to effectively recruit New York City and reel in a top recruiting class, a la St. John’s is not there.
Rutgers’ move is more about the future of football as there have been rumors in the recent past that the Big East might lose its automatic BCS bid. Joining the Big Ten takes the Scarlet Knights into a league where they should be able to recruit in football right away thanks to a program that Greg Schiano built from an 0-11 season to the point where Rutgers is now in position to win the Big East in coach Kyle Flood’s first season.
With the move, of course, comes mega-dollars as the Big Ten supposedly has the best payments per team in college sports, with each team reportedly taking home 24 million dollars a year. Maryland has had problems financially in recent years and this helps to solidify their entire athletic program. The same can be said for Rutgers which stands to make substantially more money in the Big Ten than in the Big East.
- Ken Cross
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