Big Ten adds Maryland; Big East's Rutgers likely to be next
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has always been the outlier of the Big Ten. Nestled in Central Pennsylvania, it lacks the Midwestern qualities of the other member schools and has no definitive geographic rival.
All of that has now changed. On Monday, the Big Ten officially announced its eastward expansion, as Maryland, currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference, accepted an invitation to the conference and will begin competing in 2014. Multiple reports also say Rutgers, currently in the Big East, will join the Big Ten. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany declined to comment on Rutgers' invitation.
At a news conference from the University of Maryland, he said the Big Ten would be moving east rather than asking Maryland to integrate with the Midwest. He said the conference would start having offices in the East and hopes this area of the country will start embracing college football more than it has.
"Maryland is Maryland; Penn State is Penn State," Delany said. "I do believe that together we're a conference that now lives in two areas of the country."
Delany said the Big Ten had originally eyed Maryland three years ago during its initial expansion plans, but Maryland officials said true discussions didn't take place until the past two or three weeks. Delany said Penn State's administration collaborated with the expansion and required no "arm-twisting."
Penn State has football history with Maryland and Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. It has played Maryland 37 times, but don't confuse the quantity of the matchups with a rivalry. Penn State has gone 35-1-1 against the Terrapins. They last played in 1993, and the Nittany Lions won, 70-7.
Penn State and Rutgers have played 24 times, with Penn State going 22-2. They had scheduled a home-and-home series with Rutgers for 2014 and 2015 that will presumably be void.
The ties between the states have increased recently. In October, Pennyslvania's Big 33 Football Classic announced a new pairing with Maryland for the next five years instead of Ohio. Penn State also has successfully recruited Maryland and Washington, D.C. This year's roster includes 14 players from Maryland or the Washington, D.C., area. The 2013 recruiting class has two commitments from there.
New Jersey has long been fertile for Penn State as well. The Nittany Lions have seven players from New Jersey on the roster and three commitments from the class of 2013.
In short, Penn State is heavily dependent on New Jersey and Maryland/D.C, and the move of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten could hurt its recruiting. Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Fox Sports, said the expansion could cause more recruits to stay in state rather than leave for Pennsylvania.
"This would hamper Penn State more than anybody," Kennedy said.
For the Big Ten as a whole, the move comes as a significant shock. After adding Nebraska in 2010, Delany has downplayed the talk of more expansion on multiple occasions, going as far as to say he would prefer to hold at 12.
"I think one of the most underrated factors about a conference is stability and the glue that holds it together," he said this summer. "The larger you are, the less you play each other. The less you play each other, the less tradition you have."
On Monday, admitting that adding the lucrative Washington, D.C., and New York City markets influenced the conference's decision, he said: "I would say there has been a paradigm shift in college athletics. It brings about more change and it's not always comfortable change."
At least for Penn State, the Big Ten has never carried much tradition. Besides Ohio State and recently Nebraska, no teams have transformed into rivals.
Perhaps worse, for Penn State fans and parents of athletes, membership since 1993 has meant long road trips to away games. Penn State alumni, which number about 550,000 in the United States, do not, for the most part, live in what had been Big Ten country. The states of Minnesota, Ohio, Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa have a combined 26,529 alums. New Jersey and Maryland have nearly 50,000, and New York City has another 23,000.
If the Big Ten's decision to expand means anything concrete at this point for Penn State, perhaps it's this: Rutgers and Maryland provide two better opportunities for fans like them to attend nearby sporting events.
And Delany continued to promise more of an Eastern feel. In addition to offices in the East, he said the Big Ten had discussed Eastern-based marketing campaigns, billboards and alumni events. He acknowledged the conference needed to cultivate more influence closer to Penn State and the East long ago.
"It was a mistake not to do it," Delany said. "I think we and others haven't taken advantages of the opportunities with expansion."
First Published November 20, 2012 12:00 am