The Big Ten expansion buzz has died down significantly since Nebraska came aboard, but a potentially key development took place during the weekend. Debbie Yow, the longtime athletic director at Maryland, left for the same post at N.C. State.
Maryland has long been mentioned as a fringe candidate for Big Ten expansion, and the buzz about the Terrapins increased in the days just before and just after the league added Nebraska. It's very possible that the Big Ten won't expand any further, as sources tell the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein, but the league is only six months into an expansion study that could last until June 2011. The Big Ten is back on its own timetable now, and it could "act again," as commissioner Jim Delany said, late this fall or early this winter.
If you've read anything about Maryland and the Big Ten, you've probably seen quotes like this from Yow:
"I haven't heard anything from the Big Ten, and, to the best of my knowledge, Dr. [C.D. 'Dan'] Mote [the university president] has not either. The Big Ten is a terrific conference, but Maryland is a charter member in 1953 of the ACC and we are happy in the ACC. These are deep roots."
More from Yow:
"Why would we go anywhere? For money? I think we have less callous, bottom-line motivations than that."
Yow seemed pretty clear about her ACC allegiance, but she's no longer at Maryland. The school also soon will have a new president, who Mote said likely will select the next athletic director.
Hmmm, new president, new athletic director ... new outlook toward the Big Ten?
I put the question to colleague Heather Dinich, who knows way more about Maryland athletics than any of us. Heather has covered Maryland for both ESPN.com and The Baltimore Sun. She also knows the Big Ten well, as an Indiana alum who covered Penn State.
Here's what she had to say about how Yow's departure affects Maryland and the Big Ten:
Yow's departure opens the door for anything and everything at Maryland, not only because she is leaving, but because the university will also be bringing in a new president soon. Yow had said repeatedly that she had had no contact with the Big Ten, and that there was no interest in leaving the ACC. A new administration might feel differently. The question is whether or not Maryland would actually be a good fit for the Big Ten. Competitively? I say no. (And I'm sticking to college football when I say that.) For example, look at Maryland's record against Penn State: 1-35-1. It's no wonder they haven't played since 1993. Why pick the Nits as an example? Well, because it's the only Big Ten school Maryland has played with any regularity. Also because Penn State recruits the state of Maryland, and has made a habit out of beating the Terps for their top in-state talent, though Maryland has picked up its recruiting efforts recently under offensive coordinator James Franklin.
Overall, Maryland is 4-44-1 against the Big Ten, but hasn't played anyone other than Michigan State more than five times and hasn't faced Illinois, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa or Northwestern. Do Maryland fans really want to, though? A 2-10 record in the ACC won't translate well into a conference that just got bigger and better with the addition of Nebraska.
Man, 4-44-1. I didn't realize Maryland's Big Ten record was that brutal, although Penn State is the big reason why.
I look at Maryland a lot like Rutgers: a program with limited tradition in football that has the potential to help the Big Ten in several ways. Maryland gives the Big Ten an increased presence in a major metropolitan area, which should help grow the Big Ten Network. And like Rutgers, Maryland is located in a good area for high school recruiting, as teams like Penn State and Illinois already have found out. If the Big Ten chooses to expand again, it must make recruiting a bigger factor.
Does Maryland move the needle in football? Nope. But it gives the Big Ten a reason to be in the Washington D.C./Baltimore/Northern Virginia area.
In the end, that might be enough.