Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Schools in the News: Maryland, Rutgers, Cal, and Tennessee

Stefon Diggs took a very roundabout way of playing for a Big Ten team
I was going to put together two separate pieces on the guys who are committed to the Big Ten's newest members (Maryland, Rutgers) and the two FBS teams who recently fired their coaches (Jeff Tedford at Cal, Derek Dooley at Tennessee).  Instead, I'll just combine the two separate posts into one.

First of all, let's take a look at the guys Michigan could poach from Cal and Tennessee's 2013 recruiting classes:

Cal: No current commits have Michigan offers
Tennessee: QB Riley Ferguson from Matthews (NC) Butler, WR Paul Harris from Upper Marlboro (MD) Frederick Douglass

Ferguson might not be a bad addition considering how thin the quarterback ranks are at Michigan, but Michigan likely won't bring in a second quarterback to pair with Shane Morris.  Harris would be a welcome addition, and he has said that he would reconsider Michigan, but I don't see him getting interested enough to commit to the Wolverines.  Cal has pulled in a few Michigan offerees over the past couple years, but generally, Michigan doesn't compete against the Golden Bears very often.

Now I want to take a look at the recruiting classes and rosters for Maryland and Rutgers.  I don't expect that Michigan will pull any of these guys away from the two new additions, but these are the types of kids Michigan has lost to these teams over the past few years:

2013 Maryland commits: QB Shane Cockerille from Baltimore (MD) Gilman
Current Maryland roster players: RB Wes Brown, WR Stefon Diggs, LB Clarence Murphy,

2013 Rutgers commits: ATH Nadir Barnwell from Piscataway (NJ) Piscataway
Current Rutgers roster players: S Johnathan Aiken, WR Leonte Carroo, OT J.J. Denman, DE Darius Hamilton, RB Savon Huggins, OT Chris Muller, S Sheldon Royster, WR Miles Shuler

I don't really care about the money behind the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten, because I care about the game of football, not the business.  I understand that the Big Ten is trying to grab viewers and markets in D.C., Baltimore, New Jersey, and New York.

However, I think these new entries dilute the strength of the football product on the field.  The Big Ten already gets all kinds of flak for not winning enough bowl games, not winning BCS championships, etc.  Rutgers was a totally irrelevant football program prior to Greg Schiano, who is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; this year they're hovering toward the bottom of the top 25 and it remains to be seen what they'll do as Schiano's recruiting classes filter through.  Maryland had a few good years under Ralph Friedgen recently, but Randy Edsall has them floundering at 4-7 after winning just two games last year.

Maryland puts very few guys in the NFL (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Shawne Merriman, Vernon Davis, uhhhh...) and Rutgers is in the same boat (Ray Rice, Kenny Britt, Mohamed Sanu, uhhh...).  So they're mediocre teams who produce good NFL talent only occasionally.

Meanwhile, I think this potentially hurts the traditional Big Ten teams' recruiting in those areas, including Michigan's.  Some kids from those areas used to want to play in the Big Ten rather than the Big East or ACC, which is partly why they considered teams like Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State.  Now those kids won't have to leave their home states for the big stage.  Kids from the recruiting hotbeds of the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and various New Jersey cities will be able to stay home, play nationally televised games, and attempt to beat the Michigans and Ohio States of the world.

I also hate the overall idea of expanding the Big Ten to 14 teams.  It's ridiculous to have a conference with that many teams, because there will literally be decade-long gaps when Michigan won't play a team in its own conference.  Michigan has no history of playing against Maryland or Rutgers; the Wolverines are 3-0 against Maryland (games were played in 1985, 1989, and 1990) and have never played the Scarlet Knights.  Excluding fledgling Big Ten member Nebraska, I have great memories of games against every team in the Big Ten, even including watching Antwaan Randle-el at Indiana.  Traditions will be created and "Big Ten" fans in 2030 might have fond memories of the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights, but for the next 20 years, these games will seem out of place.

Overall, I'm probably just a curmudgeon who hates change.  Older Big Ten fans probably hate the presence of Penn State in the conference, but I grew up with it, so the Nittany Lions don't bother me (except, you know, Jerry Sandusky).  But I can't help wondering what the future of college football holds.  It seems like it's headed in the direction of a major fracture.  These conferences will continue to get larger and larger until perhaps the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC create their own beta version of the NCAA, while conferences like the ACC and the Big East could create a pseudo-Divison II.  The one constant is change, but the problem is that we want things to stay the same.


  1. The point that kids want to stay home out east to play in the B1G will improve the product on the field

    1. Not sure how often ND and Rutgers go head to head, but I know ND loves them some NJ talent, so maybe Rutgers and box out ND? Just a hope.

  2. One of the biggest reasons the B1G doesn't win many bowl games is we pair off almost exclusively against the best teams from the SEC, in SEC territory. Its rather miraculous if a B1G team manages a win against a powerhouse program in their own backyard every year. The Pac 12, and Big 12 usually have a much easier route to a bowl win, often playing unranked teams from smaller conferences with inferior records close to home. While I like the marquee matchups, I also have to wonder why the B1G plays SEC East teams more often than the SEC West does.

  3. I don't think this expansion will negatively impact Michigan recruiting. A lot more kids will actually have a reason to follow Big Ten football and have exposure to the conference's powerhouse teams. The Big Ten Network will be on a more TVs, and games will be played in stadiums in NYC and all over the east coast. Not to mention, the nation's population is trending out of the Midwest towards pretty much everywhere but the Midwest. As a secondary benefit, kids will presumably be less likely to show interest in the weakening ACC and Big East.

    But Maryland and Rutgers do suck at football so. . .?

    1. I'm with you Andrew. More exposure to Big10, to whatever extent it exists, should help Michigan with recruits on the east coast. I think east coast kids will are more likely to appreciate having the chance to play a game in front of friends and family once in a while.

  4. Totally agree with your critique of the conference expansion. I don't think you have to hate change to hate this move - it makes football less interesting, less unique, and is just flat-out a bad move. I haven't heard a single cogent argument for it except money, which is a dubious argument in the first place, but more importantly it's just a topic I don't really want to discuss.

    At this point I'd like to see more expansion, all the way to 18-20 teams. That way you can just split the 'conference' up into two divisions: the OLD division (Big Ten pre-PSU) and the NEW division (PSU, Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland, etc.) It would only take a few more teams to get there. In football you could play all 8 or 9 games within your division and then meet for a conference championship. That's basically just an agreement to play a championship game after your season is over (so kind of like the old system, except with an extra game thrown in.) The UM-OSU game would be restored to it's prior role as a major deciding event without chance of replay...In other sports you could make different arrangements.

  5. Good post. It's frustrating to see these superconferences forming and also to witness longstanding college football rivalries get torn up in the name of strengthening cable TV contracts. Losing the ND game sucks, and now the B1G will start toying with the timing of the UM/OSU game.

    Fully agree that these two football programs just further water down a conference that has been weak of late. The one silver lining is that both programs are arguably not living up to their potential. Now that Maryland has this Under Armour booster pumping money into the program, they could get something going if they bring in the right coach. Rutgers also has potential, but that school has been totally unwilling to support the facilities arms race in big time football. Behind the scenes, I wonder if the B1G has really pressured Rutgers to step up their commitment.