COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — When Maryland ended its 61-year association with the Atlantic Coast Conference and moved to the Big Ten, there was some question as to whether fans would welcome the switch.
There was also the fear that the Terrapins would be quite literally out of their league in one of the best football conferences in the nation.
Turns out, Maryland did just fine.
The Terrapins and fellow newcomer Rutgers have enjoyed success on the field and at the ticket window during their inaugural season in the Big Ten. Both own winning records, are bowl eligible and have experienced a sharp rise in attendance.
“Our players kind of had a chip on their shoulder to show not only that we could compete, but we could win,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday. “The support has been great, the enthusiasm of our fans has been outstanding. All in all, it’s been very positive.”
The Terps (7-4, 4-3) have experienced a 19 percent increase in attendance compared to last year. Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) hasn’t fared as well in the win column, but that hasn’t dampened the excitement in and around the campus.
“There’s no doubt. We’ve had three sellouts and hit total attendance records in every way,” coach Kyle Flood said.
The rest of the conference also appears delighted with the decision to expand along the East Coast — with the possible exception of Michigan.
“Well, for us it hasn’t been very good,” Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said, referring to his team’s 0-2 record this season against the Big Ten newcomers. Yet, even Hoke had to concede that the addition of Maryland and Rutgers has proven to be beneficial.
“For the footprint of the league,” he said, “it’s a real positive.”
Although Maryland lost to Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, there were also wins at Indiana, Penn State and, yes, Michigan.
“The preparation that we did last winter, last spring, last summer to get ourselves prepared really paid off,” Edsall said. “We did some things people maybe didn’t think we could do this year. And I know we can still get better.”
The attention Rutgers has garnered as a member of the Big Ten has been priceless, according to Flood.
“Rutgers is the football team that moves the needle in New York when you look at TV ratings,” the coach said. “Being a part of the Big Ten, and having some of the most storied programs in the history of college football coming to our stadium to play, all it’s done is create even more excitement about our program. I think those numbers will do up again next year.”
Clearly, the Terps and Scarlet Knights — who face each other Saturday at Maryland — look like they belong.
“Both schools bring an awful lot to the conference. It’s a win-win situation, hopefully, for everybody,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Although Michigan State beat Maryland 37-15 and manhandled Rutgers 45-3, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said, “I’ve been very impressed in terms of what they’ve been able to do in their first year in the Big Ten. They’ve won in big environments and at home as well.”
During his team’s visit to Maryland earlier this month, Dantonio saw plenty of fans in the sellout crowd dressed in Spartan colors.
“I met people coming up from the Virginia area and the Carolinas, people coming down from the New England area, and people from everywhere in between,” the coach said. “There was a great group of Spartans there, and I think that will continue when we play at Rutgers next year.”
Wisconsin also enjoyed lopsided wins over both the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights, but coach Gary Andersen knows that might change in the future.
“It’s a very, very good addition,” he said. “They would fit well in any conference, and it’s great to have them be part of the Big Ten.”
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