Let's run down the hows and whys of the Big Ten's apparent additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the roster, including a look at the 10 (or so) biggest-ever football games for each.
1. Why would Maryland make this move?
Good question. Read this Testudo Times post. It will tell you everything. The short version: The Terps need the money, and they really aren't as tied, in terms of culture and rivalry, to the ACC as much as it would seem at first glance.
2. Why would Rutgers make this move?
Are you kidding?
3. Why would the Big Ten make this move?
The only way the Big Ten expands its cable television base dramatically at this point is by adding pieces of the D.C. and New York markets. No, Maryland and Rutgers are not traditional powerhouses. No, there is not even a smidge of a guarantee that Maryland and Rutgers will force Washington, D.C., and New York cable companies to put the Big Ten Network on their basic package. Yes, this is a gamble.
And yes, Maryland has won six games in two years. But who else was the Big Ten supposed to grab that would give it another power? You can't clone Ohio State. The only other names we've heard floating around recently are those two and Georgia Tech. (Personally, I've long thought the conference should just nab the University of Toronto. But that's just me.) You can still hope for that Texas power play if you want, but that has never been what one would call "realistic," even by conference realignment standards. And Notre Dame is out. So if you know these are your options, and you know you will eventually add programs from this pool, you might as well go ahead and take the leap.
Here's where somebody complains that conference realignment is all about greed and money, and that tradition doesn't matter. First of all, it's always been about greed and money, but only recently did greed and money dictate conference-only networks.
Second, though Maryland was really, really good at football once -- we'll get to that below -- what tradition do they really have, other than playing home games at Byrd Stadium? Who is the Terps' natural rival, especially in football? Virginia, maybe? Are you thinking to yourself, "God, I'm really going to miss watching Maryland and Virginia play"? No? Then it's not really a "tradition" worth saving. The same goes for Rutgers. The only rivalry I regret Rutgers leaving is the one with Louisville, just because it gave me a reason to daydream about this fantastic game once a year.
Meanwhile, of course the Big Ten is going to chase Big Ten Network dollars. This move does not help the football product -- there really aren't many options on the table in that regard. But it doesn't really hurt it, either. Though, yes, as Spencer Hall put it in our Monday afternoon Google Hangout session, this does officially end any sort of Big Ten claim to moral superiority.
4. So this means the Big Ten can hit the reset button on divisions, right?
This move offers the Big Ten a perfect opportunity to forget that Leaders and Legends ever happened. Please take advantage of this opportunity, Jim Delany.
Wait, what's that? We're sticking with them?
Maryland prez tells regents MD, RU in Leaders Division w/OSU, PSU, Wisconsin, Purdue & Indiana. Illinois moves to Legends— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 19, 2012
So, instead of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin and one other school in the West, with Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and three others in the East, we're going to stick it out with this alignment instead?
- Leaders: Indiana, Maryland, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Ohio State, Wisconsin
- Legends: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
Well ... that's reasonably close to East (Leaders) and West (Legends). But still. You have a chance to change the names, and instead you're doubling down.
5. What's the term for a school that feels like it should be a sleeping giant even though it's been 60 years since it really proved it? Because Maryland's that.
Maryland has geography on its side, and honestly, it has a history, too. But the Terps have a history in the same way that Minnesota does: They won a lot of games and dominated a certain period of college football that came before almost anybody reading this was actually born. Under Jim Tatum, one of history's most underrated college football coaches, the Terrapins dominated for most of the 1949-1955 window. They finished 9-1 in 1949, 10-0 and third in the country in 1951, 10-1 and first in 1953 and 10-1 and third in 1955. Tatum left for his alma mater, North Carolina, in 1956 and died of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (no, seriously) three years later.
Under Jerry Claiborne, the Terps dominated a weak ACC through much of the 1970s, and they experienced a nice run of success under Bobby Ross in the 1980s. But Ross left, basically, because of lack of administration support. From there, Maryland basically became the Maryland you know. From when Ross left after 1986 to when Ralph Friedgen took over in 2001, Maryland went to one bowl (the 1990 Independence Bowl) and was ranked for exactly two weeks (both in September 1995 before a collapse). The Terps basically ceased to exist, in other words.
For all his potential flaws and limitations, Ralph Friedgen changed that. He inherited a program that had won a total of 15 games in four seasons, and he won 31 in three. The Terps charged to a shocking conference title in 2001, finished ranked 17th or better for each of 2001-03, then endured a terribly up-and-down few years. Ten combined wins in 2004-05, then nine in 2006. Two wins in 2009, then nine in 2010. With Under Armor money getting pumped into the program and fan support waning, Maryland dumped Friegen after his 9-4 campaign in 2010. The Terps have gone 6-17 and have lost approximately 26 quarterbacks since then. Beware the Curse of the Fridge.
6. And Rutgers really did invent football.
So there's that.
There's no dancing around the fact that, for much of its history, Rutgers has fielded a football team somewhere between poor and terrible. Really, the program is basically Maryland without the 1950s success. Like Maryland, the Scarlet Knights played solid, respectable ball in the 1970s -- Frank Burns won at least seven games each year between 1974 and 1980 and made the Garden State Bowl in 1978 -- and clung to respectability until the mid-1980s, then fell apart. The Scarlet Knights went 2-7-2 in Dick Anderson's last year (1989) and went 13-19-1 in Doug Graber's last three years (1993-95), then really fell apart under Terry Shea, winning just 11 games in five seasons (1996-00), five of which came in one year (1998).
Like Friedgen in College Park, Greg Schiano took over in 2001 and engineered a minor miracle. Granted, it took him a lot longer. There was no immediate turnaround; Rutgers went just 3-20 in 2001-02. But they went 5-7 and 4-7 in 2004, then broke through with an Insight Bowl bid and a 7-5 record in 2005.
And then 2006 happened. Rutgers raced to a 9-0 start, defeating No. 3 Louisville on a Thursday night on ESPN and moving to seventh in the country. But the Scarlet Knights were immediately upended by Cincinnati the next week, finished 10-2, and were relegated all the way to the Texas Bowl to face (and destroy) Ron Prince's first Kansas State team. (The Big East's bowl affiliations: one of about 117 reasons why a Big East team would accept a Big Ten invitation.) Aside from a 4-9 speed bump in 2009, Schiano established a nice rhythm after that, winning either eight or nine games each year before taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job in 2012 and figuring out a way to immediately piss off almost everybody in the NFL.
(I fully support Schiano in the kneeldown blitz, by the way. I think the outrage was incredibly haughty and ridiculous.)
Kyle Flood took the reins from Schiano in 2012, and one has to admit things have gone pretty well. Rutgers is 9-1 and can clinch a conference title with a home win over, yes, Louisville on, yes, next Thursday night (November 29).
7. So, okay, fine. This is happening, and there's no need to question it anymore. When the Big Ten Network runs an endless loop of Maryland's biggest football wins as a welcome to the conference, what wins will they show?
Well, if tape went back far enough, they would have a nice goldmine of footage from the early-1950s. But that isn't really much of a ratings grabber, huh? Regardless, here is a list of what might be Maryland's 10 biggest wins. Note the gaps between games.
November 24, 1945 (in Washington, DC): Maryland 19, No. 13 Virginia 13
Hey kids, did you know Bear Bryant coached at Maryland? He did! For one full season. His Terps knocked off a good Virginia team and finished on a three-game winning streak, going 6-2-1. Bryant resigned, however, because of meddling from the university president. A year later, the Terps hired Tatum and became a winner anyway.
January 1, 1952: No. 3 Maryland 28, No. 1 Tennessee 13
Maryland had scored its first bowl win ever two years earlier, knocking off Missouri in the Gator Bowl. But in the single biggest game in Maryland's history to date, Tatum's turtles thumped General Robert Neyland's national champion Volunteers in the Sugar Bowl. (National titles were awarded before bowls in those days.) They finished 10-0 and third in the country.
November 21, 1953: No. 2 Maryland 21, No. 11 Alabama 0
Maryland bounced back from a semi-disappointing 1952 campaign -- ranked second in the preseason, finished 7-2 and 13th -- to go undefeated and win the 1953 AP title. And the schedule was impressively back-loaded with SEC powers. The Terps finished the regular season with wins over both No. 11 Ole Miss (38-0) and No. 11 Alabama and allowed only 31 points in 10 regular season games. They lost to No. 4 Oklahoma (Tatum's first employer) in the Orange Bowl, but they had already secured the title.
September 24, 1955: No. 5 Maryland 7, No. 1 UCLA 0
Tatum's final season in College Park was another fantastic one. Maryland moved to No. 1 in the country with a win over UCLA in late-September and finish undefeated, though they would slip to third in the final polls thanks to lackluster wins over Clemson and George Washington. They again lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
November 20, 1976: No. 6 Maryland 28, Virginia 0
This win wrapped up Maryland's first undefeated season since Tatum and scored the Terps their third consecutive ACC title. The ACC was weak enough, however, that that Maryland ranked just fourth to finish the regular season, and a 30-21 Cotton Bowl loss to No. 6 Houston finished off even the tiniest of hopes that they could sneak out a national title.
October 29, 1983: Maryland 28, No. 3 North Carolina 26
In Boomer Esiason's final home game as a Terrapin, he threw two late touchdown passes to knock off a fantastic North Carolina squad. The win bumped the 7-1 Terps to No. 7 in the polls, but after losses at No. 3 Auburn (35-23), at No. 17 Clemson (52-27) and to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl, Maryland finished 8-4 and unranked.
November 10, 1984: Maryland 42, No. 6 Miami 40
Down 31-0 at halftime, Bobby Ross subbed in Frank Reich. It was 31-21 at the end of the third quarter, and down 34-28, Reich found Greg Hill for the above touchdown. Miami fumbled the kickoff, Maryland scored AGAIN, and Miami failed to complete a two-point conversion after a late touchdown. Voila, 42-40. Two weeks later, Doug Flutie ALSO came back on Miami. You probably remember that game, too.
And yeah, BTN has probably already secured the rights to this game from ESPN. They will show it 118 times in this coming offseason.
November 17, 2001: No. 10 Maryland 23, N.C. State 19
There may not have been a lot of style points involved, but Maryland sewed up its first ACC title in 16 seasons with a win over Phillip Rivers and N.C. State.
December 31, 2002 (Peach Bowl): No. 20 Maryland 30, Tennessee 3
Maryland's 2001 season ended with a 56-23 whipping at the hands of Steve Spurrier's final Florida team. But after early losses to Notre Dame and No. 5 Florida State in 2002, the Terps caught fire again, winning 10 of their final 11 games and thumping Tennessee in the Peach Bowl to finish 11-3 and 13th in the AP poll.
E.J. Henderson was, uh, good.
October 30, 2004: Maryland 20, No. 5 Florida State 17
It seemed like a bigger win at the time, but the Terps finally got the FSU monkey off of their backs with a 20-17 win over Chris Rix and the Seminoles. You'll probably see this one on BTN, as well.
And yeah, you'll be seeing a lot of 2001-02 Maryland basketball games on BTN this winter, as well.
8. And what about Rutgers?
November 6, 1869: Rutgers 6, Princeton 4.
1869 national champions, baby.
November 25, 1961: Rutgers 32, Columbia 19.
Rutgers finished undefeated (9-0) with this win and squeezed into the final AP rankings at 15th.
November 18, 1976: No. 19 Rutgers 17, Colgate 9.
The win capped an undefeated season for Frank Burns and his Scarlet Knights, though the team turned down an Independence Bowl bid, evidently because it felt snubbed by bigger bowls. See? They've always had some B1G in them.
October 29, 2005: Rutgers 31, Navy 21.
This moved Rutgers to 6-2 and all but clinched the Scarlet Knights' first bowl bid since 1978.
November 9, 2006: No. 15 Rutgers 28, No. 3 Louisville 25.
You have to admit: This game was really, really fun.
December 28, 2006: No. 16 Rutgers 37, Kansas State 10.
Your first bowl win makes the list, even if it came against Ron Prince.
October 18, 2007: Rutgers 30, No. 2 South Florida 27.
For the second straight season, the Scarlet Knights take down a surprising Big East national title contender.
December 30, 2011: Rutgers 27, Iowa State 13.
This win makes the list because it was the last win of Greg Schiano's Rutgers tenure, and without Schiano, there is simply no way RU even remotely ends up on the Big Ten's radar screen. Yes, this move is mostly about the mythical cable subscribers of the New York area. But if Rutgers was still what it was under Terry Shea, then this doesn't happen.
Yes, this is only eight wins. Count the 2006 Louisville win three times. It was that fun and awesome.
9. So ... what happens now? Are we about to start a new, devastating round of Expansionapalooza™?
Really, that depends on two entities: Florida State and Mike Slive. As it currently stands, the ACC is going to probably invite either UConn or Louisville to replace Maryland. There are rumors that the conference has also spoken to Cincinnati and South Florida, but one has to figure that UC and UL are the leaders. So let's say they pick one of those two. The Big East replaces the program with, I guess, Army? Maybe some Conference USA team? And really, that could be about it. Or...
...Florida State waits to see how much Maryland actually has to pay in an ACC buyout, then toes the Big 12 waters again. Or SEC commissioner Mike Slive, sensing vulnerability, attempts a covert raid of the ACC, going after either N.C. State, Virginia Tech, or both. Maybe Texas decides that the Longhorn Network is, indeed, not viable enough and calls the Pac-12 up again. None of this is incredibly likely. The waters rarely get quite as choppy as we think (because in the end, we always end up thinking that this is going to result in the mythical "Four Super-Duper Conferences" model for which the math has never made sense). But this at least opens the door to such a thing.
10. And hey, never mind that this 2012 college football season has actually been really fun. We missed Expansionapalooza™, right?
Right. Well, sort of. Part of me enjoys this soap opera immensely, but I'd have preferred for everybody to wait until the damned regular season was over first.
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