BALTIMORE — On Tuesday the University of Maryland becomes an official member of the Big Ten Conference. The project that has been 18 months in the making has finally come to fruition.
On a day where the only relief from the heat was a slight breeze off the waterfront, Maryland staff and fans packed the street in front of the Under Armour Brand House to hear the pep band play, see the cheerleaders dance and listen to speeches by the men who made the deal that will send the Terps to the Big Ten this year.
“Today is a great day to be a Terp,” said Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson. “Over the past 15 months we’ve been asked to be a partner and a member of the Big Ten and [Tuesday] it will be official. We’ve never felt like we were outsiders and we’ve always been part of the participation of becoming a true member of the Big Ten.”
Maryland staff were everywhere distributing Maryland Big Ten sunglasses and posters with football schedules printed on them, all of them wearing polo shirts with the Maryland logo on the front and Big Ten logos on the sleeves.
“The Big Ten has been a great conference since being established in 1896,” said league commissioner Jim Delany. “And it’s a greater conference after tomorrow with Maryland as our newest member. Maryland’s DNA matches up beautifully with the DNA of our other universities.”
After the speeches were done fans were free to wander into the Under Armour store where every shelf was filled with Terrapin-themed gear. In the window stood a larger-than-life mannequin dressed in Maryland’s inaugural Big Ten football uniform.
Rob Zmarzly has been a Maryland fan his entire life and despite mixed feeling originally has warmed to the idea of the Terps in the Big Ten.
“At first I was a little upset because you think about all the rivalries,” said Zmarzly, who remembers taping Adrian Branch’s number 24 to the back of his red T-shirt when he played Nerf basketball in his garage as a child.
“But after the initial shock when you look at it it’s a good move,” he said. “The ACC that I grew up with as a little guy has changed over and over and it’s totally different now, the landscape of college sports is so different and I mean we’re not taking a step down. I think if anything overall we’re probably taking a step up especially in the big sports, college football, basketball, even lacrosse.”
The Big Ten did not have an official lacrosse program when it approached Maryland to join the conference, but over the past year-and-a-half has put forth a concentrated effort to put one together. The league even managed to lure Maryland’s in-state rival John’s Hopkins into the fold.
“[The Big Ten] looked at lacrosse and they know how important lacrosse is to the University of Maryland,” said Anderson. “So they brought us in as a member and they brought other members in so now we have a Big Ten lacrosse conference in men and women’s lacrosse.”
The announcement of Maryland’s decision to leave the ACC — a conference the school helped found — was met with less than favorable responses a year ago. But over the course of the negotiations the university has managed to win over the its fan base. Football ticket sales are up 25 percent from last year, Anderson said.
The atmosphere at the unveiling event confirmed that Maryland fans are excited to start in their new conference, where they expect to be contenders.
“We’re not looking at going and building and someday hopefully be successful,” said Anderson. “That is very clear with all the coaches that we’re going in and we’re going to compete and we aren’t going to be second to anybody and we expect good things to happen.”