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A trophy worth winning [Commentary]

Now that it's part of the Big Ten Conference, the University of Maryland will play Pennsylvania State University this upcoming football season on Nov. 1, giving fans their first real shot at a solid football rivalry in years.

For 61 years, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) was home to the University of Maryland and its fans, but it never really accepted the university. The All Carolina Conference, as some call it, has always thumbed its nose at Marylanders (designating the University of Pittsburgh as Maryland's "rival" in 2013 — yuck. Thanks for the memories, ACC.)

But forget 'em! It's over now! Maryland is in a new conference, a more historic conference, with greater profit margins. Not to mention, finally, a chance for a real college rivalry with Pennsylvania — an issue that has been discussed pretty frequently between fan bases and in the media. (Let's not forget about the Steelers and Ravens, arguably the NFL's premier rivalry; and the Pirates and Orioles, who met in the World Series in 1979.)

The last time the Terps and the Nittany Lions met was in 1993, when Bill Clinton was president and "Jurassic Park" had the best special effects of all time. Penn State won that game; they won nearly every game they played against Maryland before that with the exception of two: one Maryland win in 1961 and a tie in Baltimore in 1989. Since then, the schools have battled countless times for top-tier recruits, with Maryland often on the losing side, but also gaining momentum and winning battles as of late. Times are changing.

And we now have a chance to have a real rivalry with a university that takes football seriously, a rivalry fed by all the years of hard losses in recruiting battles. So if we are going to make this work, let's do it right. The athletic departments are in discussion about developing new trophy games, so let's clear this up right now: Nobody wants a dumb, fake, meaningless trophy to pass around. It needs to capture a substance and history beyond football that speaks to the character of the states.

The states of Maryland and Pennsylvania have been in battle since before the United States was actually united. It goes back to Col. Thomas Cresap, who on behalf of Lord Baltimore sought to annex territory in Pennsylvania as far north as Philadelphia. The dispute lasted for years, and in the end it resulted in the creation of the Mason Dixon Line.

In the sports world, in a much more civilized way, the battle is still being waged for territory in both Maryland and Pennsylvania. Coach James Franklin of Penn State recently said he considers both Maryland and New Jersey "in-state" as far as recruiting efforts go, suggesting there's no competition. He probably shouldn't say that when Penn State travels to Maryland, as that kind of talk is taken pretty seriously around these parts. Maryland Coach Randy Edsall was right when he responded by saying, "talk is cheap."

If this game is going to be a rivalry we need to start it off in classic Maryland fashion. That means historically, with a nice tribute to our forefathers who laid the foundation for both states. Maryland is a proud state, with a lot of history and tradition. The University of Maryland was first school to win a national championship in football for the ACC and the first school to integrate both basketball and football for the ACC. Maryland is a great state, and the University of Maryland is a great school. We should honor the states involved with a trophy that transcends sports and captures the spirit of the tumultuous relationship that has existed through the centuries. Here's one vote for the Mason Dixon Trophy.

And oh yeah, Let's go Maryland!

Austin Brown is a recent graduate of Salisbury University and a die hard local sports fan. His email is BrownsBusiness1@yahoo.com.

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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