Big Ten competition just moved a little closer to home for Penn State with the addition of Maryland on Monday and reports claiming that Rutgers will be added Tuesday.
Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993 and prior to today’s announcement, Nebraska was the most recent addition in 2011. Maryland and Rutgers would increase the number of teams in the Big Ten to 14.
Brit Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said on a conference call with reporters Monday that Penn State was one of the biggest football rivalries in history for Maryland.
"There was great dismay in Maryland when Penn State went to the Big Ten and we could no longer play them in football,” Kirwan said. “It's not like we don't have some connections there in the Big Ten. It will be very meaningful to our institution."
Penn State football historian Lou Prato said the old rivalry between Maryland and Penn State, which dates back to 1917, was more bitter in the minds of Terrapins’ fans.
“The problem with the rivalry is that Pitt-Penn State and Penn State-Syracuse were bigger rivals,” Prato said. “[Maryland] came very close many times and there have been several great games in what I like to call the modern day, 1985.”
In 1985, Prato said some people picked Maryland as preseason national champions and Penn State entered College Park on a hot September day for its first game of the season. The Nittany Lions ultimately knocked the Terrapins off in a game that featured a pick six by Michael Zordich, Sr. en route to the Orange Bowl that season.
The Nittany Lions are 35-1-1 all-time against the Terrapins.
Prato said that although the Nittany Lions and Terrapins have not squared off since 1993, there has been an ongoing rivalry for recruits.
“If Maryland and Rutgers both come in, that’s going to affect recruiting, there’s no doubt about it because the kids can stay home” Prato said. “Once Rutgers got good and became competitive in the last few year, a lot of New Jersey kids stayed there.”
Prato noted two historic Penn State football players in Charlie Pittman and Franco Harris came from Maryland and New Jersey respectively.
Connor Letourneau, sports editor of The Diamondback, Maryland’s student newspaper said the announcement and the past few days have been a little surprising for the student body, but it is understood.
“No one really saw it coming, but it kind of makes sense from a financial standpoint,” Letourneau said. “Maryland was really struggling…and this is going to definitely help them going forward.”
Letourneau said he does not necessarily expect Maryland to be competitive in football, but he said he thinks the Terrapins will have an impact in the Olympic sports, such as soccer or field hockey, and with their basketball program.
“Every single Olympic team, pretty much, is a top 25 program,” Letourneau said. “Then I think basketball, it’s really on the rise. I think that within the next couple of years, Mark Turgeon is going to get the basketball team to be a top 10, top 15 program.”
Prato said he does not think the expansion of the Big Ten is done yet, but he said it is anyone’s guess to which the next team could be because he would not have guessed Maryland would join.
Letourneau said the decision is going to have an impact on Maryland’s attendance at football games early on, but it takes decades to build the Duke and North Carolina caliber rivalries that they had.
“People from around here, they don’t really have any allegiance or any strong feelings toward the Michigans, the Ohio States and the Penn States,” Letourneau said. “I think it’s going to take time, but at the end of the day, it’s still Maryland, it’s still your school and you’re still going to support your school.”