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Sports Terps Tracking the Terps

Terps Trio: All in on Maryland's move to the Big Ten

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland  sports.

How well will Maryland fit into the Big Ten?

Jeff Barker: Maryland should do fine in basketball. Mark Turgeon recruits nationally anyways -- an approach that has impressed his coaching colleagues at other schools.

Sure, Turgeon will need to redecorate his office a bit. It contains -- as a recruiting tool -- the logos of all the ACC schools.

But stenciling the Indiana logo wouldn't hurt recruiting.

Of course, lots of people -- myself included -- will miss the ACC. It's been a warm, comfortable habit and there is nothing like history to stoke a rivalry. Goodbye, Cameron (but not quite yet, please). Hello, Assembly Hall.

In football, the Terps will need to leverage their new Big Ten status to improve their recruiting depth. Stefon Diggs sure was a good recruit before the conference move. But I'm thinking about the need for more big bodies -- linemen in particular. Maryland gave up sacks by the boatload this season.

And then there is lacrosse. Men's lacrosse coach John Tillman said this week that he is taking a "wait and see" approach.

“We’re just trying to figure out, in two years what are we going to do,” he said.

Certainly Maryland will have options. The Big Ten doesn't have enough lacrosse-playing members to host the sport. Maybe it will by the time the Terps arrive.

Which of the Maryland coaches will have the most pressure once the Terps join the Big Ten in 2014?

Don Markus: For different reasons, most of the coaches will be faced with new challenges once the engagement is over and the marriage officially begins. A lot will depend on how the divisions are alligned, particuarly for football as well as men’s and women’s basketball. In terms of men’s lacrosse, we will have to see whether the Big Ten expands further to include other ACC or Big East schools that are as good, if not better than the Terps.

Let’s take a look at each sport individually based on the current speculation that Maryland will be with Penn State, fellow new member Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue and Ohio State. Based on geography and the idea of keeping some natural rivalries together and others – including the Buckeyes and Michigan – apart, that seems to make the most sense in terms of mitigating the added travel costs for schools, fans and – not that this is taken into account – the media.

Many believe that Maryland football coach Randy Edsall faces the most pressure, but I actually believe that given the step up the Terps are going to make in terms of competition and the fact that the proverbial clock slowed down on Edsall this season amid all the injuries, I think he will be given time for his team to adjust as long as it makes progress next season. He’ll have three years left on a six-year deal when the Terps join the Big Ten.

I actually believe that Maryland joining the Big Ten works out well for Edsall’s program.

As I wrote earlier this week, Penn State will be in the third year of a four-year probation and no matter how good a job Bill O’Brien did this season, the talent level will take a significant nosedive before it gets back up to where the Nittany Lion are normally. Conversely, Ohio State will be off probation and a national power. Rutgers will likely make its first BCS appearance this year much in the way that Edsall’s Connecticut team did in 2010 – by winning a mediocre Big East. Indiana and Purdue will always be second-tier Big Ten programs.

Men’s lacrosse is difficult to predict, because there are so many scenarios that have yet to play out. Since the Big Ten doesn’t play lacrosse as a league, it will be up to Maryland coach John Tillman and athletic director Kevin Anderson to map out the direction the program should take. You know that the ACC is not going to allow its current teams – and new member Syracuse – to schedule Maryland. There are certainly enough local rivalries with national powers like Loyola and Johns Hopkins for the Terps to play, but unless the Big Ten officially adds lacrosse, scheduling is going to be tricky. I also think recruiting is going to take a hit here because ACC coaches are going to harp on the parents of the kids from St. Paul’s and Gilman and McDonogh how difficult it will be to see them play.

Women’s basketball appears to be something of a wash. In the current AP Top 25, there are three ACC teams, including Brenda Frese’s Terps, and four Big Ten teams. Considering the equity Frese has built up because of the success her teams have had in her first decade in College Park – as well as the stark difference in terms of the way men’s and women’s basketball is covered by the media and supported by fans – the transition for the Maryland’s women’s team should be the most seamless. Joining the Big Ten might change Frese’s recruiting base, but if anything, her Midwestern roots will certainly play well out there.

This leaves men’s basketball, and I think second-year coach Mark Turgeon will have the most pressure of anybody in College Park. But given what Turgeon has done so far with recruiting, and how much better the Big Ten is right now than the ACC, I also think it could be a significant boost to the Terps becoming a national power again. That Maryland beat Indiana in 2002 for its only national title, then got knocked out of the tournament in 2003 and 2010 by Michigan State, is a good place to start building those rivalries.

Turgeon has said that he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t like to hear the word ‘No’ and his jaw tightens when anyone presents a challenge, so you know he can’t wait to recruit against the likes of Indiana’s Tom Crean, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Ohio State’s Thad Matta. Turgeon came in second to Kentucky’s John Calipari for the Harrison twins – and later in a 3-point loss to the Wildcats in the season opener – and refused to think, as many did, that it was a sign of progress.

By the time the Terps join the Big Ten, Turgeon should have Maryland as a Top 25 program, maybe even a Top 15 program. While I doubt he’ll be able to convince sophomores such as Alex Len and Dez Wells to stick around for their senior year – he’s probably going to have trouble keeping the 7-1 center past this season – Turgeon will have plenty of talent to compete. Though football dictates every move these days in college sports, Maryland is a basketball school and always will be.    

What's it like when your team is in the Big Ten?

Matt Bracken: As Wallace Loh, Kevin Anderson and other top university officials hammered out a stunning deal to move Maryland from the ACC to the Big Ten last weekend, I sat at the dining room table in my childhood home in East Lansing, Mich., talking about what hundreds of thousands of other Midwesterners typically discuss on fall Saturdays: Big Ten football.

For my visiting girlfriend -- a Connecticut native with a master's degree from Maryland who accompanied me to the Michigan-Iowa game -- the hour-long discussion of Leaders, Legends, Rose Bowls and The Game was decidedly foreign. But for my family -- filled with graduates of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern -- it was just another Saturday night during the greatest time of the year.

Big Ten football was an obsession growing up. My elementary school had "Green & White Fridays" -- a weekly celebration of Sparty that I rebelled against by wearing a Jalen Rose practice jersey or any other maize-and-blue article of clothing I could find. People cared about the Lions, Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings in my hometown, but Lansing-area residents obsessed over Michigan State sports.

The same obsession exists in Ann Arbor, where I spent my college years working in the sports department of the student-run radio station and writing about the Wolverines for a magazine and Rivals.com-owned website. When Michigan won a big football game, State, South U. and Main streets were electric. A big loss, and Ann Arbor's busiest business districts became ghost towns.

I haven't spent a ton of time in College Park since moving to Baltimore more than five years ago, but I get the sense that the environment there is very different than what I grew up with in Michigan. But I think that could begin to change once Maryland's move to the Big Ten becomes official in July 2014. Having six pro teams less than 40 minutes away from campus will probably prevent College Park from operating like Iowa City or Champaign or Lincoln, but I could see the campus -- with more bars and restaurants added -- becoming the Evanston of the East.

My advice to Maryland fans is to take as many Big Ten road trips as possible. Witness the insanity that is Madison (my buddy Chris Korman, a Sun sports business reporter and a former Indiana and Penn State beat writer, says it's the best Big Ten town). Enjoy the fratastic environment of East Lansing on a fall Saturday night. Make the three-and-half-hour drive north to State College or the 11-hour trip west to Bloomington to see two of the most picturesque college campuses in the country. Feel the palpable hostility and listen to a nonstop barrage of F-bombs that come with a visit to Columbus (though you may have a different experience at OSU if you're not wearing maize and blue). Or -- bias alert! -- enjoy a weekend of perfection in Ann Arbor. 

The Big Ten is a different animal than the ACC, and I'm sure it will take Maryland fans some getting used to. But what Terps fans will miss in 60 years of ACC tradition will be made up for in new rivalries with schools Maryland probably has more in common with than the Dukes, Wakes and Miamis of the world. Instead of huddling around a laptop, you'll get to watch almost every football and basketball game on Big Ten Network. Yes, Maryland is using the Big Ten for financial security, and the Big Ten is using Maryland for geography and TV money. This is the reality of college sports today. But can you really be upset with joining a league that will allow you to watch more games on TV and, thanks to better finances and more exposure, potentially raise the profile of your entire athletic department?

So welcome to the Big Ten, Maryland fans. I hope you're ready for a new college sports experience. 

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

don.markus@baltsun.com

mbracken@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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