Multiple media reports are signaling that Maryland and Rutgers may in fact join the Big Ten soon. We all know that neither school is exceptional at football, but what exactly are we getting with both programs? Let's take a look at their recent football and basketball history, and see if we can dig anything out that might help us project what they might do in the Big Ten.
First, let's look at Maryland football:
2002 – #13, 11-3 (wins over #14 NC State, Tennessee in the Peach Bowl)
2003 – #17 10-3 (wins over #23 WVU, WVU again in the Gator Bowl)
2004 – 5-6 (win over #5 Florida State)
2005 –5-6 (win over #19 Virginia)
2006 – 9-4 (wins over #19 Clemson, Purdue in the Citrus Bowl)
2007 – 6-7 (wins over #10 Rutgers and #8 Boston College, lost to Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl)
2008 – 8-5 (wins over #25 Cal, #19 Clemson, #19 Wake Forest and #17 UNC. Lost to Middle Tennessee State. Beat Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl
2009 – 2-10 (lost to Middle Tennessee State and Duke)
2010 – #23 9-4 (beat #23 NC State, East Carolina in the Military Bowl)
2011 – 2-10
2012 – 4-7 (game with UNC to go)
Over the last decade, mostly under Ralph Friedgen, the Terps were perennially "okay". They went 5-1 in bowl games, and usually knocked off at least one ranked team. They also produced a few NFL draft picks, and had a Top 25 recruiting class as recently as 2010. Maryland had a few out of conference scalps to their credit, like a highly ranked Rutgers squad, WVU, and Cal, and was usually good for one nice conference win a year. It would be charitable to say the Randy Edsall Era has gotten off to a bad start, but this season's roster has been obliterated by both transfers and injuries. This is a team that even started a linebacker at quarterback (which is totally different from starting a fullback at linebacker). At full strength, it isn't hard to see them finding ways to get past Boston College and NC State to reach a bowl game this year.
Maryland has never been a world beater, and outside of their 2006 bowl win over Purdue and kinda-sorta-rivalry with Penn State (most recent game: 1993), don't have a lot of history with Big Ten schools. Historically though, and with their ability to recruit and with their Under Armor war chest, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect for Maryland to eventually become competitive in Big Ten football. Compete for league titles? Probably not. Good enough to get into the Top 25 and ruin OSU, Michigan, or Nebraska's season? Sure. I think somewhere around the Northwestern or Iowa level is reasonable.
Let's look at Rutgers now:
2002 – 1-11 (blown out by Buffalo and FCS Villanova)
2003 – 5-7 (lost to Michigan State)
2004 – 4-7 (beat Michigan State, which also finished 5-7)
2005 – 8-5 (Lost to Illinois and Arizona State in the Insight Bowl)
2006 – #12 11-2 (beat Illinois, #4 Louisville, Kansas State in the Texas Bowl)
2007 – 8-5 ( beat #3 South Florida, Ball State in the International Bowl)
2008 – 8-5 (lost to Navy, beat #17 Pittsburgh, NC State in the Papajohns.com Bowl)
2009 – 9-4 (beat #24 South Florida, UCF in the St.Petersburg Bowl)
2010 – 4-8 (lost to Tulane)
2011 – 9-4 (Beat Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl 27-13)
2012 – 8-1 (games against Pitt and Louisville left)
Over a decade, that's a 75-62 record, and a 5-1 mark in bowl games, with a 7th bowl game on the docket for this season. That's not bad, especially if you can remember the dark depths of Rutgers football before the mid 2000s. Like Maryland, the team reached their heights under a previous coach (Greg Schiano, who now coaches the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and the long term trajectory under new coach Kyle Flood is unclear, although he's done remarkably well this season.
The 9 win seasons are a little inflated though. In the past decade, Rutgers has never beaten a ranked out of conference team, and seldom schedules any. Their only quality wins have come against other Big East teams, but the Scarlet Knights have never been able to string enough of them together to contend for a conference title. The team has never finished higher than 3rd in the Big East or with fewer than 2 conferences losses. While the upgrades in talent and infrastructure are commendable, I'm a little more skeptical of the Knight's chances to contend in even a mediocre Big Ten. Rutgers hasn't faced anything in the class of a Nebraska or a Michigan in recent memory (with the possible exception of 2006 and that still might be meeting those making this case half way), and even the Iowa's and Northwestern's of the world on the regular might represent a step up.
So what about the other so-called money sport? Let's take a look at basketball. First, Rutgers:
2007/08 – 11-20 (3-15). Beat #18 Villanova, #17 Pitt. Lost to St.Peters and Nebraska
2008/09 – 11-21 (2-16) No quality wins, lost to Binghampton and Lehigh
2009/10 – 15-17 (5-13) Beat #8 Georgetown, lost to Vermont
2010/11 – 15-17 (5-13) Beat #10 Villanova, lost to Princeton
2011/12 – 4-18 (6-12) Beat #8 UConn, #10 Florida, lost to Illinois State.
There really isn't a nice way to put this, but Rutgers is really bad at basketball. Granted, the Big East is an absolute meat grinder of a league, and Rutgers has found a way to beat ranked teams 4 out of the last 5 years, including a 3 year run of beating a top 10 squad, but that doesn't excuse the annual head scratching losses and inability to beat the Big East's lower tier. The Big Ten is a very strong and deep league as well, and it's hard to see how the Scarlet Knights would match up with anybody other than Nebraska and maybe Penn State.
How about Maryland?
2007/08 – 19-15 (8/8) Lost in the NIT 2nd round to Syracuse. Beat #1 UNC and Illinois in the regular season, but lost to my beloved American Eagles AND Lehigh. Can't go 0-2 against the Patriot League.
2008/09 – 21-14 (7-9). Lost in the NCAA 2nd round to Memphis. Beat #6 Michigan State, Michigan, #3 UNC. Lost to Morgan State LOL
2009/10 – 24-9 (13-3) Lost in the NCAA 2nd round to Michigan State. Beat Indiana, #19 Florida State, and #4 Duke. Lost to William and Mary.
2010-11 – 19/14 (7-9) No quality wins. Lost to #16 Illinois, beat Penn State.
2011-12 – 17-15 (6-10), No quality wins. Lost to Illinois and something called an Iona.
2012 – Maryland gave Kentucky all they could handle. It's super early, but this is a team that certainly could win 20 games and make the NCAAs. Anything less would be a disappointment to the Terrapin faithful.
The Terps have certainly had two underwhelming seasons recently after a decent stretch (and a national championship back in 2001). They went 5-3 against Big Ten competition, beating some strong teams during that stretch (and Penn State). Maryland hasn't been to the second weekend of tournament since the 2002-2003 season, which is kinda shocking when you think about, but given the program's history, resources (Maryland is a basketball school, despite any assertion that "crabcakes and football" is what Maryland does) and recruiting location, you have to think they'll right the ship soon. Maryland is absolutely a school that can compete in the Big Ten. Perhaps not for titles right away, but they should consistently find themselves in the upper half of the conference almost right away.
The two schools add more than just football and men's hoops though. Both are very strong in women's basketball, for example. Rutgers has made the women's NCAAs every year since the 2001/02 season, making the title game in 2006-2007. Maryland made the Elite 8 in 3 of the last 5 seasons, and won the 2005-2006 title. Both squads would join perennially successful Ohio State and Penn State to add depth in what could be a strong league.
Rutgers baseball, on the other hand, hasn't been especially successful as of late. The program most recently qualified for the postseason in 2007, when they went 42-21. The Scarlet Knights also qualified in 2003 and 2001. Last season Rutgers went 20-30, although they did sweep their season series with Michigan. While Maryland plays in a historically much stronger baseball conference, their results haven't been any better The Terps haven't qualified for the postseason since 1971. They did finish with a winning record last year (32-24) though, their most recent history includes several below .500 finishes.
At the end of the day though, most fans care the most about football, and on that front, a potential expansion of Rutgers and Maryland would pale in comparison to the league's more recent additions of Nebraska and Penn State. Both schools are working in new football programs and would be making a dramatic jump in schedule strength. While Maryland can boost some basketball chops (recent history not withstanding), Rutgers would project to share the league basement with Nebraska.
It's clear the big additions, outside of women's hoops, are markets. Maryland and Rutgers could potentially make east coast recruiting easier for football and basketball, as games closer to home would be on the schedule. It can help get the BTN into more TV sets, which I guess means more money for athletic programs and our beloved Warrior Poets.
It's important to note that as far as on the field results go, conference expansion has been a mixed bag. While Virgina Tech has been one of the ACC's best football programs, Miami has been a spectacular letdown, and three mediocre basketball programs might have diluted their brand. The Pac-12's new school haven't set the world on fire, as Utah has been merely okay in football and dreadful in basketball, while Colorado has been good in hoops and perhaps the worst major conference football school in the country. New markets might help the bottom line, but not every change is Nebraska to the Big Ten, or Texas A&M to the SEC.
Still, if nothing else, this gives us fans an excuse to travel to the east coast more. And besides, Washington D.C. is awfully nice in the fall.