Maryland football coach Randy Edsall digested the prospect of the Terrapins moving from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten, a move that would fundamentally alter the approach his program takes moving forward.
The shift, announced Monday, wouldn’t come instantaneously. Edsall’s planning for the move did.
“When I heard this was a possibility, I started right then redirecting what our plan would be, how we’d go about doing this if it actually came to fruition,” Edsall said. “Now that’s come to being a partner and a member in 2014, we immediately start recruiting toward the Big Ten.”
That means looking westward rather than southward.
Maryland’s recruiting strategy has shifted over the years in the ACC. Sometimes it looked to the north, picking off players from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. During Ralph Friedgen’s decade-long tenure, the Terps often augmented their local recruiting with productive players from Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
It was a strategy that made sense. Maryland traditionally played road games in all of those states over the past 20 years, assuring recruits the chance to return to their areas during their college careers.
Now, the bulk of the Terps’ road trips will be into the Rust Belt. The program has lured only a handful of scholarship players from there over the past decade, a group that includes offensive linemen Andrew Crummey (2003-07) and Zach Marshall (2005), wide receiver Adrian Cannon (2006-10) and punter Travis Baltz (2007-10).
Cannon is a Michigan native, while the other three were recruited out of Ohio.
“We’ll get into Ohio more, get into Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, those areas,” Edsall said. “I think because of the Big Ten Network, the exposure you’re going get might even help us in other areas, and we can go and look at some of the kids and say, ‘This is what we have to offer.’”
Sophomore nose tackle Darius Kilgo is a product of Charlotte, N.C., right in the middle of ACC territory. He also was recruited by Michigan State, visiting the Big Ten school before opting for Maryland.
Despite that, Kilgo said the indoor facilities (which Maryland does not have) and larger stadiums than Maryland is accustomed to would be impressive.
“It’ll be a great experience to play in that atmosphere,” Kilgo said.
The rededication of resources will not alter Edsall’s primary recruiting philosophy of trying to lock up talent within a five-hour radius. That includes Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia, but also means looking for prospects in western Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well.
In a larger context, there are clear financial and competitive issues at stake as well. With an influx of broadcast rights money, it is presumed Maryland will be able to further invest in a football program that has typically ranked near the bottom of the ACC in funding.
“When you live from paycheck to paycheck, it’s very hard to do the things that you need to advance or add to making your home better, making your program better, those sort of things,” Edsall said. “This is going to allow us to do the things we need to do to elevate our program and be competitive and beat the team we’re going to have to play.”
However, Maryland fans know all too well that an upgraded stadium or a nifty new turf field does not automatically translate into victories.
A move to the land of Legends and Leaders — traditional powers Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State and football-first schools Iowa and Wisconsin among them — won’t make advancing a program stuck in a rut of three losing seasons in four years and four sub-.500 seasons in the past six any easier.
Edsall, whose Terps (4-7, 2-5 ACC) close out this season Saturday at North Carolina (7-4, 4-3), doesn’t question whether Maryland can hold its own in its new home.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Edsall said. “I just go to the young men we have here now and with what we recruited last year and who we’re involved with this year and knowing what we’re building here and the depth we’re creating, there’s no doubt we’ll be able to compete and do well in the Big Ten.”
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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