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Monday, November 19, 2012

Ten-12-14

And we all believed expansion had quieted for the time being.

What started as seemingly baseless rumors now seems to be a done deal: The University of Maryland, College Park is reportedly headed to the Big Ten, and Rutgers will be joining them. I've got a few thoughts on the matter. Here they are.

First of all, losing Rutgers, while I can't say I'm sad to see them go at face value, is another blow to the Big East. Add to that the fact that the next domino many see falling is UConn to the ACC, and the everpresent Big East Sword of Damocles gets closer to dropping.

As for College Park, I live in the capital of the ACC, and they are the conference team I tend to pull for the most. It wasn't much, but there was a bit of familiarity seeing them in the ACC Tournament here in town each March. They'll be leaving a conference of which they were a charter member and turning their back on rivalry and good old fashioned hatred.

From the Big Ten's standpoint. I won't ask why this is on the table. Certainly it's the $ame rea$on it alway$ i$. Still, it seems to dilute its identity in more ways than one. Even with the most recent expansion, adding Nebraska, the Big Ten remained a midwestern conference (yes, I'd include Penn State's part of Pennsylvania in this). Adding the DMV and the Tri-state very clearly dilutes that.

The geographical mismatch is what stands out to me the most. I can't claim to speak for the Rutgers or UMCP fanbases, but as a native of the east coast, having grown up a state away from both schools, there's frankly a hubris that comes with being the first to see the sun each day. This is intensified in the BosWash megalopolis that both schools inhabit; if it's not on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, we're not sure it exists. There is even a coast privilege that typically manifests itself as the east coast bias many mention. Why, then, would these two align themselves with a primarily midwestern conference? College Park already keeps company with southern schools and Rutgers with a host of others, but the "Atlantic Coast" and "East" parts of their current conferences are part of each schools' identity.

The Terps and Scarlet Knights aren't exactly football powerhouses, but then, neither is the Big Ten these days. And perhaps most importantly (from the perspective of this blog, at least) adding College Park and Rutgers is a huge blow to a marching conference in which ten of the current 12 members hold Sudler Trophies. Both schools will struggle mightily at halftime and frankly aren't even a good fit stylistically.

And then there's lacrosse. While I know it didn't play a huge factor in the decision making, this potential move affects the lacrosse landscape in a few days. First of all, the mighty ACC, while still mighty, becomes the conference that could have been. Syracuse and Notre Dame would be joining College Park, Duke, UNC, and UVA to form a now-legitimately-sized conference that would gain an autobid it didn't need, as it would routinely put all six in the tournament. Terps and Rutgers to the Big Ten gives you another "almost" conference; they'd join Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan. Northwestern, with its private school status, success in women's lacrosse, and Chicagoland's embracing of the sport would be my next callup, but who knows if that's happening. Meanwhile, Rutgers' departure leaves the Big East without enough for an autobid and all but dissolves the conference after only three years of existence, at least until Navy comes along.

My leaning is probably clear in this, but I don't particularly want to see this happen, and as I've thought about it, I realize it's less because it's poised to wreck my conference (again) and more the cultural disconnect I feel as a part-time Terps fan and Marylander-by-association. Should this come to pass, as all indications are that it will, at least throw this geography and history nerd a bone and call the College Park-Penn State rivalry Cresap's War and award a Mason-Dixon crownstone as the trophy.
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