Maryland accepts invitation to join Big Ten
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has always been the outlier of the Big Ten. Nestled in the hills of 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 accepted an invitation to the conference. Multiple reports also say Rutgers will join the Big Ten, as early as Tuesday. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany declined to comment on their invitation.
At a press 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.
"Maybe some people fear the Turtle," Delany said. "We embrace the Turtle."
These changes could accommodate Penn State as well. More eastern-centric thought could make the Nittany Lions less the conference outcast, and the shift brings closer opponents.
Penn State, though, has little history with Maryland or Rutgers, located in Piscataway, N.J. It has played Maryland 37 times over the years, with Penn State going 35-1-1. 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 also scheduled a home-and-home series with Rutgers for 2014 and 2015 that will presumably be void.
But 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 has also 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 their recruiting. Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Fox Sports, said the move of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten 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 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.
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 to attend nearby sporting events.
First Published November 19, 2012 4:24 pm