In 2014, when the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights became the 13th and 14th members of the Big Ten conference, proponents praised the move as a way for the conference to break into the Washington D.C. and New York City TV markets while improving the Big Ten’s recruiting footprint for all schools. Those critical of the move pointed out some other factors, including the fact that, no matter the definition of the midwest, Maryland and Rutgers do not fit. Plus, neither Maryland nor Rutgers have what’s easily considered a storied football history.
Since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten conference, the newcomers have not found a lot of success on the football field. Since their inaugural season in-conference, Maryland’s Big Ten records and bowl participation has been thus:
- 2014: 4-4 (Loss to Stanford in Foster Farms Bowl)
- 2015: 1-7 (No bowl, only conference win against Rutgers)
- 2016: 3-6 (Loss to Boston College in Quick Lane Bowl)
- 2017: 2-7 (No bowl)
- 2018: 3-6 (No bowl)
It doesn’t help that the Terps have to contend with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State year in and year out in the Big Ten East. Though Maryland has occasionally been able to win over some of these opponents, the Terps are naturally in an underdog position from the get-go when it comes to conference play.
It also doesn’t help that Maryland came in with Rutgers, which has struggled immensely both on the football field and the basketball court. Unfortunately for Maryland, it is easy to lump together with Rutgers and evaluate the two additions as a single set.
In some ways, despite struggling most years to reach even .500 in conference play, the Terps have added to their football legacy as a result of joining the Big Ten. In fact, the first crop of Maryland players recruited after the Terps joined the Big Ten were draft eligible in 2017. The most recent draft class featured four players from Maryland -- the most for the school since 2010.
However, Maryland has faced issues when it comes to consistency at the head coaching position. Randy Edsell was the Terps’ first coach when they moved over to the Big Ten. After a solid start in 2014 in which the Terps finished third in the Big Ten East, Edsell was fired in the midst of the 2015 season after a 2-4 start. The Terps then turned to D.J. Durkin, who led Maryland through the 2017 season before being fired (shockingly late) in 2018 following the offseason death of a player in training camp. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada served as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Now, Maryland is led by Mike Locksley, formerly the offensive coordinator from Alabama. In Locksley’s inaugural season, Maryland has amassed an overall 3-6 record, with early wins over Howard and then-No. 21 Syracuse. This season, the Terps have gone 1-5 in conference play, their only win coming over Rutgers by a score of 48-7 in Piscataway. Maryland has also experienced a 59-0 loss to Penn State and a 52-10 defeat to Minnesota. Most recently, the Terps fell 38-7 to Michigan.
Essentially, Maryland has struggled this season to be competitive on the field and demonstrate the value it brings to the Big Ten when it comes to football. But that record doesn’t necessarily reflect the overall benefits to the conference that the Terps bring. Because there are a lot of Big Ten sports not called football for which Maryland has been a top competitor in recent history.
In terms of other sports, Maryland basketball has actually been pretty competitive since joining the Big Ten. Given Maryland’s previous history in the ACC, it makes sense that the Terps would bring something of a basketball tradition to its new conference.
For the men’s squad, that history happens to include a national championship in 2002 and an additional Final Four appearance in 2001. That success has not abated since the Terps joined up with the Big Ten. In fact, since 2015 (the first season Maryland participated in Big Ten basketball), the Terps made the NCAA Tournament four times -- which also happens to be one more than Ohio State has had over the same time period.
Maryland women’s basketball has been even more successful recently. After winning it all in 2006, the Terps have had continued success since joining the Big Ten which includes a Final Four appearance in 2015, three conference tournament championships from 2015-17 and four regular season conference championships in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019. The Terps have also made the NCAA Tournament every season since joining the Big Ten.
The other less obvious area of success is in lacrosse -- which only became an official Big Ten sport in 2015. In fact, the additions of Maryland, Rutgers and Johns Hopkins was what made a Big Ten lacrosse league possible. With the addition of two traditional lacrosse powers (not Rutgers) for both the men’s and women’s squads, the Big Ten has brought in significant history which helps to set it on a level with other powerful lacrosse conferences like the ACC.
Women’s lacrosse has won the Big Ten regular season each year since 2015 and the conference tournament three times from 2016-18. The women also boast three national titles over that period, including in 2015, 2017 and 2019. The men, meanwhile, have been regular season conference champions from 2015-18, and won the Big Ten tournament in 2016 and 2017. They were also national champs in 2017 -- when they happened to defeat Ohio State in the NCAA finals in the Buckeyes’ first title game.
Beyond lacrosse, men’s soccer and women’s field hockey have been successful after their moves to the Big Ten. Soccer earned a national title in 2018 and a conference championship in 2016, while field hockey brought home conference championships in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and NCAA Final Four appearances in 2017 and 2018.
Bottom line: football is not everything, and it should be okay for schools to not have a storied football tradition. When considering the addition of Maryland’s package of athletic programs to the Big Ten, the Terps seem like an obvious choice. Between national championships and Final Four appearances in basketball, lacrosse, soccer and field hockey, Maryland has enabled expansion into new sports which have not been traditional Big Ten powers while growing the conference’s reputation in other areas.