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November 19, 2012

How will the Big Ten move affect Maryland?

Now that Maryland has become the 13th member of the Big 10, here's a look at how the move could affect the school's athletic programs now and in the future.

The monetary impact on football: Maryland's football program has long operated on a limited budget, thus unable to extend its recruiting reach on a national scale like some of the country's football powers. But last year Big Ten schools received $24.6 million in shared revenue, not to mention the windfall from the Big 10 television network. That immediate cash influx should benefit Maryland as it attempts to lure in more elite recruits and become a player with some of the nation's top talent. Granted, it may take a couple years to establish a foothold in areas long dominated by programs like Ohio State and Michigan, but if the Terps' coaches relentlessly plug away on the recruiting front, they should be able to build a team to match the rugged, physical style of the Big Ten. Also, Maryland's facilities, from the team house to the practice fields to the weight room, should all get upgrades.

How will football recruiting change?: Traditionally, Maryland has drawn the bulk of its players from the Maryland-Virginia-D.C. area, while also nabbing a few prospects from southern states like Florida and Georgia. The Terps also recruit in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but that's about as far north as they typically go, aside from the occasional player from Connecticut or New York. But now that they're in the Big Ten, the recruiting philosophy will have to shift some in order to compete with those beefy Wisconsin linemen and physical Ohio State linebackers.

While the Terps will need to continue to add primetime playmakers ala a Stefon Diggs, there has to be an immediate focus on securing linemen both locally and farther north - and lots of them. The key is to get as many big bodies as possible and start creating depth up front as the ranks are still slim. Eventually, after a few seasons, the linemen will start to push each other for playing time, and that will allow the Terps to rotate in a number of guys and keep players fresh. That's how it's done in the Big Ten - dominate the trenches and wear down the opposition up front. It's bad enough right now with freshmen on the Terps' line and five first-time starters up front. That cannot happen in the Big Ten.

Which leads us to the next question�.

So, will the Terps still be able to recruit the southern states?: The short answer, for the most part, is "No." Sure, there may be an occasional elite receiver talent from Florida the Terps might kick the tires on, but most of the efforts will likely shift to the north and Midwest, as well as maintaining a presence locally. Recruits typically don't like to play too far from home, giving their families a chance to see them play. Moreover, they like to compete against similar recruits who they are familiar with from high school, combines, camps, etc. But if Maryland is traveling to the Midwest for games, southern recruits may be a bit skeptical. Those Florida types are used to warm weather and track stars, not frigid fields and ground-and-pound. Not to mention it would be a financial hassle for southern families to fly out to games in Michigan or Ohio. That said, the Terps should still be able to draw a couple recruits from the southern areas.

What happens to the coaching staff? Randy Edsall has four more years on his contract, and we'll see what the future holds given the mercurial, "what have you done for me lately" nature of college football. Remember, one of the main reasons UMD brought Edsall in was because he was able to do more with less at Connecticut. And with Maryland's limited recruiting budget, the thinking went, perhaps he could do the same thing in College Park. But while that may have worked in the ACC, the Big Ten is a different animal. Edsall may have to take an even more aggressive, ambitious recruiting approach, because taking a chance on a many fringe players probably won't cut it. Recruits, whether they admit it or not, are drawn to "big name" coaches. Will Edsall have the "name power" to consistently compete with some of the top schools in the Big Ten? Again, it remains to be seen, although he was well on his way to building up his brand this season before a rash of injuries stunted the Terps' on-field progress.

As far as the assistants go, ace recruiter Mike Locksley coached at Illinois, so he should be able to establish a foothold in the Midwest. Moreover, he will probably keep some ties in Florida, where he also recruited. And Locksely will undoubtedly continue to try to draw in many recruits from the D.C. area given his strong ties to the area.

As for the rest of the staff, there either has to be a shift in how or where they recruit, as many Terps assistants are used to mining talent in the southern states. Now, they have to look north or Midwest. Of course, they need to continue to hit the local recruits hard, as that is how the core of a team is built.

How will basketball recruiting be affected?: Right now, Mark Turgeon and his staff have established a national presence, and they're going to continue to scan the entire country for talent. Big Ten basketball is typically a more methodical game than the ACC, but while that might change Turgeon's offensive sets, it shouldn't alter how he recruits (he likes guards and shooters and to get up and down the court).

The Big Ten is also known for harboring big, physical frontcourt types and its rugged defense, which would seem to be right up Turgeon's alley. The Terps brought in mooses like Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell, and Turgeon has made it known he's a defensive-minded coach as well.

That said, some of the flashier recruits who love the up-and-down game and dribble-drive-motion offense may not find an ideal fit at a Big Ten school. While the Michigan States, Indianas and Illinois of the world do like to run, much of Big Ten basketball is predicated on set offenses, crisp passing and plenty of cutting. Shoot-first guards and dribble-happy point men might be tougher to land, but Turgeon and staff have proven they will, and can, recruit anyone, anywhere.

What's the future of the staff? When Turgeon came to Maryland he talked about the prestige of coaching in the ACC and competing against the likes of North Carolina and Duke. While the Big Ten is a very good basketball conference that seems to be on an upward swing, it doesn't have the same history as the ACC. Time will tell how he reacts.

The Big Ten move shouldn't radically affect how the staff operates at Maryland, either. Dalonte Hill, Bino Ranson and Scott Spinelli have recruited the Midwest before, as well as New England, so this shouldn't be that big of an adjustment for them. Spinelli, who was formerly at Nebraska, is currently all over the New England area and should continue to mine the region for talent.

How will women's basketball be affected?

Brenda Frese is one of the nation's top recruiters every year, and now she will have to shift her target areas some. She should be fine.

What about the lacrosse program?

Maryland has long had a proud lacrosse tradition, and ACC lacrosse is perhaps the most competitive in the country. The Big Ten, meanwhile, is just starting to branch out and is trying to establish itself in the lacrosse world.

It remains to be seen how the Terps react, but this move could affect how coach John Tilman and recruits view the program. Tillman is almost without peer as a recruiter, so regardless of what conference Maryland plays in he should be able to keep the program at or near the top of the lacrosse world. It helps that the sport itself is becoming nationally relevant, so in time the Big Ten could become a very attractive option for lacrosse recruits.

What about the other sports?

Men's soccer, women's soccer, wrestling and the rest of Maryland's sports program should all be able to eventually carve out a niche in the Big Ten. None should be affected much by this move aside from longer travel days and more plane rides.

The increased revenue Maryland will receive from their new conference should help improve the facilities as a whole. Down the road, that can only be a positive development in regards to recruiting and school perception. Will the finances be enough to bring back now defunct sports like track and field, men's tennis and water polo? Well, given that athletic programs around the country are cutting sports, regardless of how much money the athletic department has, that may or may not be feasible. Maybe Maryland will be able to restore one or two programs to varsity status, but the days of 27 sports are likely over.



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