When I was putting together this year's Big Ten preview series, I fortuitously scheduled Rutgers and Maryland in the weeks before and after July 1st — the beginning of a new fiscal year and also the entry date of both schools into the Big Ten. I say fortuitously because I didn't have any sense of the significance until this morning when I received the press release from the Big Ten announcing both schools' official arrival.
No longer is this your grandfather's Big Ten, made up of old Midwest state schools (and Northwestern). Nor is it your father's Big Ten, the one that added national power Penn State and coaching legend Joe Paterno. It isn't even your big brother's Big Ten, the one that filled out to twelve, added a conference championship game, and did it all with the relatively natural addition of a Nebraska team that is as Big Ten as apple pie is American.
Rutgers and Maryland don't evince the same emotions. There are fewer connections. Neither program has been a football power — Rutgers having laid claim to pioneering the sport than almost immediately forgetting how to play it well. They are Atlantic coast universities in an unholy union with a regional conference with national aspirations.
But all the griping and whining about Rutgers and Maryland that we've (I've) done over the past year-plus that this move was still pending is unfair to both schools. Each has a dedicated fanbase of passionate supporters, and while those may not rival the size of Michigan or Ohio State in terms of national reach and voice, they are not to be discounted.
Further, the lack of an interesting history isn't a death knell for the watch-ability of future games. It is up to both these schools to create animosity and find a role in the new conference, one that is preferably at odds with a few long standing Big Ten programs. If Rutgers beats Ohio State this October don't tell me you won't be jumping on the Scarlet Knight bandwagon.
For all the things that Rutgers and Maryland don't seem on the outside, each could be one important thing to a Big Ten conference that has fallen into a pit of national disinterest: an agitator.
So let's all throw open the doors and welcome these two new members, for better or worse. May we hate both schools on their own merit in five years as much as we did the idea of them joining the conference as part of Jim Delany's 23-step world domination plan.
Welcome, Maryland and Rutgers.
That's the last nice thing I'll say about the both of you.
(Also, if you want more on either of these teams, check out Testudo Times or On The Banks, SBN's Maryland and Rutgers communities, respectively. Both are full of the great writing and passionate community atmosphere you've come to expect from SB Nation.)