"We are never ever ever getting back together."
The 2015 college lacrosse season started back on February 1, 2015 when Delaware traveled to High Point but it truly started in earnest this past weekend. One team notably absent from week one-ish's schedule was Maryland. The Terps play their first game on February 14th against Navy.
A lot has changed for the College Park Terrapins since last season. No change was more significant than Maryland's move to the Big Ten, thus kicking off a new era in college lacrosse. One consistent theme in almost all articles written about the move was that Maryland's departure from the SEC of college lacrosse provided the team a downgrade in competition.
That is a fair point. No one will mistake Big Ten lacrosse for the top to bottom wrecking ball that is ACC lacrosse. However, moving to the Big Ten provides Maryland with so many ancillary benefits that the Terps actually made out like a bandit. There's no need to keep stalking Duke's Facebook page Terps fans, your immediate and long term lacrosse future is bright and exciting.
First Class Treatment & More Airtime
Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, had a long and storied history in the conference dating back to 1953. However, even most Terps fans would admit that through most of the program's participation in thhe ACC the the league's hierarchy has always been the Carolina Contingent (Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson, Wake Forest), Virginia, and then maybe Florida State football. Maryland was a bit of an afterthought as the ACC's center of gravity is considerably south of Prince Georges County. Given the fact that college lacrosse isn't as big (YET!!) as college football and basketball, Maryland was never able to leverage its lacrosse prowess into any tangible leverage point within the ACC.
That is certainly not the case with the Big Ten. Current Big Ten Commissioner and all around BOSS, James Edward "Jim" Delany, pretty much rolled up to College Park in a red on white Lambo, tossed the keys to Testudo and was like "Nah, I don't know lacrosse country that well, you drive. By the way, keep the ride." Maryland is one of the leaders of Big Ten lacrosse and the conference is treating the Terps in a way that befits a program of its stature. As a clear sign of respect, the inaugural Big Ten Tournament will be played at College Park this year. Finally, Maryland lacrosse is at the head of the conference table, instead of kind of being in the shadow of the Duke/Virginia show in the ACC.
Additionally, Maryland is going to receive all the bells and whistles that come with Big Ten affiliation. With the Death Star -- I mean the Big Ten Network -- in its arsenal, Maryland will receive the windfall that comes from playing in a conference that has it's own network. Indeed, as many, if not more, regular season Maryland lacrosse games* will be will be available for consumption on television/major mobile service this year than the number of regular season Maryland games on ESPN's 2014 schedule.
Legitimate Conference Rivalries
Maryland's rivalries against Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina were great, but Maryland's biggest lacrosse rival was/is/and forever will be Hopkins. While Maryland did have a heated rivalry with Duke, most Maryland fans would admit it was kind of an unrequited rivalry as Duke wouldn't rank Maryland as their first or even second biggest rival in the ACC. Before the inclusion of Syracuse and Notre Dame, but especially within the last 10-15 years, ACC lacrosse was more a triumvirate of Duke, North Carolina and Virginia, with Maryland on the outside looking in (at least in somewhat recent times). However, now that they are in the Big Ten, Maryland has the main ingredient needed for reciprocal rivalries, namely long simmering animosity.
The Maryland-Hopkins rivalry/antipathy is self-evident. But Maryland-Penn State has the potential to be a massive rivalry. Look no further than last fall when Maryland football refused to shake hands with Penn State. That game, especially the handshake fiasco, was like that bedroom scene in Step Brothers, except Brennan and Dale decided they hated each other and continued to pummel one another for the rest of the movie. ("Did we just become mortal enemies?!" "YUP!") While Cresap's War may have technically ended in 1767, the Maryland-Pennsylvania border war is far from over.
Moreover, anyone who tells you that New Jersey and Maryland don't already have an unspoken, yet sustained, mutual hostility towards one another has never talked to a Jersey kid who attended college in Maryland. It's like wearing a Tony Romo jersey in the Linc when the Cowboys come to Philly, except everyday for eight straight months and four straight years. There's been a war going on between the two states, Jimmy D. just added some baking soda, stirred it in a pot, slapped a conference on it, and said "get 'em."
New Jersey exports a ton of students to Maryland, and having so many Garden Staters on their turf might explain the hostility. Indeed, as of 2012, there were more high school students from New Jersey going to universities and colleges in Maryland than there were high school students from Virginia going to Maryland universities and colleges. New Jersey students actually make up the largest group of out of state students at the University of Maryland.
The regional proximity, competition for students/recruits, and the similarities between the three schools/states makes for a potent, spicy, and DELICIOUS college lacrosse rivalry borscht. Especially now that Hopkins is a conference foe, Maryland will have a much more intense and meaningful conference rivalries in the Big Ten than they ever had while in the ACC.
More Chances for Alums To Catch A Conference Game Live
Maryland will actually travel less for conference games now that they are in the Big Ten than when they were a member of the ACC.
Miles from College Park (via Google Maps):
|Duke - 272||UNC - 284||ND - 610||UVA - 130||SU - 364|
|RU - 192||PSU - 197||UM - 521||JHU - 32||OSU - 400|
Total ACC distance: 1,660 miles.
Total Big Ten distance: 1,342 miles.
Maryland shaves off 318 miles from their conference travel obligations, which saves the team money that can be used for other purposes. Moreover, with three of its new conference members residing within the New York City-District of Columbia corridor, Maryland will now play a majority of its conference games in the region that has the highest population of Maryland alums (a look at the University of Maryland's Alumni Network page demonstrates that the District of Columbia-New York City corridor is the most densely populated region for Maryland alums.). Which makes it much easier for a large portion of their alums to catch a conference game live than ever before.
Sure, Marylandu had a couple good times with the ACC. But your future AND present in the Big Ten is bright. Breakups are tough, but you'll never, ever ever, want to get back together with the ACC.
*Maryland's February 24th game against Penn and its February 28th game against Drexel will be on BTN2Go and as Hoya Suxa noted, Maryland will be on ESPN3 once this season, against Yale. Moreover, the Baltimore Sun reported that the Big Ten Network will air a college lacrosse Game of the Week every Sunday beginning on March 29, 2015. A look at Maryland's schedule shows two Sunday games against Michigan and Rutgers.** Presumably, one if not both will be on the BTN. That gives Terps fans four guaranteed regular season games, with the possibility of six before the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament. Even Hopkins fans think that's excessive coverage.
**It was just announced that the Maryland-Hopkins game was moved to Saturday. Television plans for the game have not been set, but are expected to be announced in the near future.