Eastward conference expansion has created quite a bit of excitement in the world of Big Ten men’s soccer.
The league’s addition of Maryland and Rutgers creates interesting new recruiting and exposure possibilities for all involved parties, and coaches throughout the league are excited about the future opportunities it creates for their programs.
Michigan’s 2012 roster featured no players from New Jersey, one from Maryland and one from New York. The program will likely attempt to capitalize on the large and relatively untapped recruiting markets that now lie within the footprint of the Big Ten conference.
“The future addition of Maryland and Rutgers immediately makes the Big Ten more competitive and a premier conference,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “Each program is very rich in history and will add a great deal to the Big Ten landscape.”
Likewise, the Scarlet Knights’ 2012 team players hailed almost exclusively from New Jersey, and they had no players from within the Big Ten’s current footprint.
The Terrapins featured players from up and down the Eastern Seaboard, as well as a few from Europe. But, as with Rutgers, Maryland will likely attempt to widen its recruiting sights, as only one of its players came from Big Ten territory.
“It will be exciting to play on the East Coast from time to time so we can recruit more readily,” Daley said. “As well as connect with our alumni and families of our current and former players across the country.”
Recruiting appears to be a major theme when it comes to coaches’ excitement surrounding the conference expansion. For the most part, Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference programs have not taken advantage of talent present in the Midwest, and Big Ten programs will look forward to recruiting in and around some of the country’s largest population centers.
“This move to the Big Ten adds great stability to our department, our university, and certainly the men’s soccer program,” said Rutgers coach Dan Donigan in a statement released on the school’s website. “I am excited for my student-athletes and the future prospective student-athletes that are going to be a part of our great program in the Big Ten.”
The Big East conference, the Scarlet Knights’ current home, features three teams that finished the 2012 regular season in the top-25: No. 6 Georgetown, No. 7 Connecticut and No. 17 Louisville.
“We are going from one good conference to another great conference,” Donigan said. “From a competitive standpoint, it is fantastic move for us. It helps recruiting efforts and perceptions from the academic side of things because universities in the Big Ten are considered among the elite academic institutions.”
The Scarlet Knights finished sixth in the Blue Division of the Big East and 11th overall in the conference, posting a league record of 3-4-1.
While Rutgers expects to be competitive, Maryland appears poised to compete consistently for Big Ten championships. The Terrapins were ranked No. 2 going into NCAA tournament play this season, and ultimately made it to the College Cup.
Maryland tied for first in the ACC with North Carolina, each finishing 6-1-1.
The Terrapins have won the ACC championship in three of the past five seasons, capping their most recent conference tournament title with a 2-1 victory over No. 5 North Carolina on Nov. 11.
Maryland is undeniably leaving one of the nation’s best soccer conferences. Schools such as Virginia, North Carolina and Wake Forest are consistently competitive on a national level.
The Big Ten typically is not on the same level as the Big East. Michigan State, Indiana and Michigan all received votes in the final poll in 2012, but no Big Ten team finished the regular season ranked in the top-25.
But the Big Ten has enjoyed a recent renaissance on the national stage. Michigan reached the College Cup, in 2010, beating Maryland to get there. And this year, Indiana, just a No. 16 seed, upset Big East foe No. 3 Georgetown to win the National Championship.