Ever since the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers in late 2012, commissioner Jim Delany has made it very clear that the conference plans to "live in two regions: the Midwest and the East Coast."
The new additions have been portrayed as outcasts — as schools that don't fit the culture of the Big Ten. But while it might take time to get used to the new additions, Maryland and Rutgers (and Penn State) form an East Coast trio that has the ability to define its own culture within the conference's expanse.
The rest of the conference has several of these undefined groupings. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are all formidable teams with similar cultures. Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin fit together the same way, with Northwestern and Minnesota knocking on the door for acceptance into that group. And of course, there's the basketball belt of Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue.
In each, there's a rotating balance of power. College sports are cyclical, and in any given cycle, any of those teams can be the kings of their individual groups. But in the East Coast trio, the hierarchy is less cyclical. It's a tier with Penn State on top, Maryland in the middle, and Rutgers on the bottom now and in the near future.
It's often been said that the Big Ten didn't really add Maryland and Rutgers for Maryland and Rutgers — it did so for the new television markets and the new recruiting ground. The latter is particularly important for football, and it's what might keep the East Coast trio from ever being that internally competitive.
While Maryland and Rutgers gained from joining the Big Ten, they may lose competitive advantage. They serve as pawns to help the bigger programs recruit in a new, fertile recruiting area, and that's even evident in the East Coast trio itself, where the established Big Ten power has taken far more advantage of Maryland and Rutgers than they have of the establishment.
The 2015 recruiting classes to date tell the story (note that offer data is imperfect -- it's via recruiting-service websites such as the 247Sports Composite, which rely on reports of offers by players and others):
|Penn State offers
|Penn State commits
Maryland does not have a single commitment in its 2015 class with a reported Penn State offer. Neither does Rutgers. Penn State, meanwhile, has 10 commits with reported Maryland offers and 13 with reported Rutgers offers. Some overlap, as players like four-star New Jersey quarterback and PSU commit Brandon Wimbush report offers from all three.
And looking at the five previous signing classes suggests the disparity could be growing, in part due to James Franklin:
|Penn State offers
|Penn State commitments
Maryland and Rutgers got their money and they got their prestige. Now comes the challenge.
"We're in an area where there are talented athletes and people are going to come in and recruit there," said Maryland coach Randy Edsall at Big Ten Media Days. "All the schools were in there recruiting previously, before we went to the Big Ten."
That would be ideal for Maryland, but the numbers have shown that schools from all across the conference are expanding in the D.C. area. Maryland doesn't have to just compete for the four- and five-star players Big Ten schools previously offered; the Terrapins now have to compete against the Big Ten's establishment for other players those schools might have missed.
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood's approach is similar. He discussed how fortunate his school is to be located within the "State of Rutgers" — his name for the East Coast/mid-Atlantic recruiting area — but the problem is that Rutgers is missing out on the best players from the State of Rutgers. If Flood is worried, he doesn't show it.
"I just don't see it that way," Flood said when asked if there's more competition. "Ultimately, recruiting is about finding the right people for your culture, for your program, for your university."
Also, here's a look at the overall talent distribution over the time span, including all players:
|2010-2014 signees, 2015 commits