How Soon, for Rutgers and Maryland?
The University of Maryland and Rutgers University are set to officially join the Big Ten on July 1, and they'll be entering a collection of wonderful universities, and Ohio State University, when they do. These two football programs present opportunity and risk in a shifting landscape for power conferences, but I want to focus on a single, pivotal question that is still just a piece to the overall conversation. How soon can Maryland and Rutgers field physical, exemplary football teams that can go around the country and beat other teams for our conference?
Of course, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself - all around the league, coaches are in the process of establishing a winning attitude and reviving their programs, and in the process the Big Ten. But it's not all the way there yet. Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana, and Iowa have all recently had poor seasons, but they believe in their coaches. If they continue to grow, just like a player gets better by facing competition, the league becomes even stronger for having that depth and skill. Despite the fact that ten of fourteen B1G coaches have spent three seasons or less at their current location, there is a chance, and a hope, of long-term stability.
So, again - how soon can Maryland and Rutgers count towards that? There are a lot of components involved. One is recruiting - one of the supposed reasons for moving out east. Both schools are the only major football programs in their respective states (hi, Johns Hopkins and Princeton) - states that are relative hotbeds of talent.
However, both schools have struggled to keep those recruits from leaving to greener pastures. In the 2015 cycle, out of 16 blue-chip players and 11 committed players inside the two states, not one has pledged to their in-state program. In 2014, out of 20 blue-chip players, 2 signed with the in-state team. In 2013, it was 18 and 1. Blue-chip talent rarely stays in-state.
Of course, it is possible to win with lower-ranked players. After Kyle Flood took over for Greg Schiano - who had coached Rutgers for 11 seasons and gone 68-67, and 49-28 the last six years - Rutgers' recruiting took a dive and, while some or all of that can be attributed to various scandals, he has a lot to prove, and a difficult win-to-recruit-to-win cycle to navigate. For Maryland, Randy Edsall has recruited a little better, and the Terps have improved for three straight seasons. For a program like UM or RU, hitting a home run with a coaching hire, developing talent, and then recruiting better prospects would be the path to success, and it's one that would take a little bit of time. In essence, both programs enter the Big Ten as reincarnations of Minnesotas and Indianas past. But if they do succeed, it might be more sustainable.
Another issue on the table is money - a very complicated and tricky topic on its own. Obviously, with both schools joining the Big Ten, they're going to feel a surge in funding; however, it may take some time for the athletic departments to feel the effects of the move. Usually, a league's annual revenue is split up evenly across all its member schools, and this is true in the Big Ten. However, with Nebraska, and now Rutgers and Maryland, new schools will be phased in, and will not receive an even share until after they are six years into their membership.
There's also a matter of cleaning up deficits. Both schools have relied on subsidies from the school's general fund in recent years; in fact, from 2006-11, the two schools ranked third (RU) and 36th (UM) in total subsidies among D-I schools. Maryland recently cut seven varsity sports, while Rutgers University students were reported as paying $1,000 each year to help fund the athletic department - most in the nation. Decisions will have to be made about some of these things, and facilities upgrades for football may, and should, be further down the list. So, while prospects are bright in the future - some reports say that the schools will collect almost $200 million in added revenue over the first twelve years in the conference - it may take some time for it to trickle into the football programs in a palpable way.
Money matters in football terms in two ways: first, the quality of the facilities, and second, in coaching salary. Stadiums at both schools already finished renovations in 2009, with a $50.8 million expansion for Maryland's Byrd Stadium and a $102 million expansion for Rutgers' High Point Solutions Stadium. Even with the expanded seating, Maryland and Rutgers will have the third- and fourth-smallest stadiums in the Big Ten, behind only Minnesota and Northwestern.
As for coaching salary, again, both schools are on the lower end of the Big Ten. This is not a terrible proposition, though; just as in star rankings for recruits, it's possible to find value in a good hire. Of the six 8-game winners in the Big Ten last season, ranking them on a list from highest paid to lowest paid in the conference, they would come out 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 12th. People have made a very compelling case that coaching salary can be an indicator of a conference's success, though the Pac-12 didn't have anyone making more than David Shaw's rumored $3 million last year, and yet it's one of the deepest in the country. And I'm sure Minnesota would take Jerry Kill straight up over Bret Bielema or Butch Jones, let alone at a third the cost.
|Urban Meyer||Ohio State||$4,608,000||Nick Saban||Alabama||$5,395,852|
|Brady Hoke||Michigan||$4,154,000||Bret Bielema||Arkansas||$5,158,863|
|Kirk Ferentz||Iowa||$3,985,000||Butch Jones||Tennessee||$4,860,000|
|Bill O'Brien||Penn State||$3,282,779||Les Miles||LSU||$4,300,000|
|Bo Pelini||Nebraska||$2,975,000||Steve Spurrier||South Carolina||$3,300,000|
|Pat Fitzgerald||Northwestern||$2,221,153||Mark Richt||Georgia||$3,200,000|
|Darrell Hazell||Purdue||$2,160,833||Kevin Sumlin||Texas A&M||$3,100,000|
|Gary Andersen||Wisconsin||$2,035,823||Gary Pinkel||Missouri||$2,800,000|
|Randy Edsall||Maryland*||$2,021,440||Will Muschamp||Florida||$2,724,500|
|Mark Dantonio||Michigan State||$1,959,744||Dan Mullen||Mississippi State||$2,700,000|
|Tim Beckman||Illinois||$1,700,000||Gus Malzahn||Auburn||$2,440,000|
|Kevin Wilson||Indiana||$1,291,220||Mark Stoops||Kentucky||$2,001,250|
|Jerry Kill||Minnesota||$1,200,000||Hugh Freeze||Ole Miss||$2,000,000|
|Kyle Flood||Rutgers*||$850,000||James Franklin||Vanderbilt||$1,842,771|
This information is already outdated, of course. Franklin flipped columns for a $4.5 million salary, Kevin Sumlin is also now near the top of the list and Mark Dantonio got nicely paid (in the $4 million range). In general, coaches work their way up, and the sexier the hire, the more risk that that coach will ultimately leave (like Schiano).
In the very long term, if either program hits a string of good coaches, or finds a pioneer like Chip Kelly, both have a chance at great success in the Big Ten. But don't expect it to come right away.
Hitting the Links Is Getting Outta Here
These are two pieces from E.W. that look at a loaded 2016 class in the state of Ohio. Jim Tressel worked very hard to shut down the border to Michigan recruiting, which I think was a very clever, double-edged move. Urban Meyer has recruited more nationally, which is both a good example for other Big Ten schools, and also leaves Ohio more open to programs like Michigan and MSU.
If you didn't hear about this yet, Hoke has decided against the senior trip to guard against some of the entitlement that happened in the locker room last year.
This is a great Washington Post piece detailing the events that led to their joining the Big Ten. I found it to be an engrossing read up to a point, but very long.
Rutgers is a little behind Michigan in terms of receiving records. The school record for receiving touchdowns in a career is twenty; Carroo had nine last season in 10 games, but played inconsistently as well. He'll have the next two years to break the record. Also, this got me thinking about program records, since Michigan's tradition of wideouts is well known. Ohio State's David Boston caught 34 touchdowns in his career; I'll be highlighting him a little more next week. Michigan State's Charles Rodgers got 27 in only two seasons. Michigan, though, holds the #1 and #2 spots on the Big Ten list, with Edwards' 39 and Anthony Carter's 37.
Following the defunct Philip Nelson transfer, the Scarlet Knights just got a better one in Rettig, a year removed from being a four-star (and almost five-star) recruit. This is a mini-coup for Rutgers and really helps the program. He'll sit out this season.
This is pretty standard after a coaching change, and clever for Franklin, who can now sign more recruits.
There's a saying that off-season news is rarely good news, and this applies. Of course, some fans always enjoy talking smack about the off-field problems for other teams' players, but hopefully everyone involved here faces fair consequences and learns from the experience, which would be the most positive result.
I promise this will be my last link by Phil Steele. The OSU defensive line has gotten a lot of press, but Michael Bennett, perhaps the best player on it, is a bit of an unknown. He's a slashing, disruptive nightmare on the inside.
In 2012, Roy Manning's running backs at Cincinnati led the Big East in yardage. Last year, he coached Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon. I'm going to go ahead and make a really bold prediction.... I think Roy Manning will be a terrific head coach one day, and maybe even for Michigan. That's a long ways away, though.
Quarterbacks get all the love, but this is a good, quick review of the Pac-12's signal callers. Not as interesting as the SEC's version I posted, but all the same.
This was a nice piece by Off-Tackle Empire on Flood - well-organized and a good read.
Abbrederis, by the way, was a walk-on player who didn't get his scholarship until after he'd racked up 1,222 career receiving yards, 800 kick-off return yards and 2,493 total yards.
I had a lot of fun watching this one. BC beat Maryland, 29-26.