Big Ten expands to 14 schools as eastern teams Maryland and Rutgers join

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Rutgers’ Quron Pratt of heads downfield after a reception in the second half against Connecticutat Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. UConn won, 28-17.

Summer is the off-season for college athletics, so it’s the perfect time for some good old-fashioned conference realignment. Attention, Big Ten fans: Rutgers and Maryland have joined the party.

On July 1, the Big Ten Conference expanded for just the third time since 1950, as it officially welcomed two new universities as members.

Rutgers University and the University of Maryland are now members of the Big Ten, bringing the total number of Big Ten schools to 14. The Big Ten already had a chokehold on the Midwest, and it’s now spreading its roots to the eastern United States. It’s also no coincidence that the move infiltrates two massive eastern TV markets in the form of New York City and Washington, D.C.

For fans of Big Ten teams, that means your conference schedules are about to change. The two new schools will get their feet wet against Big Ten opponents in 2014-15, and it’s the performance of their football and basketball programs that will stand out most to fans.

It will take some getting used to. A Nebraska-Rutgers football matchup doesn’t exactly have a classic Big Ten rivalry ring to it, but those teams will indeed face each other on Oct. 25.

So let’s learn more about our new conference foes from the east. Here’s everything you need to know about Rutgers and Maryland, and their formidability in the two major sports:

Rutgers University

Location: New Brunswick/Piscataway, New Jersey

Mascot: Scarlet Knights

Rutgers is actually the state university of New Jersey, meaning it’s located very close to the TV gold mine that is New York City. It’s for this reason that Rutgers was a target for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, because the school’s athletic accomplishments in revenue sports aren’t exactly top-notch.

Rutgers last appeared in the NCAA tournament in basketball in 1991 and has been pretty awful at hoops in its history. The Scarlet Knights have made the NCAA tournament six times, including a Final Four appearance in 1976. The program is still recovering from a 2013 scandal that involved former head coach Mike Rice acting verbally and physically abusive toward players, and they lost their final game of last season to Louisville 92-31. Don’t expect them to finish anywhere but the cellar of the conference next year.

The Scarlet Knights football program has fared better than basketball, especially in recent years. Rutgers actually played in the first college football game in history in 1869, but it’s been their success in the 2000s that has made the program relevant. Before he left for the NFL, former head coach Greg Schiano built the Scarlet Knights into perennial bowl contenders. They’ve reached a bowl game in eight of the last nine seasons, but a downturn in recruiting and a decline in on-field performance means that Rutgers could struggle to reach .500 on the gridiron this season, especially with a tough Big Ten schedule.

University of Maryland

Location: College Park, Maryland

Mascot: Terrapins

Maryland’s campus is less than 40 miles from both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., which has Commissioner Delany seeing dollar signs. The Terrapin football and basketball programs have been fairly mediocre as a whole over the past 10 years, which has led to financial trouble and their subsequent move to the Big Ten.

However, Maryland football and basketball has been powerful in the past. Under head coach Gary Williams, the basketball program went to 11 straight NCAA tournaments from 1994-2004 and won the national championship in 2002. The Terps have shown some success under current coach Mark Turgeon, but probably won’t finish in the top half of the conference in their first year in the Big Ten. However, due to its history and location, Maryland basketball has the potential to eventually become a regular contender for the conference title.

The football team is coming off a bowl game in 2013, but overall the program has regressed since a winning run during the early 2000s, a run that had a 2002 Orange Bowl appearance to show for it. Since 2010 they’ve been in the national news more for their eye-popping Under Armour uniforms rather than their on-field performance. Currently, the Terrapins are comparable to middle-tier Big Ten teams like Minnesota and Indiana. With a very tough conference schedule, it’s unlikely that Maryland football will sniff the top of the league in 2014.

Alex is a junior in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @aroux94.