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BY DAILY SPORTS STAFF
Published December 10, 2012
Manifest destiny has hit the Big Ten.
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Sure, for Maryland and Rutgers there are still exit fees to be paid (or not paid), probable breaches of state law and even some rancor here at Michigan to sort through before they join the conference in 2014.
But the show goes on. For football, that means bigger television markets, higher profits and uglier uniforms. But oh yes, this is supposed to be about actual football, in which case the expansion means adding two dull, typically mediocre to sub-mediocre programs. For basketball, the Big Ten adds another strong program to an already loaded conference, in Maryland. In Rutgers, the conference adds a buddy for the middling teams like Nebraska and Penn State.
None of this is new.
But what of the rest of the sports? Will Michigan softball remain a power among the likes of Maryland? How will adding Rutgers alter the dynamic of women’s basketball? How will Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich fare against Maryland, his former team?
The Daily has examined the sports forgotten in the expansion. This is not meant to be comprehensive: we leave out the footballs and the men’s basketballs, for example, as well as the uncertain future of Big Ten lacrosse. And of course, this may soon be obsolete once Jim Delaney puts a Big Ten colony on one of the moons of Jupiter.
But until then, use this as your guide through the maze of expansion confusion. And sorry, H.A.I.L. points are not included.
Both Maryland and Rutgers bring a tradition of success. Michigan will be challenged by the fresh faces.
Maryland’s successful 2012 campaign was marred by a brawl with Miami in October. Hopefully the Terps have a chance to calm down before joining the Big Ten in 2014.
Michigan upset Maryland two years ago to reach the College Cup, but the Terrapins are one of the strongest programs in the nation. The move, though, does open new recruiting grounds for the rest of the conference.
The Big Ten was the best volleyball conference in the country this year, with the No. 1 team in the nation (Penn State), six teams in the Sweet 16 and two — Michigan and Penn State — in the Final Four. The rich get richer.
Erik Bakich left Maryland after last season to take the head coaching job at Michigan. In College Park, he built an underachieving program into a successful team. Now he’ll have to play them each year.
The Wolverines have captured the Big Ten regular season title for the five years straight. They were the first team in the country east of the Mississippi to win a National Championship. Maryland has the best chance of challenging the Wolverines for Big Ten supremacy. Rutgers — not so much.
Since the NCAA added field hockey as a championship sport in 1981, Michigan has won one National Championship, in 2001. That puts them tied atop the conference, which has two National Championships. Maryland has eight.
Both the Terrapins and the Scarlet Knights appear to be on the rise. Maryland earned its highest ranking since 2004, and Rutgers’ new coach has injected new life into the program. The Big Ten is already a strong conference, with six teams in the top-25 last season. In 2014, it will get even stronger.
The Scarlet Knights fit well in the Big Ten — academically at least. The Terrapins don’t. But don’t blame the team — there isn’t one. Maryland can compete in non-conference competition, but that’s it. It competes at the club level only.
Rutgers and Maryland aren’t exactly tennis powerhouses.